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Director of photography killed, movie director injured after Alec Baldwin discharged prop firearm

mariomike

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In the old days, they used live rounds.
Apparently, cutting-edge special effects at the time involved using sharpshooters carefully firing close to the actors at nearby set pieces, since squibs were either rare, expensive, or nonexistent.
At the time, apparently such things were commonplace.
 

The Bread Guy

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... let's remember that this was a movie set and the same rules and protocols of weapons handling that most many of us (hopefully) take as second nature would not be routine for the talent as much as it should ...
In this case, that right there. I suspect there could be an even wider range of practices on movie sets than there are even on civilian ranges. LOTS of layers to this "how did this happen?" pastry ....
 

Fishbone Jones

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In this case, that right there. I suspect there could be an even wider range of practices on movie sets than there are even on civilian ranges. LOTS of layers to this "how did this happen?" pastry ....
It is not an actor problem. It is a problem of the production that gives untrained idiots like Baldwin firearms. One only need look at videos of people like Keanu Reeves and Will Smith to recognise that not all actors are dummies with firearms. Many are very skilled. The others can all learn if they have the will and intestinal fortitude to ignore their political agenda and be properly trained. If I had my druthers, no anti gun actor would ever be allowed in a production with firearms. Period. They can go make comedies or something else.
 

daftandbarmy

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Can't testify about the bona fides of the author, but this is an interesting piece about firearms and firearm safety on film/TV stes.


Well said.

I picked this out of the comments:

‘Rust’ crew describes on-set gun safety issues and misfires days before fatal shooting​



Hours before actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot a cinematographer on the New Mexico set of “Rust” with a prop gun, a half-dozen camera crew workers walked off the set to protest working conditions.

The camera operators and their assistants were frustrated by the conditions surrounding the low-budget film, including complaints about long hours, long commutes and waiting for their paychecks, according to three people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment.

Safety protocols standard in the industry, including gun inspections, were not strictly followed on the “Rust” set near Santa Fe, the sources said. They said at least one of the camera operators complained last weekend to a production manager about gun safety on the set.


 

daftandbarmy

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It is not an actor problem. It is a problem of the production that gives untrained idiots like Baldwin firearms. One only need look at videos of people like Keanu Reeves and Will Smith to recognise that not all actors are dummies with firearms. Many are very skilled. The others can all learn if they have the will and intestinal fortitude to ignore their political agenda and be properly trained. If I had my druthers, no anti gun actor would ever be allowed in a production with firearms. Period. They can go make comedies or something else.

I've seen very experienced soldiers almost accidentally/ negligently shoot each other.

Usually it's neglecting the basics we all learned in the first 6 months of our military training.

I assume, in this case, it's a similar issue with 'good drills, bad drills' which, of course, is a leadership issue whether or not you're a soldier or a civilian who handles weapons.
 

The Bread Guy

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It is not an actor problem. It is a problem of the production that gives untrained idiots like Baldwin firearms ...
Which is zackly why it's not as simple as just "he fucked up" (although in this case, as a production lead, he may have fucked up in setting up the operation).
 

brihard

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It is not an actor problem. It is a problem of the production that gives untrained idiots like Baldwin firearms. One only need look at videos of people like Keanu Reeves and Will Smith to recognise that not all actors are dummies with firearms. Many are very skilled. The others can all learn if they have the will and intestinal fortitude to ignore their political agenda and be properly trained. If I had my druthers, no anti gun actor would ever be allowed in a production with firearms. Period. They can go make comedies or something else.
Weren’t you just griping on another thread about how you’ll continue to exercise your freedom of expression so long as you have it? Good thing you don’t have your druthers, I guess- that fact buffers you against allegations of hypocrisy.
 

CBH99

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It will be interesting to see how this all pans out once all of the facts are discovered.

As has been noted, both for us in our ‘circle of professions’ current and former, and civilian shooters alike - ultimate responsibly rests with the user of the firearm.


