As Baldwin faces charges, gun safety on set ‘gets louder’

As the conversation grows, new technologies can take security completely out of the hands of actors.

LOS ANGELES — Filmmaking and firearms experts say the scenery likely changed forever when cinematographer Halina Hutchins was gunned down on a remote New Mexico western set 14 months ago, leading prosecutors to say Thursday. that Alec Baldwin and the film’s Taskmaster will be charged with manslaughter later this month.

“The gun safety experience on set got louder, it got a lot louder,” said Joey Dillon, a gunsmith who has overseen the use of firearms in TV shows including Westworld and movies including Ballad about Buster Scruggs. “I make it a lot louder myself.”

Baldwin was aiming a pistol with a live round inside that killed Hutchins as they prepared the shot for the upcoming scene. People at several levels of production are determined to make sure this never happens again.

This has meant greater use of digital and other technologies that can render shooting of any kind obsolete. It also meant simpler things, like screaming while using the same security protocols that have long been in place to make it clear to everyone when weapons are present and what their status is.

Actors and others are more interested when they hand over their weapons.

“Now people want to check out because people are a little shy,” Dillon said. “I will stop the whole process, just to show them that they are comfortable.”

While the gun check itself may be in the actors’ best interest, how much responsibility they have for it remains debatable and will be a central issue for jurors if Baldwin’s case goes to trial.

CONNECTED: How much jail time could Alec Baldwin face if found guilty of shooting Rust?

His union and his lawyer say this responsibility cannot be placed on the perpetrators.

“The job of an actor is not to be an expert on firearms or weapons,” the Screen Actors Guild said in a statement Thursday. “.

Baldwin’s attorney, Luke Nikas, said in a statement that he did his job by relying “on the professionals he worked with who assured him that there was no live ammunition in the gun.”

Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Oltvis disagrees.

“Anyone holding a gun has a responsibility to make sure it’s either unloaded or to know what it’s loaded with,” she told The Associated Press. pull the trigger. That’s where we think his acting responsibility comes in.”

She also emphasized that while Baldwin should be charged as a man with a gun in his hand, his role as a producer and at least partly responsible for the lax conditions that led to him having a loaded gun were taken into account when deciding whether to initiation of a criminal case. indict.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reid, who handled the firearms in the film, will also be charged with manslaughter, the district attorney said.

Her lawyer, Jason Bowles, said in a statement that they would “reveal the whole truth and that she would be acquitted by the jury.”

Technology can take security completely out of the hands of actors.

Productions already used digital effects to simulate flash and gunshots, but Hutchins’ death almost certainly hastened the change.

“There are a lot of bad ways digital is taking over, but this is a good way,” said Spencer Parsons, associate professor and head of production at Northwestern University in the Radio/Television/Film Department of the School of Communications, who has worked as a director and other roles on any shoot. “I’m not saying there’s no good reason to use real pyrotechnics, but in terms of basic safety and speed, it makes sense.”

And when it comes to hardware, companies are making increasingly convincing replicas, vastly improved air guns with moving parts that act like guns but don’t fire bullets. Muzzle flashes and sounds are added in post-processing.

But, according to Parsons, “there aren’t many copies of some of the vintage stuff” used in westerns and other historical films that he specializes in.

Other solutions searched for sets may be wrong and may not help.

In the days immediately following the shooting, the dangers of blanks in the gun were widely discussed in the media, based on the assumption that one of them had killed Hutchins.

“I knew from experience that it was more than that,” Dillon said. “But the immediate reaction in the industry was to try to completely eliminate the use of forms.”

Dillon said blank bullets, the reference bullets used in scenes where characters are loading guns, are more likely to cause errors similar to what happened in Rust because they look like live ammunition and can be confused with them.

He said he finds this “disappointing because it could accidentally inform the crew that we were clueless” and put them in unnecessary danger previously.

When investigators figured out that it was in fact a live round, the fear of blanks, which can certainly be very dangerous at very close range, remained.

Parsons said it was wrong to blame the fact that Rust was a low-budget independent production. He said the pace and length of large studio productions can put film crews in a position where accidents of any kind are more likely.

“In some cases, people can work even longer and the need for speed is even greater,” he said. “It can be very, very dangerous. .”

Gutiérrez-Reed’s dual role as gunsmith and props assistant also drew negative attention.

But Dillon said the overlap between weapons and props is inevitable, and such dual roles happen frequently. Crew members playing these roles just have to be crystal clear when they are playing which one.

“When the guns show up, that’s all I worry about,” he said, “and that’s all I’m working on.”

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