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Gun scares on the set

Philip Perkins

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The death of Halnya Hutchins on the set a few days ago made me recall several scares and close calls I had around guns on films over the years.  Guns have been a part of movie making since the beginning, and the procedures for working with them safely have been around for a long time.  As with "Rust", my bad gun moments were all on low-budget/high-ambition projects....   Anyone else?

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Like you, I’ve had plenty of unpleasant on set prop gun experiences. And while some were of the low budget variety, most were not. And none were caused by the prop master or armorers. Those guys always are professional and explain to the crew exactly what’s about to happen. Every set I’ve been on involving guns followed a very strict protocol.

The scare is ALWAYS with actors firing guns. They lose their head once a gun is in their hand. Many of the more macho variety insist they can’t “act” properly without full loads (I’m looking at you James Caan, and you too Kiefer Sutherland). And forget about it once there is a gun fight scene. It gets chaotic very quickly.

What happened in New Mexico is a tragedy that hopefully will change forever how guns are used on set from this point forward. In that case, it seems like protocol wasn’t followed. Regardless, there is no need for an actor to have a real gun on set ever again.




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Is it true that it was the 2nd AD who handed over the weapon?  If so, damn.  

So many younger folks in high positions these days, without a fraction of the experience those who came before had.  This is so sad.  I feel terrible for Baldwin, something like that would utterly destroy me.

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11 hours ago, Izen Ears said:

Is it true that it was the 2nd AD who handed over the weapon?  If so, damn.  

So many younger folks in high positions these days, without a fraction of the experience those who came before had.  This is so sad.  I feel terrible for Baldwin, something like that would utterly destroy me.

Well he was the one of the producers of the film so it´s also his responsabity to know who your are hiring  to work on your project

Here is what the gaffer  Serge Svetnoy posted on facebook


My vision of the RUST tragedy

I have received hundreds of calls, text messages, letters with words of support and condolences since the day of the tragedy with Halyna Hutchins, and I'm very grateful to everyone. Yes, I knew Halyna, not for a year. I worked with Her on almost all of her films. Sometimes we've shared food and water. We've been burning under the sun, freezing in the snow on the shoots. We took care of each other. Yes, I can say with 100% confidence she was my friend.
I also received many calls from different mass media sources from multiple countries asking to tell what happened; also from numerous institutes and universities for the students to know what needs the most attention.
Yes, I was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Halyna during this fatal shot that took her life and injured the director Joel Souza. I was holding her in my arms while she was dying. Her blood was on my hands.
I want to tell my opinion on why this has happened. I think I have the right to do it.
It's the fault of negligence and unprofessionalism.
The negligence from the person who was supposed to check the weapon on the site did not do this; the person who had to announce that the loaded gun was on the site did not do this;
the person who should have checked this weapon before bringing it to the set did not do it.
I'm sure that we had the professionals in every department, but one - the department that was responsible for the weapons. There is no way a twenty-four-year-old woman can be a professional with armory; there is no way that her more-or-less the same-aged friend from school, neighborhood, Instagram, or God knows where else, can be a professional in this field.
Professionals are the people who have spent years on sets, people who know this job from A to Z; These are the people who have the safety on set at the level of reflexes; they do not need to be told to put the sandbag on a tripod, fix the ladder on the stage, or fence off the explosion site. They have it in their blood.
I'm calling out to the Producers!
We have a fascinating and amazing job, but it's also dangerous. We film in the mountains, in the open water, underwater. We have explosions, shooting guns, car crashes, electricity after all, and much more.
To save a dime sometimes, you hire people who are not fully qualified for the complicated and dangerous job, and you risk the lives of the other people who are close and your lives as well.
I understand that you always fight for the budget, but you cannot allow this to happen. There should always be at least one professional in each department who knows the job. It is an absolute must to avoid such a tragedy, like the tragedy with Halyna.
I do not wish anyone to go through what I went through, what her husband @Matt Hutchins and her son Andros went through, and the actor Alec Baldwin, who has been handed a gun on set. He has to live with the thought that he took the life of the human because of unprofessional people.
Dear Producers, by hiring professionals, you are buying peace of mind for yourself and the people around you. It is true that the professionals can cost a little more and sometimes can be a little bit more demanding, but it is worth it. No saved penny is worth the LIFE of the person!
And finally, dear Producers, please remember that it's not you who are giving the opportunities to the people you hire make their money; it's the people you hire who help You make Your money. Remember this!
I also want to thank the camera operator @Ried Russell, who was with us and helped save Halyna. Thank you to the set medic @Cherlyn Schaefer who did everything she could to save Halyna's life.
We all loved Halyna.
May God Bless her soul.
Rest in Peace.
And God protect Us All.

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That sounds really condemning of the armorer. Now what was the AD then doing handling the prop? What was the call time? Are you saying that the armorer was busy on instagram or preoccupied doing what other youngsters do? If I had to profile someone in our profession, young and 2nd generation can mean a very creative and attentive person, or it could mean someone who is not as ambitious as their dad. You're saying, she was the later. And by calling out producers, how are you exempting Baldwin? The gaffer sounds like he's responding the way I would while still hardening up, so I think we still need to keep our eyes on the evidence, as vividly direct as this account may be.

