Film production and firearms experts say movie sets likely changed forever when cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot and killed on the remote set of the Mexican Western “Rust” 14 months ago, which prosecutors announced Thursday was Alec Baldwin. and the film’s army supervisor. charged with involuntary manslaughter later this month.
“The gun safety experience on the device has gotten louder, it’s much louder,” said Joey Dillon, an armorer who has overseen the use of firearms on television shows including “Westworld” and movies. including “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” “I do it a lot louder myself.”
Baldwin was pointing the gun with a live round inside that killed Hutchins while they were setting up a shot for an upcoming scene. People at various levels of production are determined to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
That meant the increased use of digital and other technology that could render gunfire obsolete. It also meant simpler things, like yelling and using the same safety protocols that have long been used to make it clear to everyone when a gun is present and what its status is.
Actors and others are more interested when the gun is handed over.
“People want to check now because people are a little gun shy,” Dillon said. “I’ll stop the whole process just by showing them so they feel comfortable with it.”
While it may be in the best interest of actors to check a gun, their responsibility to do so remains controversial, and will be a central question for jurors if Baldwin’s case goes to trial.
His union, and his lawyer, say that this duty cannot be imposed on performers.
“It’s not an actor’s job to be a firearms or weapons expert,” the Screen Actors Guild said in a statement Thursday. .”
Baldwin’s defense attorney, Luke Nikas, said in a statement that he did his job by relying “on the professionals he worked with, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds.”
Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies disagrees.
“Anyone who owns a gun has a responsibility to make sure it’s not loaded or know what it’s loaded with,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press. “And then certainly not to point it out to someone and pull the trigger. That’s where his acting responsibilities come in, we think.”
She also emphasized that although Baldwin is to be charged as the man with the gun in his hand, his role as producer, and at least partial responsibility for the poor conditions that caused his loaded gun, was a matter of consideration and decision doing it. to give the fees.
Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who supervised the shooting of the film, will also be charged with involuntary manslaughter, the district attorney said.
Her attorney, Jason Bowles, said in a statement that they would “bring the full truth to light and a jury will acquit her of wrongdoing.”
Technology can take the issue of safety out of the hands of all actors.
Shows were already using digital effects to simulate the flash and bang of gunfire more often, but Hutchins’ death certainly accelerated the change.
“There are many bad ways to go digital, but this is a good way,” said Spencer Parsons, an associate professor and head of production at Northwestern University in the School of Communication’s Radio/Television/Film Department who worked. as a director and in other roles on any sets. “I’m not saying there’s no good reason to use real pyrotechnics, but in terms of basic safety and speed, this makes sense.”
And when it comes to hardware, companies are making more convincing replicas, essentially improved BB guns with moving parts that behave like pistols but don’t fire bullets. Flashes and muzzle sounds are added to the post-production.
But, Parsons said, “there aren’t many replicas of some of the old material” used in Westerns and other period films, which he is particularly interested in.
Other solutions sought for sets may be misleading, and may not help.
In the days immediately following the shooting, there was much discussion in the media surrounding the dangers of blank rounds in guns, based on the assumption that one of them killed Hutchins.
“From experience I knew it was more than that,” said Dillon.
Dillon said dummy rounds, prop bullets used in scenes where characters load guns, are more likely to cause mistakes like what happened on “Rust” because they look like live ammunition and could be mixed up. up with them.
He said he found it “frustrating because that can accidentally signal to the crew that we were ignorant” and had previously put them at unnecessary risk.
When investigators revealed that it was in fact a live round, the fear of gaps, which could be very dangerous at very close range, always remained.
Parsons said it was misleading to blame the fact that “Rust” was a low-budget independent production. He said the speed and duration of large studio productions can put crews in situations where accidents of all kinds are more likely to occur.
“In some cases they can put people through even longer hours, and the need for speed is greater,” he said. “That can be very dangerous. .”
Gutierrez-Reed’s dual role as armorer and assistant props supervisor was also given negative attention.
But Dillon said that the overlap of weapons and equipment is inevitable, and that dual roles often occur. Crew members playing those roles must be absolutely clear when playing which.
“When the guns come out, that’s all I’m worried about,” he said, “and that’s all I’m working on.”
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