By Christopher Gist, University of South Australia and Sarah Mayberry, The University of Melbourne
In a horrendous accident, a cinematographer has died and a director has been injured after Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun while filming in New Mexico.
When shooting a film with guns, there are many choices to make: each prop needs to be appropriate for the character, and appropriate for the scene. There is also the choice of whether you will use replica weapons, real weapons, or a mix.
But most importantly, everyone on set needs to know how to work alongside guns.
A gun with no ammunition – that is, a gun with neither a bullet nor blanks – is not dangerous. But even so, on set there is always an armorer, a safety officer, and a stunt coordinator: at least three people who always have an eye on the guns on set.
We recently finished shooting Darklands, a psychological thriller staring Nadine Garner about a policewoman who fails to stop a shooting and is then pursued by a journalist determined to use the policewoman’s story to resurrect her own flagging writing career.
We used real weapons, but we only used blanks in one scene. The night we fired the blanks was a very controlled situation, working with a very experienced crew. The safety of our cast and crew was of utmost importance to us. Here are some of the things we kept in mind.
Shooting with blanks
When the worst thing happens and someone dies on set, the impact resonates profoundly throughout the industry and the lives of those affected. Two big stories in the 1980s, in particular, changed how occupational health and safety is approached on sets.
In 1982, three actors – two of them children – were killed on the set of Twilight Zone, when special effects explosions caused a helicopter to crash. Their deaths will echo through film sets forever.
In 1984, the actor Jon-Erik Hexums put a gun filled with blanks to his head, and, joking about delays to filming, he pulled the trigger. The force of the wadding was enough to fatally injure him.
Instead of using a bullet, blanks use wads of paper, plastic, felt or cotton – this wadding ensures you get a certain level of flame out of the gun.
But this wadding is the thing which can cause a lot of injury: just because a gun is using blanks, that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous.
An abundance of caution
For all elements of shooting a film, you have to sit and worry about all possible scenarios and have a plan for any risks, and the safety officer will work elbow to elbow with the director and first assistant director to ensure the safety of the set.
While scouting for locations, the safety officer will consider elements such as trip hazards, road safety, how the set will be lit at night and the supply of electricity.
When you are filming on public land, such as parks, the council will ask for a risk assessment: this can detail where people will park, where bathroom facilities will be located, where equipment will be, as well as considering potential problems like what would happen if a limb was to fall from a tree.
Even an actor carrying a cup of hot coffee on screen will be considered for safety.
Filming this year, we also added an on-set nurse/COVID officer to consider the health of everyone on set.
When a scene is set, the safety officer will check everything, down to the safety mats on the ground to the gel padding hidden by costumes.
On film sets, guns are supplied by an armorer. They will have access to both real and replica weapons, with real weapons costing more to hire than replicas.
Any moment you are using weapons on set, you must treat them with the utmost respect. Safety has to be paramount. In Australia, guns are so rarely handled we found they are highly respected: people are very conscious of the weapon.
All of the protocols surrounding gun use are well established. Everything on set around a gun must be treated with an abundance of caution. The weapon with the blank was never fired at anyone, all cast and crew are briefed multiple times about safety. The police are always notified, as are any neighbors adjacent to the filming location.
We chose to shoot with real weapons, but we only used blanks in one scene. In every other scene, visual effects (VFX) will be used.
The blanks were chosen because of the importance of the weapon to the storytelling in that scene. We needed the reflections on the actor’s face to be real, her physical response to be real. Like when Alan Rickman was dropped while shooting Die Hard: sometimes the moment just calls for that palpable truth.
But many gun effects can be done well through VFX, and companies even sell VFX gunfire packages. Adding these effects is a very specialized field: they can add different muzzle flares, different smoke patterns, and you can even make a gun recoil in someone’s hand.
Our sympathies go out to the families of those affected by this incident. We can only imagine what Alec Baldwin would be feeling right now. It is a horrendous situation for everyone involved.
This is an issue of workplace safety. When things go fatally wrong in any workplace, it is a tragedy.
