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Hollywood reconsiders gun use after “Rust” tragedy

In a studio near Los Angeles, gunsmith Dutch Merrick practices with a group of film professionals a scene involving an actor pointing a gun at the production crew.

This is exactly what happened in ‘Rust’“,” says Merrick, who incorporated the tragic shooting in Alec Baldwin’s western as a classroom example.Who is going to raise their hand and speak up if they see something like this?“he asks his students.

Baldwin was brandishing a revolver while rehearsing a scene on October 21, 2021 on a set in New Mexico, where the film was being shot, when a bullet was discharged killing the director of photography, Halyna Hutchinsand injuring the director, Joel Souza.

Following this tragedy that shook Hollywood, Merrick started a course on the safe use of firearms in film.

His students are mostly industry professionals who were affected by the incident that led Baldwin to appear before the court this week to answer for involuntary manslaughter.

It was a warning sign for me“, Virginia Brazier, production director, told AFP.

I want to know what questions I should ask to make sure I’m choosing the right people to ensure safety on set.“I’m not going to be a fan of the show,” said Brazier, 37, whose responsibilities include hiring the armorers and prop makers.

“A little more nervous”

Merrick, 55, discusses the case in class.

He argues that the low budget of the production led to “a series of faults” which led to what he describes as “industrial accident”.

But it also gives tools to recognize prop bullets and instructs to follow them meticulously.the golden rules” from the industry for filming with guns: never point at a person, don’t put your finger on the trigger unless you are ready to shoot, and always handle the gun as if it were loaded.

Ryan Taylor, another student who works as an assistant director in Hollywood, says that since Hutchins’ death, “Most teams are a little more nervous”.

Authorities are trying to determine why the prop gun was loaded and with what type of bullet while it was being used during the filming of “Rust,” a western being shot in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Many members of the technical team want to see the props in use.”.

Following the tragic incident, some voices called for a complete ban on the use of firearms on film and television sets.

But Hollywood responded by strengthening, for the first time in two decades, the protocols that regulate the handling of firearms on sets.

One of the changes was to stipulate that only gunsmiths can deliver weapons to actors.

The point is symbolic when revisiting the “Rust” case, in which prosecutors say assistant director David Halls was the one who handed Baldwin the Colt .45.

California, the birthplace of Hollywood, has also made it mandatory to hire a security advisor for productions that benefit from tax incentives in the state starting in 2025.


However, after the tragedy, some productions such as the series “Walker” or “The Rookie”, where gunfire is an essential part of the plot, decided to replace firearms with compressed air or rubber alternatives.

Star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Seven Bucks Productions embraced special effects to simulate gunfire in its productions, effectively ruling out firearms altogether.

There was a severe overcorrection that was not necessary the way it happened.“said Merrick, who maintains that following the tragedy, several suppliers to the film industry confirmed a decrease in demand.

Independent Studio Servicesone of Hollywood’s prop giants, declined to comment to AFP on the matter.

We know that [las armas de fuego] They are safe and consistent. And they give actors and audiences authentic action.“, Merrick explains.

Alternatives such as compressed air (airsoft) “create a false sense of security“, Merrick says. “Accidentally loaded (such a weapon) can theoretically kill someone”.

The trial of Baldwin66, also has the actors on edge.

If found guilty, it will have a particular effect on artists.“,” said Leilani Barrett, who has several police roles under her belt.

As an actor, I think about where I have to stand, memorize my lines, play my character, follow instructions.“I’m a big fan of Merrick,” said Barret, who also took Merrick’s class.

The last thing I want to do is worry about what props I get.”.

Source: Gestion

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