The explosive roar of the bullet that took the life of Halyna Hutchins sent waves throughout the film industry and the entire world. The tragic incident involving the firing of a so-called “cold gun” on a movie set has quite a mind-boggling story behind it. A careless series of events leading up to the disaster has triggered many questions revolving around the failure of people to exhibit the high level of care required for a safe set. What this means for the future of film production is unclear.
The terrifying event occurred on October 21 on the New Mexico set for the movie Rust. Through some sort of inexcusable miscommunication, actor Alec Baldwin was handed a gun on the set filled with live ammunition. Not only was this gun loaded with ammo, but it was also pointed at a crew huddled around the camera filming the scene.
The gun was fired and killed 42-year-old cinematographer Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza.
Such a rare incident, considering all normal precautions, led to lots of finger-pointing. With so many unanswered questions, Performing Arts Department Chair Mr. Darren Hengst and Middle School Theatre teacher Ms. Jenn Hallman helped answer some of the questions that many students have.
“One of the best people we have here is [Production Manager and Technical Director of Centennial Hall] Mr. Dex Woodward. He’s certified in so many different things,” Mr. Hengst said. “He takes his job extremely seriously, and safety is his first concern with all of our technical elements… I feel like together we have the experience of working in professional workplaces in theatre and we can bring those [safety] practices here.”
Mr. Hengst explained how in theatre, real guns are never present. Starter pistols serve as substitutes. These fake guns have a barrel, but when the striker hits the blank, the explosion happens out of the side and no projectile is fired.
“The stage manager always came up to me before we started, and she opened the gun and told me, ‘This is a cold gun,’ and showed me that there were no bullets in there…”Mr. Darren Hengst
He shared a personal anecdote involving his experience using a prop gun under the direction of qualified personnel.
“Even though it never fires in the show, the stage manager always came up to me before we started, and she opened the gun and told me, ‘This is a cold gun,’ and showed me that there were no bullets in there, and then I would start,” Mr. Hengst said. “These checkpoints are just built into our culture in a great way.”
Some of these aspects are missed in an actor’s academic preparation.
“In acting school, we don’t go through these technical aspects [of how to open and unload a gun]. The job of an actor is to portray that you understand how to hold and fire a gun,” Mr. Hengst said.
Comparing the use of firearms in film and theatre shows just how many precautions are necessary for the safety on set.
“Looking at the things that we do in a live situation to bend reality and tell a story and how we aren’t holding movies to the same standard is wild,” Ms. Hallman said.
These questions about whether or not real guns are necessary in movies and shows have been raised by all sorts of people involved in the film industry. Mr. Hengst said he’s received emails petitioning to get real guns off of film sets. Many people are trying to bring more attention to this tragedy through methods like petitions.
“Hopefully this is something a little more eye-opening in that Hollywood sphere to make sure that they’re doing what they should be doing and protecting the people on their set,” Ms. Hallman said.
So many theories and perspectives have surfaced, engrossing people all over the world, but failure to recognize and take any action on this incident will get us nowhere. The media is so quick to pick sides and dive deep into the internet to figure out every detail that happened behind the scenes, but the far bigger and most prominent question is: How is this even possible?
“To hear something like this happening on a movie set where you have so many resources to create a safe environment for your staff, cast, and crew, it’s just, how did everything get overlooked?”Ms. Jennifer Hallman
“To hear something like this happening on a movie set where you have so many resources to create a safe environment for your staff, cast, and crew, it’s just, how did everything get overlooked?” Ms. Hallman said. “Did they chalk it up as an accident and then we sweep it under the rug and move on to the next thing? Especially in a country that is seeing mass shootings [frequently], having something like this happen is just … how careless are we?”
“The fact that real bullets were on a movie set is just preposterous. The fact that there was a real bullet there and somebody put it in there by accident is just incomprehensible,” Mr. Hengst added.
What this means for the future of gun use on movie sets in an age where modern technology is prevalent is uncertain. The fact that a life was lost over such an unfortunate occurrence is horrible.
“Because it has garnered so much attention, I hope that people will be more aware moving forward because nobody should be losing their life on a movie set like that when you have people who are being paid to make sure this equipment is safe. When it’s not, lives can be lost,” Ms. Hallman said.
“It reassured me that we are doing the right thing in our department when we have any kind of firearm or special effect in our possession and how careful we are with everything.”Mr. Darren Hengst
“It reassured me that we are doing the right thing in our department when we have any kind of firearm or special effect in our possession and how careful we are with everything,” Mr. Hengst said.
This isn’t the first time an error like this has happened, so people will realize that a real gun with the capability of being shot holds far more power than just a prop. If the gun is not safely hidden until it’s ready for use and has a barrel and a trigger, everyone’s life is at risk. Hopefully, out of this tragedy will come a deeper level of safety and care applied to all productions, ensuring a senseless accident never occurs again.