In this case, I’m curious to see the facts and how it pans out.

- Were these ‘blank rounds’ that all came from the same box, and somehow live rounds ended up being mixed in?

- Because it’s a movie set, maybe he was very much supposed to be aiming at what he intended to shoot - re towards the camera for a shot. Does our #1 rule still apply if it’s under these circumstances?

- It’s an old western movie. Is this prop gun supplied by a contracted prop company? Was this specific prop gun and/or supply of ‘blank rounds’ used before?


Accidents happen. And somewhere along the line, someone screwed up. I am genuinely curious to see how this happened.
 

suffolkowner

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The guns are pointed directly at people and the camera, the live rounds would obviously be the issue. I'm assuming it was a live round to kill one individual and injure the person behind. Blanks fired at close range aren't exactly safe either
 

Haggis

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The guns are pointed directly at people and the camera, the live rounds would obviously be the issue. I'm assuming it was a live round to kill one individual and injure the person behind. Blanks fired at close range aren't exactly safe either
I couldn't find any rules specific to the filming location, but had this production been located in Ontario, several guidelines would have bene breached.
 

Jarnhamar

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While Alec Baldwin wouldn't be considered a gun toting action hero movie star but he's been around firearms in Hollywood for at least 30 years. He's no novice.

An average firearms instructor can do a decent job of teaching firearms safety in a couple days. These movie stars get personal trainers for all sorts of stuff at the drop of a hat. But with that in mind I don't think actors can be expected to inspect props, they're going to believe the on set SME's sorted everything out.

The problem seems to be a producer level/safety/cut corners one.

When a gun appears to fire on its own we remove it and have someone check it out. It sounds like this wasn't done on. The emerging stories of complaints paint a pretty clear picture. The corner cutting is especially relevant to the CAF (perhaps especially the RCN).
 

Brad Sallows

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How many firearms lessons typically take place before "prove the weapon" and the associated guidelines ("when you are unsure", etc) are taught? Zero? How far in before additional common sense guidelines ("no horseplay", "don't point", etc)?

Some people have taken to blaming it on the prop guy. Sure, but most accidents result from a chain of deviations from "know the standard, follow the standard" etc. Someone had to load it; someone had to leave it there; someone had to declare the weapon in that particular location to be proven; someone had to pick it up without proving it to himself. If the action wasn't part of a film sequence, someone had to fuck around and point it and pull the trigger.

I suppose it's almost plausible - headliners are used to having "little people" look after all the details, so why should the "talent" stoop to such plebian tasks as proving a weapon.
 

daftandbarmy

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While Alec Baldwin wouldn't be considered a gun toting action hero movie star but he's been around firearms in Hollywood for at least 30 years. He's no novice.

An average firearms instructor can do a decent job of teaching firearms safety in a couple days. These movie stars get personal trainers for all sorts of stuff at the drop of a hat. But with that in mind I don't think actors can be expected to inspect props, they're going to believe the on set SME's sorted everything out.

The problem seems to be a producer level/safety/cut corners one.

When a gun appears to fire on its own we remove it and have someone check it out. It sounds like this wasn't done on. The emerging stories of complaints paint a pretty clear picture. The corner cutting is especially relevant to the CAF (perhaps especially the RCN).

The Infantry can get it wrong too, of course. When you carry a rifle 24/7 some people can get complacent, and only good leadership (up to and including 'being a dick') can cure that.


EXCLUSIVE:

Eight British troops shot 'by accident' at army bases in the last 12 months​

Incidents happened at secure bases including the elite Royal Marines Commando centre and the Royal Navt Assault ship HMS Bulwark


At least eight members of the armed forces were accidentally shot and injured in the past year, the Ministry of Defence has admitted.

The Royal Navy Assault ship HMS Bulwark and at the Army field training centre at Sennybridge in Powys, mid Wales, witnessed two injuries as a result of “accidental firearms discharges”.