In Australia, we have always found film to be a really well regulated environment. On our set, we all understand making a movie is not worth putting someone’s life or health at risk.
We can only imagine most filmmakers feel the same.
Christopher Gist, PhD Candidate, University of South Australia and Sarah Mayberry, Tutor, VCA, The University of Melbourne
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
I think it is rather appalling that they didn’t mention the person who is using the firearm should be the very last person responsible for checking it for safety and should know how to do that.
Baldwin has made movies before where he has used a firearm. He is a major critic of firearm owners and police and as a critic you should be well versed in something before you criticize others. Being the Producer and Actor you would think given his experience he would know better than to accept a firearm under the conditions going on in that movie production and check it himself which is, in fact, his responsibility as the user. Baldwin should be indicted for negligent homicide.
Then get rid of the unions and the workset will not only become safer but much more productive, as well.
Unions need to be abolished, ask me Miner49er all about crooked unions.
We need a right to work.
They got rid of union here on this movie set by replacing union with non-union. Did not turn out safe and now not productive at all.
It’s not a question of union vs non-union. It’s an issue of basic competency. The armorer was a young lady who was worse than inexperienced, she was by her own admission overwhelmed by the responsibilities her job involved. The propmaster and assistant director too; totally incompetent.
I do not see how Baldwin doesn’t go to prison over this, and I’ll bet that he will be joined by a couple others from the crew.
I know everyone wants to dump on Alec Baldwin, but this could have just as easily happened to Tom Selleck or Vince Vaughan. The actor has a job to do. He expects the armorer to do hers. Good actors (and Baldwin is a good actor when he so chooses) prepare; their minds are on their lines and character, not on their wardrobe, props, or guns. Those responsibilities lie with the respective departments. If a picture vehicle malfunctions, should we blame the actor because he didn’t walk around the car?
Regardless of what is on his mind. When you are handed a gun, you always check to see what you have. Evan someone not experienced with firearms can tall a live round from a blank. Bottom line last one holding the gun is responsible.
I think you overestimate a non-PotG’s knowledge. Before I learned to shoot, I directed a low budget movie and was surprised to learn semiautos can’t fire blanks without an adapter. I had no idea how they worked at all.
Rokurota, make it a production rule. No one touches the guns, including the actors, until they have passed a firearms test. If they don’t pass, they get trained until they do.
“Evan someone not experienced with firearms can tall a live round from a blank.”
Folks unfamiliar with firearms have no way of telling if a semi-auto pistol has a round cambered in the barrel. (Those with a loaded chamber indicators excepted).
It’s happened far to frequently, someone picks up a gun, drops the magazine, and gets a rude surprise when they pull the trigger and it goes *Boom*.
Then they say with full honest sincerity : “I didn’t know it was loaded, I removed the magazine with the bullets in it.”
That’s why we must have safe gun handling classes in high school.
How many more children must die before we educate children with actual gun safety, not the fake variety pushed by Leftist Scum?
That said, I expect every actor will now do his or her own weapon checks from now on. Either that or the industry will ban real guns or even blank-firing guns altogether. Changes will be coming. It’s a shame someone had to die first.
Excuses, excuses, excuses…The end user is responsible and assumes liability. A competent actor whose world does not revolve around them would walk around a vehicle for a safety check especially if the vehicle will be heading anywhere in the direction of pedestrians. Same is even more true for firearms that go bang especially in the direction of people on a movie set, etc. What happened is an extension of Alec Baldwin’s world that he has shown numerous times to revolve only around him.
What you are saying all on the behalf of Alec Baldwin boils down to…If your day is busy and you pick up a firearm and accidentally shoot someone the last person who had the gun is responsible for not unloading it. It does not work that way armorer or no armorer.
I’m not making excuses for Alec Baldwin at all. I wish he had checked the chamber. But if your company gives you keys to a car and tells you to go run an errand, you’re not going to check the brake line. This has nothing to do with whether he thinks too good/busy/virtuous to take responsibility. He’s clearly crushed by this tragedy. I don’t like his political opinion, and it’s not relevant to whether he’s responsible or not.
