After the recent death of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injury of director Joel Souza, it has become very clear that live ammunition and realistic guns have no place on movie sets.
According to the Sante Fe County Police, the gun that was fired by movie actor and producer Alec Balwin was a Colt .45. Authorities also reported that the bullet that shot Hutchins and Souza was a lead bullet. Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza told Los Angeles Magazine that about 500 rounds, a mixture of blanks, dummy rounds and what has since been identified as live rounds.
Though it may look realistic to fire a real gun with live ammunition in it for the scene, the hazard of it outweighs the aesthetics. Souza described the scene as one where Baldwin’s character aimed and fired directly at the camera lens. Even with traditional dummy rounds and blanks, this could still be considered extremely dangerous. There is no reason anyone should be firing projectiles directly at another person, especially for something as insignificant as a movie scene. If they need it to look realistic, the crew should be behind the actor, out of the way of the projectile, and there should be fool-proof safety tactics.
This is not the first time movie crews have been injured by scenes involving guns. The tragedy on the set of “Rust” has recently been compared to the death of Brandon Lee in March 1963 on the set of his movie “The Crow.” In this case, the New York Times reported that the tip of a .44-caliber bullet had been placed in the barrel for a close-up scene and dislodged when the blank was fired. This is not a mistake that should be taken lightly. There is no reason for a large-scale production to not have enough crew people to check for these sorts of things. This, similarly to what is being investigated in the “Rust” accident, could easily have been chalked up to negligence of the crew.
Many others who work in the film industry, particularly with prop weapons have spoken out about the importance of their roles. A USA Today contributor named Joey Dillon explained his take on the tragedy as someone who works with firearms on movie sets and it is becoming more clear that this could and should have been avoided. Dillon describes that on well-run sets multiple levels of crew are responsible for safety including the assistant director, the stunt coordinator, the prop master, the producers and the armors. There should be no reason for safety to be questioned after the gun has gone through this many checkpoints. These are the people who need to be held accountable and each step should be recorded so they can trace the fault back to one person.
In the case of the tragedy on the “Rust” set, it is being investigated whether negligence from the crew and the producers had something to do with the increased danger on set. While this is understandably problematic in itself, if safer prop guns were being used, safety precautions wouldn’t have to be as strict. If anyone forgot a step or forgot to check the gun before a take, it wouldn’t be about risking the lives of others on set.
Many movie buffs would disagree, but it seems like a better option to use CGI effects or a gun that will go off without a projectile. The look of the scene may be important, but is it worth risking the lives of people who are at work trying to do their job? Films are valuable pieces of art, but they are nothing compared to the value of a human life.