The entertainment industry is still reeling from the tragic accident that occurred on the set of independent Western film Rust, in which actor Alec Baldwin discharged a firearm he believed to be “cold” (unloaded) resulting in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
The devastating incident is being investigated by New Mexico police as well as the state’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration, with many in the industry citing factors such as stretched budgets, long hours, tight deadlines and a lack of resources as contributors to the tragedy.
It has also been noted that the film’s 24-year-old armourer was inexperienced and not present at the time of the fatal accident, with increasing calls to examine the way productions operate and to ensure that everyone on set is adequately trained.
Hutchins’ death has resulted in a petition being circulated calling for a ban on using real firearms on film sets and demanding better working conditions for crew. So far, the call to action has attracted over 27,000 signatures, with high profile names such as Lena Dunham, Sarah Paulson, Olivia Wilde, Anna Paquin, Holland Taylor and Ariana DeBose signing the petition and sharing it on social media.
“There is no excuse for something like this to happen in the 21st century,” the petition states. “Real guns are no longer needed on film production sets. This isn’t the early 90’s when Brandon Lee was killed in the same manner. Change needs to happen before additional talented lives are lost.”
Signatory Lindsey Wooten makes a valid point when she states that, “With the technology we have today, there is no need for a real weapon to ever be used in media. We have artists to make the outside look real and CGI to make the rest look realistic. No entertainment is worth people being injured or losing their lives.”
The petition is just one way in which the tragedy has shaken things up in Hollywood, and there are now conversations underway at major TV studios that are reviewing their gun safety policies and eyeing a potential change.
Those changes are already taking shape with The Rookie showrunner Alexi Hawley making the decision that “it is now policy on The Rookie that all gunfire on set will be Air Soft guns with CG muzzle flashes added in post. There will be no more ‘live’ weapons on the show. The safety of our cast and crew is too important. Any risk is too much risk.”
Additionally, any gunshots included in the hit series Mare of Easttown are digital, as revealed by the show’s executive producer, and likewise for Amazon Prime series The Boys with that series’ showrunner Tweeting, “No more guns with blanks on any of my sets ever. We’ll use VFX muzzle flashes. Who’s with me?”
It remains to be seen just how widespread the dedication to eradicating real guns from film sets will be, with some arguing that using special effects is not the same as the real thing and an authentic recoil can only be produced by a real weapon. The other issue raised is that eliminating guns from film and tv sets would inevitably mean diminished employment opportunities for armourers.
Regardless, the time has definitely come to take the conversations around gun safety more seriously, just as they need further attention when it comes to real-life gun legislation in America. Unless attitudes — and laws — are changed in this area, no one can go about their day at work, or anywhere else, with confidence that they will be safe from harm.
Of course, gun violence is always going to be present in feature films and television shows (particularly in the Western genre which Rust falls under) for the purpose of entertainment, but it now surely begs the question: “at what cost?”.