Entertainment

Amidst Alec Baldwin film tragedy What are the rules for guns on movie sets?

GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,Vigils for Halyna Hutchins have taken place in the US

GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,Vigils for Halyna Hutchins have taken place in the US

The acutely distressing incident that followed in the death of a cinematographer on a film set last week has left queries around the use of firearms in the entertainment industry.

Actor Alec Baldwin declared that his heart was shattered after fatally shooting cinematographer Halyna Hutchins with a prop gun in New Mexico on Thursday.

Director Joel Souza, who was standing at the back of Hutchins, was wounded.

Who is in charge of weapons safety on film sets?

The authority for the use of guns and other weapons rest with each production’s property master or armory specialist.

They obtain the guns when they are not being used and direct actors on their proper and safe use. They also load the firearms and examine them before and after each scene.

What are the rules?

There is no decisive set of rule or directive on the use of firearms over the film industry.

According to the AP news agency, the US federal workplace safety agency doesn’t control gun safety on set, and many states leave it to the industry to create and follow its own rules.

Professor Dan Leonard from Chapman University in California, who is an expert in on-set regulations, inform the BBC

“it is generally left to the industry to develop and police the guidelines… and those guidelines if followed can allow for firearms to be used safely on set”.

SAM WASSON
Image caption,Calls have been made for more safety on set in the light of Hutchins’ death although investigations are ongoing

Yet even then, there isn’t one conclusive set of policy and official procedure.

it may be that the closest to a list of proposed rules is that published by the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee.

Its guidance and recommendations includes:

  • Blanks can kill. Treat all firearms as though they are loaded
  • Refrain from pointing a firearm at yourself or anyone else
  • Never place your finger on the trigger unless you’re ready to shoot
  • Anyone involved in using a firearm must be thoroughly briefed at an on-set safety meeting
  • Only a qualified person should load a firearm
  • Protective shields, eye and hearing protection should be used by anyone in close proximity or the line of fire
  • Any actor who is required to stand near the line of fire should be allowed to witness the loading of the firearms

Still the committee listed its guidelines are “not binding laws or regulations” and, as Prof Leonard states, its safety document seems to have been last reconsidered and amended in 2003.

“There has been much advancement in digital special effects technology since [then] that could be utilized to do much of this work in post-production, even in lower budget independent films,” he says.

Film studio Warner Bros has prepared and issued its own weaponry rules, while the Actors’ Equity Association has advice for performers.

Will stricter rules be launched?
occurrences like the one on the set of Rust are unbelievably rare, but demands have grown for a ban on live firearms on film sets, with a formal written request gathering more than 23,000 signatures by Monday. Actor Olivia Wilde was among those to lend support.

California Senator Dave Cortese declared on Saturday he would forward a bill banning live ammunition on movie sets in the state.

He said: “There is an urgent need to address alarming work abuses and safety violations occurring on the set of theatrical productions, including unnecessary high-risk conditions such as the use of live firearms.”

Yet some industry professionals stated simply the use of live weapons was not the issue.

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Image caption,Flowers were left on the set of Rust, just outside Santa Fe, New Mexico

SL Huang, an armorer, stunt person and writer, stated on Twitter that if you comply with the normal procedures, misfortunes just shouldn’t occur.

Gary Harper – who has worked as an armorer on films such as The Last Samurai and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – informed The Hollywood Reporter that direct-to-camera, close-up shots are regularly ask for and can be carried out safely.

He utilizes a sheet of Perspex between the actor with the gun and whoever is behind the camera, while the camera operator will also be dressed in preservative gear.

Prof Leonard is of the opinion

“there needs to be stricter enforcement of these [existing] policies and greater regulation particularly for low budget Indy films”.

He states further:

“This will save lives. No-one should lose their life making a movie.”

What are prop guns and why are they dangerous?

Baldwin was pointing gun at camera on film set

Film world mourns ‘incredible artist’ and seeks answers

So why use real guns at all?

SL Huang, an Armour, stunt person and writer, stated on Twitter that if you comply with the normal procedures, misfortunes just shouldn’t occur.

Gary Harper – who has worked as an armorer on films such as The Last Samurai and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – informed The Hollywood Reporter that direct-to-camera, close-up shots are regularly ask for and can be carried out safely.

He utilizes a sheet of Perspex between the actor with the gun and whoever is behind the camera, while the camera operator will also be dressed in preservative gear.

Prof Leonard is of the opinion

“there needs to be stricter enforcement of these [existing] policies and greater regulation particularly for low budget Indy films”.

He states further:

“This will save lives. No-one should lose their life making a movie.”

“There’s no reason to have guns loaded with blanks or anything on set anymore. Should just be fully outlawed,”

tweeted Craig Zobel, an actor and director whose ascribes include Westworld and Mare of Easttown.

But he later admitted that live rounds “do have a role on set”, but they made him easily frightened.

In an discussion with Variety, property master Dutch Merrick declared fake guns were not as convincing, but protected environments were key.

“I work on the show SEAL Team and we do a ton of gunfire on that. If you told the actors to fake the gunfire with a toy or replica, make it look like it’s firing, that’s baloney.

“You give him a real gun that really fires, and it’s dangerous out the front and shells go out the side and it gives him recoil, and it puts him in the environment and now you’ve got the realism that is the magic that is Hollywood.

“It is entirely safe, but it’s putting him in the environment, where it’s as real as possible. And it’s my job to make sure nobody gets hurt.”

Dave Brown wrote in a blog for the American Society of Cinematographers posted in 2019,

“CGI may be used for close-range gunshots that could not be safely achieved otherwise, but yes, even with all the advancements in visual effects and computer-generated imagery, we still fire guns with blanks.

“The reason is simple: We want the scene to look as real as possible. We want the story and characters to be believable.”

He concluded this could only be attained safely by hiring skilled firearms specialist.

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