There were further incidents at the Commando base in Lympstone, Devon, Bassingbourn Barracks in Cambridgeshire, Camp Bastion in Afghanistan and at the British Army Training Unit Suffield, in Alberta, Canada.

The MoD said there were eight incidents in 2014 that resulted in an injury.

 

Eaglelord17

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There is a distinct difference from using a firearm in a movie and using a firearm at a range. I am waiting to see more information come out about the incident, but this reminds me of when that group of cadets was handed a live grenade.
 

Blackadder1916

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Maybe this tragedy will have a benefit for the Canadian film industry? Too soon? But it seems (to me) that typical south of the border attitudes (personal freedoms, business first, more liberal gun attitudes . . . ) may have contributed to the possible cutting of corners in that production in New Mexico. It may be safer up here.

States mostly defer to union guidance for on-set gun safety​

Safety standards developed by film studios and labor unions are the primary protection for actors and film crews when a scene calls for using prop guns. The industry-wide guidance is clear: “Blanks can kill. Treat all firearms as if they are loaded.”

Shootings nevertheless have killed and injured people while cameras rolled, including the cinematographer who died and the director who was wounded this week when no one realized a prop gun fired by actor Alec Baldwin during the filming of “Rust” carried live rounds that are far more dangerous than blanks.

Despite some industry reforms following previous tragedies, the federal workplace safety agency in the U.S. is silent on the issue of on-set gun safety. And most of the preferred states for film and TV productions take a largely hands-off approach.

New York prohibits guns from being fired overnight on movie sets but does not otherwise regulate their use. Georgia and Louisiana, where the film industry has expanded rapidly, regulate pyrotechnics on movie sets but have no specific rules around gun use.
Entertainment
“We don’t have anything to do with firearms. We only regulate the special effects explosion-type stuff,” said Capt. Nick Manale, a state police spokesperson in Louisiana, where the film industry was credited with creating more than 9.600 jobs last year and generating nearly $800 million for local businesses. “I’m not sure who does that, or if anybody does.”

New Mexico, where court records show an assistant director handed Baldwin a loaded weapon and told him it was “cold,” or safe to use, during the Thursday filming of “Rust,” has no specific safety laws for the film industry. Much of the legislative debate over the industry, as in other states, has focused on tax credits and incentives to lure the lucrative entertainment business, not what happens on sets.

That approach has worked well for New Mexico. In addition to attracting some large film productions, the state is home to major production hubs for Netflix and NBCUniversal. It had a record $623 million in direct spending on productions between July 2020 through June of this year.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat and an ardent film industry supporter, touted the industry’s pandemic precautions over the summer, saying it had put safety first and cleared the way for work to resume.

Workplace safety is paramount in every industry in New Mexico, including film and television, the governor’s spokeswoman, Nora Meyers Sackett, said Friday.

“State and federal workplace safety regulations apply to the industry just as they do to all other workplaces, and the state Occupational Health and Safety Bureau is investigating,” Sackett said of the tragedy that unfolded on a movie ranch near Santa Fe. “This is an ongoing investigation, and we’re awaiting additional facts in order to understand how something so terrible and heartbreaking could have happened.”

. . .

"New Mexico, where court records show an assistant director handed Baldwin a loaded weapon and told him it was “cold,” or safe to use, during the Thursday filming of “Rust,” has no specific safety laws for the film industry. Much of the legislative debate over the industry, as in other states, has focused on tax credits and incentives to lure the lucrative entertainment business, not what happens on sets."

Compare that to Ontario.


Guideline No. 39: Firearms
Safety Guideline for the Film and Television Industry in Ontario

. . .

Handling of guns on set
  1. Any gun brought onto the set should be registered with, and placed in the care of, the Handler.
    1. Any gun not immediately required on set should be secured under lock and key by the Handler.
    2. Guns should be removed from Actors or Stunt People between takes wherever possible and kept in a safe place.
  2. The Handler should be allowed time to fulfill the following:
    1. To discuss with the Directors and Assistant Directors how any weapons might be used in a particular scene;
    2. To point out any safety requirements needed; and
    3. To make sure that any Actor or Stunt Person using the weapons is fully aware of the safety rules for the handling and firing of such weapons. Pursuant to section 25 (2)(a) of the OHSA, an employer shall provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker.