“..But if your company gives you keys to a car and tells you to go run an errand, you’re not going to check the brake line…”
A poor analogy IMO. I know many private company and gov Fleet services that mandate a minimal checklist. Visual inspection is one of the items. Putting your foot on the brake after starting should tell you if brake lines are damaged.
That’s the problem with analogies. None are perfect, and too many people debate the analogy instead of the principle behind it.
I guess my main point, which I got distracted from, is I feel like most of us here are extra hard on Baldwin for who he is (anti-gun lefty), not just what he did.
“……..if your company gives you keys to a car and tells you to go run an errand, you’re not going to check the brake line………”
You’re expected to follow/observe ALL basic safety rules/practices. In fact, you have a legal obligation to do this.
If you operate the vehicle in an unsafe/stupid/impaired/leftarded manner, it’s 100% on YOU!
The four basic safety rules exist for a reason.
Need to add a fifth rule……NEVER hand a firearm to Alec Baldwin.
I actually agree with Rokurota, I think a lot of people have a hard on for him and that is clouding things up.
If it was explicitly not his job to not check or need to check the firearm, you can’t blame him for that.
Is that a good practice that should stay in place? No, that is a bad practice that needs to change.
Ultimately none of us know what rules were, if there were any at all, that everyone there were operating under; all we can do is speculate.
I just find it hard to judge the man’s actions without knowing the degree to which he was negligent, if it was malicious, and the totality of the circumstances.
Who cares if that isn’t something he would give any of us the benefit of.
I’m a kid with Alec Baldwin’s PR firm. I’ve traded my dignity and manhood away for less than minimum wage on the promise that maybe I’ll be Someone someday! Wow, right!
You’ll see me popping up on every online chat about this tragedy! Welcome!
I’m here to make sure you fine people understand that Mr. Baldwin is in no way responsible for this tragic workplace accident that is really the fault of everyone else there who we won’t actually name. You couldn’t possibly understand how super complicated and safe movie making really is! It’s safer than you in your home lol. But seriously, it is.
It’s totally fine that he never checked the gun, treated it like it was unloaded, covered something with the muzzle he didn’t want to destroy, had his finger on the trigger when the sights weren’t on a target, and had no idea what his target was, much less who was beyond it! That’s all someone else’s responsibility!
Have a wonderful day!
Even allowing for your defense of Baldwin’s innocence (with which I don’t agree), it’s rather obvious that this production took a lackadaisical approach to Set Safety for one reason only, to save money. That is a fault of the Producers, of which Baldwin was one of. The fact that there were near misses in the period leading up to the tragedy, that should have shut production down and demanded correction of the issues was criminal negligence.
The investigation is ongoing, but I would be surprised if the investigators don’t refer the case to the District Attorney recommending criminal charges be filed for gross negligence against at least 4 individuals of which Baldwin would be one.. Whether the DA presents the alleged charges to a Grand Jury for a verdict recommending indictment remains a question.
The person who is using the firearm is an actor. They are expected to be concentrating on their performance. They have no responsibility when it comes to safety on the set.
The actor may also be given hand grenades, sticks of dynamite, rocket launchers, all kinds of electronics, and various incendiary‘s.
The actors not expected to check these devices because that is the responsibility of the armorer and the prop master and the safety officer.
And the producer needs to have qualified personal working on the set. If the set becomes unsafe, he needs to shut down production too.🤔
Oh, wait, Alec Baldwin was the producer TOO!
So finger pointing/blame shifting between the actor and producer is NOT possible in this case, it’s the same person.🤣
QUITE the conundrum! 🤔
Personell, not personal.
Actors are empty-headed homunculi, useless for any practical purpose. Give these human wind-up dolls a script, dial up the emotional mimicry algorithms, and watch ’em go.
Does that sum it up?
Except that he pulled the trigger. He, therefore, is responsible for what came out of the muzzle of the gun.
He doesn’t bare sole responsibility, but he is 100% responsible.
Now its time for all the after-the-fact experts to start showing up to let us know how it should be.
In all of the movies made with any actual injury from guns (that we know of) Alec Baldwin, I think, has set the record for most injuries with a single live round. Even in the real non-movie world not many people can take out two people with a single live round.
