NEW YORK (AP) – With computer generated imagery, there seems to be no limit to the magic that Hollywood can create: elaborate dystopian universes. Space trips for those who are not astronauts or billionaires. Exciting journeys to the future or back to a bygone era.
But as a shocked and saddened industry recalled this week, many productions still use weapons – real weapons – in filming. And despite the rules and regulations, people can be killed, as happened last week when Alec Baldwin fatally shot cameraman Galina Hutchins after being handed a weapon and told it was safe.
The tragedy has led some in Hollywood, along with distrustful onlookers, to wonder: Why are there real weapons on set at all, when computers can fire shots in post-production? Isn’t even the smallest risk unacceptable?
For Alexi Hawley it is. “Any risk is too big a risk,” the executive producer of ABC’s police drama “Newbie” said in a memo Friday, stating that the events in New Mexico “shocked us all.”
“There will be no more live weapons on the show,” he wrote in a note first published by The Hollywood Reporter and confirmed by the Associated Press.
Instead, he said, the policy would be to use replica weapons that use bullets rather than bullets, with muzzle flares added in post-production.
Kate Winslet’s hit drama Easttown Mare director Craig Zobel urged the industry to follow his example and said that the shots on the show were added after filming, although he used live ammo in previous productions.
“There is no longer any reason to load your guns with blanks or anything else on set,” Sobel wrote on Twitter. “It just needs to be completely outlawed. Now there are computers. All shots in Easttown Mare are digital. You can probably tell, but who cares? This is an unnecessary risk. “
Bill Dill – a cameraman who taught Hutchins, a rising star in his field, at the American Film Institute – expressed disgust in an interview with the “archaic practice of using real blanks when we have readily available and inexpensive computer graphics. … “
Dill, whose work includes Five Heart Beats and Dancing in September, said the danger from real guns was added because “people are working overtime” on films and are “tired.”
“There is no justification for using military weapons,” he said.
Last weekend, a petition was filed on change.org demanding a ban on the production of real weapons.
“There is no excuse for something like this to happen in the 21st century,” it says about the tragedy. “It’s not the early 90s when Brandon Lee was killed in the same way. Change must take place before new talented lives are lost. ” Lee, the actor and son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, was killed in 1993 by a homemade bullet left in a rifle after a previous scene.
The petition went directly to Baldwin to “use your power and influence” in the industry and to promote “Galina’s Law” prohibiting the use of real firearms on set. The US federal workplace safety agency is currently silent on the issue, and most manufacturing-preferred states are largely non-intervention.
Hutchins, 42, was killed and director Joel Sousa was injured Thursday on the set of the western Rust when Baldwin fired a rifle gun that a crew member unwittingly told him was “cold” or unloaded with live ammunition, according to court documents. public friday.
Later, Sousa was discharged from the hospital.
The tragedy comes after some workers quit their jobs to protest the safety conditions and other production problems in the film, which is co-starred and produced by Baldwin.
In an interview, British filmmaker Stephen Hall noted that this year in Madrid he worked on a production that involved “a lot of firearms.”
“We were encouraged not to use blanks, but to rely on visuals in post (production) to create the effect we wanted from a particular firearm, with an actor mimicking the recoil of a pistol, and that works really well,” he said. … …
However, he noted that special effects increase production costs. “So it’s easier and arguably more economical to discharge your weapons on set by idling,” said Hall, a seasoned filmmaker who has worked on films such as Fury and Thor: The Dark World. But, according to him, “the problem with blank cartridges, of course, … something flies out of the pistol.”
Why, besides financial problems, would it be even more preferable to have a real weapon? “There are advantages to using forms on set that some people want,” said Sam Dormer, a British gunsmith or firearms specialist. “For example, you will get the (best) reaction from an actor.”
Still, Dormer said, the film industry is likely moving away from real weapons, albeit slowly.
The term “rifle” can be applied to anything from a rubber toy to a real firearm that can fire projectiles. If even blank cartridges are fired from it, it is considered a real gun. A blank is a cartridge that contains gunpowder but no bullet. However, according to the Actors’ Equity Association, it can injure or even kill someone in the vicinity.
This is why many are also calling for a ban on blanks and the use of disabled or precision weapons.
“There really isn’t a compelling reason these days to have empty spaces on set,” director Liz Garbus tweeted. “CGI can make a gun real, and if you don’t have the CGI budget, don’t shoot the scene.”
Megan Griffiths, a Seattle-based filmmaker, wrote that she is often rebuffed when she demands a disabled, non-firing weapon on set.
“But here’s why,” she said on Twitter. “Mistakes happen, and when they involve weapons, mistakes kill. … Muzzle flashes are the simplest and cheapest visual effect. “
Why are we still doing this?
Associated Press contributors Lindsay Bar, Lynn Elber in Los Angeles, Hillel Italie in New York, and Lizzie Knight in London contributed to this report.