By Sam Acosta
In late October, tragedy struck the New Mexico movie set for the film “Rust” when lead actor Alec Baldwin accidentally fatally shot the film’s cinematographer and wounded the director with what was supposed to be a “cold” revolver. A gun is “cold” when it has no bullets in it and is safe to use as a prop.
Nobody has been officially blamed for the incident as of the writing of this article, as the investigation is still underway, but the incident has called into question the use of firearms in the entertainment industry, creating a desire for stricter safety standards.
The call for stricter safety protocols on set is no surprise; after any tragic accident, we wonder what could have been done better to prevent it. Within the film industry, there has been a call to stop using firearms that can fire real ammunition or blanks and instead use rubber weapons, with the muzzle-flash effects being added in post.
This proposal has found support among California lawmakers, who are preparing to introduce a bill that would prohibit the use of weapons that are capable of igniting gunpowder, essentially banning the use of all functional firearms on set. Such a law would be enforced with fines and other civil penalties.
Actor Alec Baldwin, shown here at a news conference, has been cooperative with the authorities as they investigate the factors behind the shooting.
Alternatives to rubber weapons have been offered as well, such as stricter supervision on set. Alec Baldwin himself, who has been completely cooperative with the investigations into this incident, suggested in a tweet that, “Every film/TV set that uses guns, fake or otherwise, should have a police officer on set, hired by the production, to specifically monitor weapons safely.”
Cedarville Professor Sean O’Connor, one of the faculty in the Broadcast, Digital Media and Journalism department, provided some insight into the situation.
“There have always been precautions taken to prohibit dangerous weapons from film sets after on-set injuries and deaths occurred on films like ‘The Crow.’” O’Connor noted. “However, that still doesn’t stop people from bringing those dangerous items to set either for personal protection or for ‘realism,’ i.e. having a real gun in a film poses a more real threat to the plot and characters than a prop gun would. If anything needs to change, it’s the accountability from production staff to monitor or even prevent the use of those weapons”
O’Connor voiced his concern, however, that this push for safety may be short-lived. Many times a social issue will be brought to the public’s attention but then quickly fade away without much actual change occurring. We’ve witnessed this multiple times, even within the past year. Hopefully, this is not one of the issues that falls victim to that flaw.
When I asked whether the transitions to rubber weapons would be viable, O’Connor said that he saw no reason that this transition couldn’t happen. He showed faith in the state of technology to create realistic effects, as almost anything can be inserted into a scene digitally and look completely realistic.
Some in the film industry have suggested using rubber prop guns instead of functional firearms, like the one picture above.
If this is the route the industry decides to take, it could be done well across the board, though moviegoers might face occasional instances of visual effects that look odd or just plain bad. I believe that this route would be feasible as long as the industry diverts the resources once utilized by real firearms and armorers into visual effects training and technology.
O’Connor also brought up a point I had not previously considered, saying, “Most of the people in this situation on the film set may not know Christ, and we should pray that the Lord uses these tragic events to bring people to repentance, to hope in Him and to reconciliation with each other, because no doubt several people on that set may be living with guilt for the rest of their lives if this does not happen.”
We pray for the families that have been affected by this tragedy. We pray that they will find comfort and peace in Christ. For Christians in the industry, O’Connor reminds us that we should “make sure films are done with excellence as well as [have] personal responsibility to not put their cast and crew in compromising situations.” Whether it be enforced legally or simply become our responsibility, we must protect the lives of everyone we work with, making their safety our top priority.
Sam Acosta is a Junior Theatre Comprehensive Major and an A&E writer for Cedars. He likes spending his time watching movies, drinking Dr. Pepper and writing plays.