EXPLAINER - Guns on film sets: What does it mean?

Halyna Hutchins, a cinematographer, died on Thursday following the accidental discharge of a prop firearm belonging to Alec Baldwin. Joel Souza, the director, was also injured and was released from the hospital. Police are still investigating many details. The Associated Press examines the use of firearms in film and television productions, as well as the safety protocols.

EXPLAINER - Guns on film sets: What does it mean?

What is a "PROP FIREARM?"

This loose definition could be applied to any rubber toy or firearm capable of firing projectiles. It is considered a gun if it can fire blanks or projectiles. Chris Burbank, an ex-police chief in Salt Lake City, who consults on many TV productions, says that firearms used for training or film productions can often only be loaded with blanks.

What are Blanks and Can They Kill?

Blanks are a type gun cartridge that has gunpowder, but no bullet. According to the Actors Equity Association, however, it can cause serious injury or death to someone close by. In a 2019 article for American Cinematographer, Dave Brown, film firearms safety coordinator wrote that "Blanks emit gunpowder or hot gases from the barrel's front in a cone shape." Although this is not dangerous at long ranges, it can cause serious injury if the explosion occurs too close to someone.

IN THIS CASES, WERDEN BLANKS FIREN?

We don't know. Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office is currently investigating the "type of projectile" that was used to discharge the bullet.

Who is responsible for the WEAPONS ON THE SET?

A weapons master or an armorer is responsible for overseeing all weapons used in a production. This could include selecting the right items for a particular period of history, as well as taking care to the weapons on the set and making sure that actors and stuntpeople use them safely and correctly. This is a relatively new role in film production history, dating back to the 1980s. The prop master was responsible for everything. It's becoming more common to enlist specialists.

What are the RULES FOR FIREARMS ON A SET?

When a weapon is being used, the weapons master must be present on the set. According to the Actors Equity Association guidelines, you must ensure that the gun has been tested before it is used. Then, ask for permission to fire it. The prop master should inspect the barrel and cylinders for foreign objects or dummy bullets.

Sam Dormer, Armory Coordinator, stated that "Nowadays all weapons are checked before you put your blanks into the weapon. ... The armorer is able to know exactly where each member of the crew is so they don't have to worry about them walking into any areas that could pose danger.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO BECOME A WEAPONS MASTER?

Backstage magazine says there is no set path, but it is common for people to do internships, apprenticeships, or have a background in security, military or police work. Weapons masters must adhere to all federal and state laws and have valid operating permits.

WHY WOULD THE CINEMATOGRAPHER POINT THE GUN AT THE GUN?

Although we don't know the details of what happened on "Rust", it is quite common for a gun to be pointed at the camera and, by extension, the cinematographer in order to achieve a certain angle.

It wouldn't withstand a real shot from a gun, but it would certainly withstand a blank." It wouldn't be able to withstand a shot from a gun but it could withstand a blank.

HOW CAN SOMEONE ELSE HAPPEN AFTER MANY REGULATIONS?

Although the exact circumstances surrounding the shooting of "Rust", are not known, experts in the industry say that crews and producers are sometimes encouraged to speed things up for any number reasons. This can sometimes lead to more relaxed safety protocols.

IS IT MORE COMPLIANT IF IT'S A PERIOD PECE?

"Rust" was set in 1880s. Hall says that when period weapons are used, "you must use actual historical period weapons and to verify the safety of those weapons." Live rounds have been fired from revolvers. I know this because it works in a way that the blank doesn't explode or burst in the hands of actors.

WHY DO PRODUCTIONS USE REAL GUNFIRE WHILE SPECIAL EFFECTS ARRIVE?

When creating visual effects, it is more common to include gunfire in post production. Visual effects can be costly, so it is often cheaper to use props. Dormer also says that props and blanks can have benefits, such as a genuine reaction from an actor.

HOW DOES HOLLYWOOD RESPOND?

All levels of the industry have expressed dismay and anger at the possibility of something similar. Director James Gunn tweeted that he fears that "someone will die on one of my sets." Alex Winter said that crew should not be unsafe on the set, and that there must be a clear reason.

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