How are weapons used on film sets… and how do accidents occur?

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Alec Baldwin’s accidental shooting of a female camerawoman during rehearsals for a movie scene in the western United States has raised questions about the use of weapons on filming sites and the measures to be taken to ensure the safety of the crew.

Hollywood gun expert Guillaume DeLoche, who has supplied guns to filmmakers for three decades, with 75 film collaborations to his credit, says there are usually several safeguards to avoid tragedy.

Here is some information provided by the expert on the use of guns in filmmaking:

Why are guns used on filming locations?
Despite the ease and relatively affordable cost of adding digital effects in post-production nowadays, many directors and actors prefer using real weapons to add more credibility to acting scenes, according to DeLoche.

“The problem with dummy weapons is that they do not show the recoil of bullets and smoke, which are elements that give a special touch to the representation,” says the expert.

He adds, “When you give the actor a plastic or rubber pistol and add the impact of the bullet later using digital effects, the difference is evident” compared to using real weapons.

How are weapons handled on filming locations?
DeLuche says protocols for handling weapons on filming sites are strict, likening double or triple checks to the way aircraft safety systems work.

“We treat empty weapons as if they were real,” he explains. “In many cases, they are real weapons that have been modified.”

“Weapons are kept in a safe. Once they are in place, we organize how empty ammunition is displayed by distinguishing and color-coding them to differentiate them” from real shots, DeLuche adds.

He continues, “Initially, we show the crew and actors that the weapon is empty before it is loaded,” and “when we put the claw bullets in the weapon, we announce it several times.”

-What happens when you need to shoot?
“We have very strict safety distances: no one is allowed to be less than 20 feet (about six metres) near the weapon when it is being used,” Deloch explains.

“Even with chelated bullets, some small debris may come off,” he says. “It’s best not to shoot at someone at all, so we work with the cinematographer to frame the shot that gives the impression that the person is in the line of fire.”

“If we want to get even closer, we put up barriers of protective glass. We cover the crew and stage directors with fireproof blankets. We also have anti-noise helmets and safety goggles to protect against shrapnel.”

How do accidents happen?
The cause of the accident that occurred after Alec Baldwin was shot while filming “Rust” is still unclear.

DeLoch says accidents are extremely rare, given the large number of Hollywood productions that include scenes of the use of weapons.

However, accidents can happen if live ammunition is used on the set for some reason.

He explains, “But the real ammunition has absolutely no place in the shooting location, as fake bullets are also used, which may cause confusion between them.”

“There is a possibility that a clutch shot could separate from its case and enter the barrel of the gun. If a clutch shot is placed behind that fake bullet, it turns into a live bullet.”

He points out, “This is what cost Brandon Lee his life (in 1993 during the filming of ‘The Crew’). There was no scrutiny from the weapons expert on site, as it would have prevented the accident.”

“An accident is always preceded by a series of errors,” DeLouche stresses.

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