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A major take away for everyone regarding this terrible incident is how fast the discipline and attention necessary to work with weapons on the set can break down in the face of movie-expediency and schedule-worship.  The AD had a bad case of AD-disease: a strong belief in the necessity for them to push the shoot forward at maximum speed and at any cost.  I have worked with many ADs like this, who, I decided, not only didn't care about crew or even talent welfare a whole lot, they also didn't really care much about the quality of the scenes they were shooting.  They cared about "making their day" and then some, if possible.  To this sort of person, any sort of delay for any reason is an affront that must be immediately steamrollered.  Inexperienced crew people are rarely able to stand up to this kind of onslaught, so poor decisions snowball into very bad situations very quickly.

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I read a ton of articles and I'm still so confused.


I don't understand why anyone other than the armorer or the actor would touch a prop gun.

I don't understand why there was a full cartridge (non-blank) on set.

I don't understand how this full cartridge was able to make it into the gun in the actor's hand.

I don't understand why the "prop gun" had to be a real firing weapon that could accept real rounds and had no plug in the barrel.

So many broken links in the chain.

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To @Philip Perkinspoint, what are the pressures that productions are experiencing with which they believe even safety protocols are optional? This sounds like one of the crazy-making jobs I did a flawless job of avoiding this last year. Even the financier is attached to work that was pumped through against union, against code, against health and safety considerations. In other words, they thrived at investing in projects that were spearheaded by someone self-important enough to risk everyone else's safety for what ends up being a hot mess. 

I consider the story tellers that did a good job this last year "essential workers" right up there with pizza making. It has been damn important for people to find enjoyable, nourishing, escapist, insightful, fun, content while sequestered at home. But most of the crap on my radar last year was not important. Not urgent. Not helping, not supportive not even in the name of fun. And slightly manic and rather willful to even attempt to execute against the times. No thanks. And if you felt the need to take these jobs, no judgement and no shame either. I cannot speak for how any of us survived, I have no idea how you did it, and I am just glad you are here and I can speak with you.

In my opinion, my being a hard ass and rolling only when I'm ready, means you sure as hell know I'm on the jobs that represent my standards. Even if I'm cutting through 18 days of frozen sea. By being a hard ass about these things, people have paved way. There has been no reason to cave in. But we all feel different pressures and we all make different decisions and it's a blessing we are all here.


So @tourtelotI think you know the answer to your own question. That's money. Above the Line, Below the Line. And the anyone and the coordination and the who is responsible, which I also am following as details come forward, that's the "who", the "resources" @BAB414. But time itself is beholden to no man, as Philip brings to our attention, and I think it points to the pressures and limits that make a tragedy like this one.


Still, it's protocols that make the difference between us safely expressing our opinions and someone being dead. It's not "how old was she" or "who yelled what" on set, or "I was tired" or "I thought you said". 


Mike Tristano, a veteran movie weapons specialist, called it “appalling” that live rounds were mixed in with blanks and dummy rounds.

“In over 600 films and TV shows that I’ve done, we’ve never had a live round on set,”

He can say that because he's executed checklists, cross checks and protocols in an honored and time-tested manner without exception. Not because he never showed up on set grumpy, or never got caught in traffic, or was never young or never went out the night before etc etc...

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Isn't part of the set protocol in the USA that no one would stand directly in the line of fire whenever a weapon is fired (blank obviously)?

It is here in France. I have also seen plexi protection just for the camera rolling alone once. I recall the armorer saying that even blanks can make serious damage.


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9 hours ago, Fred Salles said:

Isn't part of the set protocol in the USA that no one would stand directly in the line of fire whenever a weapon is fired (blank obviously)?

It is here in France. I have also seen plexi protection just for the camera rolling alone once. I recall the armorer saying that even blanks can make serious damage.


Yes they can.


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  • 5 months later...
2 hours ago, Philip Perkins said:

Not enough.


I agree, but what would be?  There's no amount of money...

The amount of the fine was the maximum amount & most serious violation available.

I sure hope New Mexico's OHSA department is compensating the family more than that...


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Here's the Summary Of Investigation report from New Mexico OHSB. Eleven pages (but big type) detailing the producers' "plain indifference to the recognized hazards associated with the use of firearms on set." Some sad details of what led to the avoidable tragedy. 



And the local paper says, "It’s unclear what impact the environment department’s findings could have on the multiple lawsuits filed against Baldwin, or the ongoing criminal investigation into the incident.... Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said the department is working on a news release for Monday to update the investigation." 


Rust Movie Productions Fined

New Mexico Environment Department concludes production company knew safety procedures were not being followed before fatal shooting



Baldwin's lawyer says the report exonerates Baldwin, but he's paid to say stuff like that.






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  • 2 months later...

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