LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Shock and disbelief. That’s the reaction surrounding the tragic shooting involving actor Alec Baldwin on the set of his western film. It’s raising questions on how could someone be killed with a prop gun?
The set of a western film now the scene of an actual shooting. The set of the movie “Rust” taped off as police figure out how a prop gun used by actor Alec Baldwin killed a cinematographer and injured the film’s director. UNLV film professor Warren D. Cobb says this tragedy affects everyone in the film industry.
“Immediately my students wanted to talk about it, so it’s truly a thing that immediately everyone in what we do,” he said.
He says incidents like these are extremely rare with a number of safety guidelines put into place. Cobb says there may have been a breakdown in that process.
“It’s not just one thing that can go wrong. In this tragedy, many things went wrong. Only when they investigate, they’ll find out,” he said.
George Phillips who worked on special effects for more than 30 years in Hollywood says all prop guns are only handled by select crew members and can be actual real-life guns. They’re examined to make sure there are no live rounds and treated as live weapons with announcements.
“They had it to the actor that that’s firing it. The weapon is hot. That way everybody hears it and then we do the scene that was blocked out prior to that,” he said.
Phillips says filmmakers can cheat camera angles to make it look like an actor has shot a person. He says it’s rare for an actor to actually point a prop weapon at a person and it’s done for very specific shots.
“The only time they really do that is if they’re shooting down the barrel and or they want to shoot right at the gun,” he said.
Cobb says safety is paramount for all filmmakers as lives should never be risked getting a perfect shot.
“We never want to lose a life when we do this. The whole point of what we do is to share joy and to share the human experience,” he said.
At UNLV to help protect their own film students, it actually banned the use of weapons in their films. Any university production involving weapons requires extensive vetting and protocols.