How is a movie set any different than a range in terms of gun handling? Answer: it isn’t except for the Hollywood idiot elites who think they know it all. Even in combat there are safety rules. Baldwin needs to serve some serious jail time. If it were you or me, I guarantee we’d be behind bars right now. We are “little people”. But he’s a BIG STAR, so different rules apply to him.
So what if 15 people inspected it before you got it. It’s your responsibility to ensure it’s safe.
Even after reading the original article linked to, it’s obvious to me that people in the ENTERTAINMENT industry think of themselves as “special”. And therefore should be held to different standards than all us “ordinary folks”. Well this “ordinary guy” went to war and killed people. And you know what “special people” did? They made movies out of death and destruction, so the rest of the “little people” would be ENTERTAINED. ENTERTAINED? Is anyone on this blog ENTERTAINED yet?
Screw them. Yeah, I’m pissed off. REALLY PISSED OFF!
But, but, but we’re making a movie….
Agree with you 100%.
Does not matter if it’s a movie set, or the range, or your back yard.
The Rules are the rules. Violate them and I guarantee the universe will take notice.
I would like to know why arrests have not been made and Bond Hearings taking place.
I’ve been thinking about what would happen if this were a low-budget movie or even a student production instead of an A-list feature.
I’m pretty certain the police would file charges against several people on set, including producer, director (I know in this case he is also one of the victims), armorer, safety officer, and the actor who pulled the trigger. All were in roles of authority and had a responsibility to ensure that firearms were handled carefully, kept close track of, and used safely.
On a low-budget or student set, there would be no protection because of fame or “professionalism.” The police would assume the film crew didn’t know what they were doing, were likely breaking laws other firearms laws, and were behaving irresponsibly. That would be the starting assumption, and the investigation would likely be colored by that viewpoint throughout, rightly or wrongly.
This, being an A-list film, I wonder if the same starting assumption will apply. It could mean the difference between charges or no charges. I don’t think that’s right, but I do think it’s reality.
I remember an incident from several years ago when a YouTuber thought it would be a good idea to have his girlfriend shoot him on camera with a Desert Eagle, using only a phone book as body armor. So many bad decisions. He died, of course, and his girlfriend was jailed for pulling the trigger, even though she hadn’t really wanted to do the “stunt” in the first place.
Alec Baldwin is a VERY IMPORTANT ACTOR, but is his incident really much different than that one? Honestly, it’s much worse in many ways.
Knowing how film sets are, there can be a lot of chaos, confusion, cross-talk, and complexity. It is also very easy to wind up in a mindset that everything one does on set is “just pretend.” But guns, even those loaded with blanks, aren’t pretend, and they should never be treated as such.
It’s also easy, if you’ve trained yourself to hate firearms and to be scared of them (and to make other people be scared of them) to make foolish mistakes through lack of knowledge. For example, Alec Baldwin SHOULD have known the four rules and followed them. I suspect he doesn’t and didn’t. Fear likely created ignorance, and his ignorance is probably a factor in this accident.
Exactly. Now kindly shit the hell up and go back to your hovel, old man 🖕.
this should be, at a minimum, involuntary manslaughter criminal charges not only for Baldwin but for at least two others including the armorer. They maybe did not mean to kill, but their neglect and recklessness resulted in a death.
Baldwin failed the first three rules of firearm safety.
1- Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
2- Never point a firearm at anything/anyone that you are not willing to destroy.
3- Know what is beyond your target.
Every person using/discharging a firearm is responsible for each round until it comes to rest safely.
And stop using the term “weapon” interchangeably with firearm or gun.
It is a poor descriptive term, that might mean gun, or it might mean knife, rock, axe, stick, beer bottle, sword, or for John Wick a pencil.
“And stop using the term “weapon” interchangeably with firearm or gun
It is a poor descriptive term, that might mean gun, or it might mean knife, rock, axe, stick, beer bottle, sword, or for John Wick a pencil.”
So the January 6 insurrectionists were indeed armed with weapons, glad the POTG have cleared that up!
