LOS ANGELES — The way guns are used on film and TV sets is about to change following the “Rust” accident, where actor Alec Baldwin inadvertently shot the director of photography Halyna Hutchins with a prop gun.
An influential industry-wide union-management committee made up of union and studio representatives is evaluating revisions to so-called safety bulletins that dictate how firearms and ammunition should be handled in the entertainment industry, according to people with knowledge of the talks who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Among the possible revisions: requiring the presence of gunsmiths when weapons are handed over to actors and providing the crew with a glossary of terms used by gunsmiths on sets, said one of the people.
“Safety Bulletins 1 and 2 are currently under review,” Matthew Antonucci, co-chair of the leadership of the industry union-management safety committee, said in a statement. “Because this process has not yet been completed, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
While the talks are still in their early stages, the revisions to the bulletins would be the first since 2003.
The ballots have come under intense scrutiny since the tragedy of the low-budget Western in New Mexico last fall, as the industry wondered how such a mishap could happen. Questions remain about how a live bullet was on set and loaded into the gun, ultimately killing Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza.
The film and television industry has compiled numerous bulletins with guidelines on how to handle unsafe practices on set. There are bulletins that tell crews how to be safe using helicopters, motorcycles, handling animals, poisonous reptiles, or even poisonous plants.
Safety Bulletin 1 deals with the use of firearms and blank ammunition on set.
It includes rules such as never having live ammunition on the board or putting a finger on the trigger until ready to fire; and require the prop master or gunsmith to inspect the weapon before and after each shot.
Safety Bulletin 1 – which is attached to muster sheets for all crew – requires the prop master or other appropriate personnel to handle firearms and states that only a “qualified person” may load weapons on fire just before a scene. Actors working nearby should be able to observe the loading of the weapon, he says.
Currently, the protocol is that a prop, or in their absence a gunsmith, checks the weapon before and after each shot. But there are no detailed steps specifying how a weapon should be given to an actor.
Typically, a gunsmith will demonstrate cleaning and loading a weapon in front of the cast and crew when the prop is ready for use, and then return it to their possession. And if an assistant director inspects a weapon, the gunsmith or the props man is present.
However, after the “Rust” accident, committee members feel that language needs to be added to clarify safe procedures for handing over weapons to cast members.
In the case of “Rust,” gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez Reed was outside the church where the fatal scene took place, according to police interviews. She denied any wrongdoing in the case.
Assistant manager Dave Halls took a gun from a cart, yelled “cold gun” to indicate the gun was safe to use, and handed it to Baldwin, but did not check all the cartridges for the weapon beforehand, according to the affidavits. Hall’s attorney, Lisa Torraco, disputed the version of events described in the affidavits.
An assistant director is responsible for security on a film set, but his role is not specified in the security instructions.