Hollywood tech masters use computers to create stunning visual effects: giant sand worms from “Dune”, alien invaders from “A Quiet Place”, majestic dragons from “Shang-Chi” from Marvel.
So Why are guns still used on film sets when computer-generated images, or CGIs, could replace the look, sound, and visceral shock of reality?
This is one of the questions many are asking in the film industry following the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, on the set of the Western drama “Rust”. The tragedy sparks calls for a global reassessment of how Hollywood uses guns.
In the wake of Hutchins’ death, some film and television professionals are begging their peers to ban real guns on sets – an online petition to do just that had amassed nearly 25,000 signatures as of Monday morning.
A California state senator said he plans to introduce legislation banning firearms capable of firing live ammunition at state productions in order to “prevent this kind of senseless violence and casualties. of life “.
“With guns you only make one mistake and someone is dead. There’s just no reason to take that risk, ”said Dave Cortese, a Democrat, in an interview. ” We understand [the industry] has protocols in place… but this has not been codified in state law.
Standard protocols dictate that guns should be supervised by licensed “gunsmiths” and that performers should be trained in gun safety, among other rules. The real guns on the sets are often filled with blanks, but the “Rust” gun somehow contained a lethal amount of live ammunition.
Cortese said he plans to hold investigative hearings as his office advances the text of the legislation.
Craig Zobel, director of Emmy-winning HBO miniseries ‘Mare of Easttown’, drew one of the first lines in the sand after ‘Rust’ actor and producer Alec Baldwin fired the pistol who killed Hutchins.
“There is no longer any reason to have blank loaded guns or anything on the set. Should just be totally banned ”, Zobel tweeted early Friday as the country absorbed the news.
“There are computers now. The shots on ‘Mare of Easttown’ are all digital, ”he added. “You can probably tell, but who cares?” It is an unnecessary risk.
He is quickly joined by other producers and directors. Alexi Hawley, the showrunner of ABC’s “The Rookie” police procedure, told the cast and crew in a note that there would be no actual “guns” “on the show.”
Going forward, all shots on “The Rookie” will come from airsoft weapons – toy replicas that use pellets instead of bullets – with CGI muzzle flashes added in post-production, Hawley wrote in the memo, first reported by The Hollywood Reporter and confirmed by NBC News.
“Any risk is too much risk,” he wrote.
Eric Kripke, showrunner of Amazon’s black comedy “The Boys,” made a similar commitment:
Bandar Albuliwi, a filmmaker who graduated from the American Film Institute five years before Hutchins, created a Change.org petition that had garnered nearly 25,000 signatures at the time of publication. Actor and director Olivia Wilde shared the link on Twitter.
“Real guns are no longer needed on film production sets,” the petition says. “Change must happen before more talented lives are lost. “
Baldwin, for his part, is expected to use his “power and influence” in Hollywood to promote legislation called “Halyna’s Law,” the petition says.
On Monday it was unclear what kind of weapon Baldwin used. The investigating Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office said it would hold a press conference Wednesday to discuss the investigation.
Is it feasible?
Some industry professionals say there are several reasons why banning the use of firearms on film sets might not be practical for all productions, especially independent projects working with small budgets or small teams.
Typically, CGI adds costs to a production’s budget, and adding visual effects to shots can take months.
“It’s often easier and more economical to unload your gun on set using a blank than to add a gun in CGI in post-production,” said Anna Halberg, a film producer who has worked on science – large-scale fiction and action projects.
Walt Disney Pictures has the financial resources and the timeframe to add special effects to Marvel epics, for example, but small-scale movies – or even TV shows that run with tighter turnaround times – usually aren’t so. fortunate.
“You have a very short delivery window in the TV industry, and so depending on the strength of the project, it definitely adds a lot of time in post-production,” said Halberg, who produced the upcoming space drama. ” From a distance ”, with Anthony Ramos. (NBC News and Universal Pictures, the distributor of “Distant,” are both part of NBCUniversal.)
Additionally, some Hollywood techs and craftspeople prefer the verisimilitude that accompanies the use of real blank loaded pistols. The director might be able to squeeze a more authentic performance from an actor using a real weapon, or so you think.
“I know a lot of actors really prefer to use blanks on set because they feel more real, instead of reacting to something that’s going to be added in post-production. They can feel the recoil of a ball, so they feel like they have a better reaction of themselves, ”said Halberg.
In a 2019 article for American Cinematographer, gun instructor Dave Brown wrote, “White people contribute to the authenticity of a scene in a way that cannot be achieved in any other way.
“If the cinematographer is there to paint a story with light and framing, the gun experts are there to enhance a story with drama and excitement,” he added.