You nailed it ! The one thing that seems to have been eradicated in our society, personal responsibility.
It was truly a tragedy.
That being said it is funny, they hate the NRA so much, and if they had simply followed the basic rules created by the NRA this tragedy could have been avoided.
This was a symphony of cavalier and carelessness that led to this.
“This was a symphony of cavalier and carelessness that led to this.”
Leftist Scum consider themselves to be so intellectually superior, especially when it comes to firearms.
Karma bit them in the ass *hard*, and it couldn’t of happened to a nicer P.O.S….
Don’t be too hard on Geoff here. After all, you’d be a complete asshole too if you’d never been with a woman in the biblical sense.
Oh look Geoff, the check cleared your trolls account.
You need to stop worrying about Geoff’s sexual status lil’ shape-shifting troll, he’s just not that interested in you. 🖕
“We chose to shoot with real weapons, but we only used blanks in one scene.”
Pro tip: “film” is probably a better verb here than “shoot”.
Couldn’t they just use pop tarts?
The only good thing to come from this is damage to a jerks carreer. Fun fact: my brother shot me in the face with a 22 blank when I was about 12. I could have been blinded. Never told my dad…I was beating on my older brother. No excuse on a movie set.
My cousin shot me with a cross bow bolt when we were kids. Went through my right lower side from the back and stuck out the front trapped in about a half inch of tissue so didn’t hit anything serious. We were 7 years old and sneaked his dads old in-storage in the attic cross bow out but didn’t have any bolts so we made one from a stick as straight as we could find and sharpened it with an old pen knife that was in the fishing tackle box in the garage. Managed to cock the cross bow and my cousin loaded up the bolt. I was going to set up the target of an old doll that belonged to my sister and started walking down range. The cross bow worked like it was suppose to when my cousin pulled the trigger without realizing it was so sensitive because it was broken which is why it had been put away in the attic to one day repair. My cousin asked “where did it go?” and I was surprised to find it so quickly when I looked down. Didn’t really feel pain when it hit, sort of a quick pressure and then like something was stuck to me. Just kind of stared at it for several seconds, neither of us made a sound, didn’t know what to do.
We had been told previously not to touch the cross bow. We disobeyed.
We pulled our home made bolt out from the back, came out easily and didn’t feel like much damage and it had only gotten a little bit of tissue about a half inch deep but it was bleeding. It started hurting more when the bolt was pulled out but it didn’t hurt all that much. Bandaged it up the best we could with my cousin sneaking supplies out of the house, and applying our limited first aid knowledge gathered from years of mom kissing boo boos and putting on band aids, and trying to remember a short thing at school about first aid and the comic book like pamphlet they passed out. Had this big wad of gauze and a dish towel fastened in place with what seemed like a whole roll of duct tape, but my shirt covered it and you couldn’t really tell. Bleeding was stopped and we were proud of our work, took care of it ourselves and no one would ever know. But I was more concerned that I would die anyway, and we decided not to play with the cross bow any more that day and I said goodby to my cousin for what I thought might be the last time.
It was late by now and time to come in, so I came in and went in my room, got ready for bed, told mom and dad good night. They looked at me strangely when I came in to say good night because they usually had to tell me it was time for bed. But told me I needed a bath first so I told them I was really tired so they skipped the bath and said good night. I laid down in bed waiting to die. I was sure I would die in the night but I was also afraid to tell mom and dad so I said nothing. Finally fell asleep. The next morning it was badly infected and hurt really bad, it woke me up. But I was alive and decided maybe I was not going to die but it sure hurt and I started considering telling mom. But before I could do that is when my mom found out when it started bleeding again. The bandaging had come loose because I had taken it off to take a look and didn’t put it back very well so it leaked and stained my shirt with blood and pus and she saw it.
After the trip to the hospital emergency room, some treatment, a shot, and cleaning it out, and some stitches … the punishment phase for my journey to the land of stupid and disobedience was announced. It was a lot worse than the wound or at least it seemed to be at the time but as I thought back on it years later it wasn’t so bad after all because mom and dad didn’t disown me and still hugged and loved me. My cousin still has the cross bow bolt and his dad finally had the crossbow fixed and gave it to him.