      Note: No crew or other “off camera” personnel should be in the vicinity of a gun being fired without the minimum protection of safety goggles and ear plugs. A shatterproof clear plastic shield should be placed between any camera crew and a fired weapon which is directed toward or in the direction of the camera. Pursuant to section 25 (2)(h) of the OHSA, an employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.
  3. It should be the responsibility of only the Handler to load and unload weapons. If this is unreasonable, e.g., in the case of large numbers, then the Handler may designate assistants to assist, under his or her supervision, the handling, loading and unloading of weapons.

    Note: These assistants should be chosen only by the Handler who should have adequate time to familiarize them with the procedures expected of them and the safe handling of the weapons and ammunition in question. Pursuant to section 25 (2)(a) of the OHSA, an employer shall provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker.
  4. Only the appropriate type of blank ammunition should be used. Ammunition made specifically for theatrical use should be obtained in the correct load for the effect required.
    1. In the event that crimped blanks (sometimes referred to as “acorn” blanks because they look like small acorns) are used they should only be commercially manufactured and never reloaded. When crimped blanks are used consideration should be given to the following safety precautions:
      1. shatterproof clear plastic shield;
      2. eye and ear protection; and
      3. sound blankets over camera, operator and focus puller.
    2. Shot gun popper loads or dog training loads should not be used as they may contain wads that become projectiles and may cause injury. Only those blanks specifically designed for use in motion picture production should be used.
    3. Factory loaded ammunition should never be tampered with.
    4. Any safety guidelines or specifications, laid out in handbooks supplied by the manufacturer of a weapon, should be made known to and must be adhered to by all concerned.
  5. The crew and other personnel on set should be appropriately warned prior to any weapons being fired. Pursuant to section 25 (2)(d) of the OHSA, an employer shall acquaint a worker or a person in authority over a worker with any hazard in the work and in the handling, storage, use, disposal and transport of any article, device, equipment or a biological, chemical or physical agent.
  6. This guideline should be attached to or noted in the safety section of the Call Sheet when a script requires weapons to be fired on set.
  7. If a firearm needs to be fired directly at a camera consideration should be given to locking off the camera. A shatterproof clear plastic shield should be placed in front of the focus puller and a blanket over the camera person.
  8. Any of the firearms that eject a spent casing should be tested to determine the angle of discharge of the spent casing. Make sure all unnecessary people are cleared from the area of the discharge. When actors, cameras or crews must be in the area where casings will be traveling, ensure that they are all at a safe distance or shielded from the firearm. Pursuant to section 25 (2)(h) of the OHSA, an employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.
  9. Check with local municipalities to see if there is a requirement for an Emergency Task Force Explosive Disposal Unit (ETF) or similar agency to be present. For example, the Toronto Film Commissioner requires film companies to be supervised by officers of the Public Safety Unit – CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives) as part of the permit to have gun fire.
 

FJAG

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The Ontario Guidelines are not a comfort. There is a loophole between the terms "should be ..." and "shall be ..." that one can drive a truck through.

At best, these guidelines are suggestions - which is inherent in the term "guidelines" - rather than regulations or requirements which would be within the power of the Ministry to issue. I suspect, and don't know for sure, that things are left a bit loose because these guidelines are produced by the industry and an advisory committee. There is undoubtedly a desire not to fetter the very lucrative movie production industry in Ontario (or Quebec or BC) too much.

There is legislation in Ontario under the Occupational Health and Safety Act which does apply and which is fairly strict and has very broad powers to regulate industry but does not contain this level of detail vis-a-vis this industry or firearms. It does have specific regulations which cover a broad swath of industries but not this one.

🍻
 
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