EDITORIAL: Hollywood needs to stop using real weapons on set

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(Julianna Hernandez | Viewpoints)

Hollywood has always been fascinated with legitimate danger in movies, from Buster Keaton letting a house fall on him in “One Week,” to Harold Lloyd hanging from the side of a building, grasping a giant clock’s minute hand for dear life in “Safety Last!”

One of the most common practices on movie sets is the use of real firearms, which was the cause of the death of 42-year-old cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Joel Souza’s Western film “Rust.” In this scenario, a live round was loaded into the revolver that was provided to actor Alec Baldwin. Many questions need to be asked here. The person responsible for checking the chamber before the scene must be involved, and the presence of a live round on a movie set in the first place needs to be addressed. But the most important question to ask here is: why is Hollywood still doing this?

The Viewpoints editorial board believes that there should be no reason why a real firearm and real bullets are on movie sets and that the industry needs to change its practices immediately.

In the last 10 years especially, special effects technology has expanded in amazing ways, transporting us to dazzling fantasy landscapes and de-aging actors by 20 years. If we can bring to life things like genius apes and extra-terrestrial warlords, surely there must be ways to simulate gunfire without the potential for tragic miscommunications or outright negligence claiming someone’s life.

In an interview with “Slate,” prop master Mitch Thompson, who, among other things, worked on the HBO series “Animals,” discussed safer alternatives that he uses on sets. Some of his alternatives include airsoft BB guns enhanced with CGI muzzle flashes or electronic guns that mimic the action of a gun’s recoil without any actual combustion.

The framework is there, and there isn’t anything to invent. There are already professionals using safer methods of simulating gunfire on a movie set. So why are studios still stubbornly sticking to the old ways of doing things?

One person losing their life is already too many, but between Brandon Lee, Jon-Erik Hexum and, now, Halyna Hutchins, it’s more apparent than ever that the way Hollywood has been doing things isn’t working. Hollywood really needs to take a moment and ask itself: is the marginally more realistic motion you get from a prop gun really worth the potential for lost human lives?

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