“…A gun with no ammunition – that is, a gun with neither a bullet nor blanks – is not dangerous…”
I stopped reading after this. Exactly the kind of mindset that led to “The Idiot” killing someone.
“A gun with no ammunition – that is, a gun with neither a bullet nor blanks – is not dangerous.”
Gee whiz, I seem to remember something about a “treat every gun as though it were loaded” thing. But now that the experts have shown up I guess I was mistaken.
I’d love to hear from some high profile gun handling actors have to say about AB and what there protocol is like.
People who don’t respect the 2A also don’t respect firearms. And they don’t repect the safety issue about them.
Using a cut rate weapons expert to save a few dollars by going non-union(remember, the experienced people in the film industry are union, the only reason not to go union is to cut corners – union people do not do that). Film industry unions are much different than the autoworkers or civil service unions, they are pros.
If you can find a professional that is willing to work non-union, that would be great, but many people do not want to go on location without a union to make sure of their comforts and safety.
Safety was not followed. I like what you say about safety in Australia, because it seems that every time we get a group of newbys at the range, there is always some clown that thinks handling a gun is a joke – these are always people that know nothing about firearms.
The problem here might be that it was an assistant director, not the cut rate armorer who handed the gun to Baldwin. Given the labor relations issues on the set and Baldwin’s reputation for being a despicable excuse for a human being, malice rather than negligence might be the cause.
It is standard procedure on a movie set to have two people verify that the gun is indeed safe.
On most movie sets the Assistant Director is the second person.
The actors are not involved in any safety checks as they are assumed to have no knowledge of firearms, explosives, electronics or pyrotechnics.
“But many gun effects can be done well through VFX, and companies even sell VFX gunfire packages. Adding these effects is a very specialized field:…”
There are numerous reports of safety violations on that set.
It wouldn’t surprise me in the least that they explored going with special effects and decided an armorer (and the daughter of a Hollywood legend armorer, no less) was factored to be cheaper than those special effects.
Oh, and negligent homicide is a crime in New Mexico, with a typical prison sentence of around 18 months, actual served time of probably 6 months with a good lawyer representing them.
Baldwin may get charged and convicted in NM yet…
“…A gun with no ammunition – that is, a gun with neither a bullet nor blanks – is not dangerous…”
Then why does Superman duck?
Here’s an analogy. A pilot is still responsible for the condition of the aircraft he is about to fly, regardless of the fact that someone else in the maintenance crew has already performed a post or pre flight inspection. The condition of the aircraft is ultimately still the responsibility of the pilot in command, and he bears that responsibility for himself and all crew and passengers.
On a movie set the actor is the equivalent of one of the stewardesses.
She is not expected to check the function of the doors or the stairs or anything else.
The stewardess depends on experts to tell her that the door is functional and the stairs are safe.
On a movie set the equivalent of the pilot is the prop master and the assistant director.
These are the two people who developed the safety protocol and each check the other work that the guns are indeed safe
ALWAYS CHECK FOR YOURSELF!!..NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS!!.. THE IS NO EXCUSE!!..
Otherwise this shouldn’t be in national news…so what if a famous douchebag pulled the trigger..people die everyday tragically…movin on!!
maybe i am too old, but when i was learning to drive, i was taught to do a walk around the vehicle to do a quick check, as well as checking lights and fluid levels. things i still try to do—-here is a little known fact—the reason back up cameras were installed on the bigger SUVs–mom did not check for her daughter after she told her to get in the car, and later mom jumped in, also not checking the interior of the vehicle, put it in reverse, and guess what happened—it was the manufacturer’s fault for making such a large vehicle–not the driver—–the overall result was no money to mom, but future installation of back up cameras, and later more sensors——another i did not do it excuse—
There have been reports that the gun was an actual working gun.
The gun had been used for target practice during dead times on the set.
Well there’s still the armorer and assistant directors responsibilities to both check the ammunition, this is obviously a way that live ammo could’ve made its way onto the movie set