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The Tragedy of “Rust” Can Be Avoided and a Safe Set is the Way to Do It

By Nicolas Rontanini

We all hear backstage stories about the world of filmmaking. Often, this is through actors’ social media, interviews on late-night TV talk-shows and online website publications. While many of these stories are relatively lighthearted, we sometimes hear of tragedies such as what happened on the set of the movie “Rust.” However, while tragic, the story brings to light an important topic: safety on film sets.

The accident itself happened on Oct. 21, 2021. Actor Alec Baldwin was handed a .45 Long Colt revolver, the type of gun to be used in the scene he was rehearsing, and told it was a “cold gun,” industry jargon to mean a firearm that’s not loaded with live ammunition. The gun was pointed towards the camera, as called for by the scene, and the gun went off, injuring director Joel Souza and killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. The question of how the projectile ended up in the gun chamber is still unknown.

When handling firearms on a film set, there is usually someone called an armorer, in charge of cast and crew safety with the use of weapons. Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer on the “Rust” set, said the set itself never stored any live rounds, according to an article in the “New York Times.” As stated in an affidavit released in December, an assistant director Dave Halls said that he didn’t check all of the rounds in the chamber.

When filming a movie, there are much more than just technical difficulties. There are numerous safety concerns as well. With the new semester starting, and several Adelphi film students preparing to create their own projects, it’s important to discuss some of the safety concerns you might encounter on campus. These are tips I’ve learned from my professors in regard to safety.

For example, if you’re using light kits you acquire from the school, you need to make sure there is an adequate electrical supply before you activate them. In addition, to protect yourself and anyone else controlling the lights, you need to wear gloves because the heat from the bulb can actually burn you.

If you end up filming outside, you need to make the legs on the stand spread out closer to the ground to prevent them from falling. But it’s not just equipment safety we need to think about. The actors, and by extension, your crew, all need breaks at certain points in the day. Overworking for hours straight has led to car accidents after leaving the set, according to Deadline.

With all this in mind, with more safety precautions to consider, it can be overwhelming to think about. And this is where it’s important to remember why these precautions have to be taken. We’ve seen what can happen when a safety regulation isn’t met, people can be hurt or even killed.

For students shooting their own respective projects, there is undoubtedly significant pressure. I myself am preparing to shoot a film, and it can be nerve wracking thinking about safety and the consequences of precautions not taken. Of course, every film is different, down to differing equipment setups. As such, safety precautions can differ and information about safety is readily available online. So if there is anything to take away, let it be this: While it can be overwhelming it can be done–and it can be done well.

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