Alec Baldwin incident sparks safety concerns over guns on film set

Props specialist Guillaume Delauch, who has been providing weapons to film sets for three decades, says there are a number of safety measures in place to prevent a tragedy during the filming of Rust. Photo credit: David McNew/AFP

Props specialist Guillaume Delauch, who has been providing weapons to film sets for three decades, says there are a number of safety measures in place to prevent a tragedy during the filming of Rust. Photo credit: David McNew/AFP

Hollywood Armor Guillaume Delauch, who has been supplying weapons to filmmakers for three decades – with 75 titles to his name – says there are usually several safeguards in place against tragedy.

Here are some of his insights into the use of guns in the film business.

Why are guns used on film sets?

Although adding digital effects to post-production is relatively easy and inexpensive nowadays, a lot of directors and actors prefer to use real guns, Delauch says, citing added authenticity.

“The problem with dummy weapons is that you get to recoil and take away the smoke, which adds something to the acting,” he said.

“When you give the actor a latex or plastic gun and later combine the bullet effect with the digital effect, there’s still a clear difference.”

How are guns handled on film sets?

Protocols are essentially strict, says Delauch, comparing double and triple checks with the way airplane security systems operate.

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

“Weapons are kept in a safe. Once they are on set, we organize empty ammunition, which is marked and color-coded to distinguish it.

“First, we show the crew and actors that the gun is empty before loading.

“When we put blanks in a gun, we announce it several times.”

What happens when a gun needs to be fired?

“We have a very strict safety distance: You can’t have less than 20 feet – or about six meters – in front of a weapon when it’s fired.

“Even with spaces, small debris can be projected. It’s better not to aim directly at someone, so we work with the cinematographer to frame the shot and give that illusion.” That person is in the line of fire.

“We put up walls of Plexiglas if we need to be closer. We cover operators and stagehands with fire blankets. They also have anti-noise helmets and safety glasses to protect against splinters.”

How can accidents happen?

It is not yet clear what happened on the sets of War.

Accidents are extremely rare according to Delauch, given how many Hollywood productions have characters wielding guns.

They can be, however, if live ammunition is being used on set for some reason.

“But real ammunition has no place on the set as fake bullets are also used and they can be confusing,” he said.

“One possibility is that a dummy bullet detaches from its cover and then enters the chamber of the gun.

“If a blank is put behind that dummy, it effectively becomes a live round.

“This is what Brandon Lee paid for his life (on the set of 1993.) Crow) was never checked by the prop manufacturer, which would have prevented the accident.”

“For an accident to happen, there is always a series of errors that precede it.”

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