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American actor Alec Baldwin fired an acting pistol, killing director of photography, Helena Hutchins, and injuring director, Joel Souza, while filming scenes from a movie in New Mexico, police said.
Condolences were sent to the 42-year-old Hutchins, while Baldwin is believed to have suffered psychological trauma. A local newspaper reported that he was crying in front of the Santa Fe Police Chief’s office.
The case is being investigated, and it is not yet known how the accident occurred. A Baldwin spokesman said an accident occurred on set due to a faulty acting pistol loaded with deranged equipment.
Acting weapons seem harmless, but they can be dangerous, and that’s what we know about them.
What is an acting pistol?
Cheeting gear is used in movies to simulate live ammunition.
The blanks look convincing in photography, because they are actually real modified bullets.
The bullet consists of a metal envelope containing an explosive. When the trigger of the pistol is pulled, the firing pin is released and moves forward to push the explosive charge, so the bullet exits the barrel of the pistol.
Instead of using a metallic material as in live ammunition, the blank bullet contains a material of cotton or paper.
As for acting weapons, they are disabled weapons that are used in filming movie scenes, to give them credibility.
When you fire with empty bullets, you hear the sound of the shot, and you see the fire of burning the explosive.
Have similar incidents occurred before?
Yes. It happened. You may remember actor Brandon Lee, son of martial arts legend, Bruce Lee.
Brandon Lee died at the age of twenty-eight, in 1993, while filming the movie “The Raven”, having received a shot from an acting pistol that was accidentally loaded with a training bullet.
Training bullets are used for close-up shooting, but the pistol must be emptied of it before it is filled with empty bullets.
After receiving the shot, the shooting continued until the end of the scene, and when he did not stand on his feet, the filmmakers knew that he had been subjected to something bad.
In another incident, in 1984, the American actor, John Eric Hexom, was joking on the set of a television movie, fed up with the delay in filming.
He loaded the pistol with a blank bullet, placed the barrel of the revolver on his temple and fired.
Unlike Lee, Hexom did not die at the site, but the force of the bullet fractured his skull, and he died days later in the hospital.
How can acting weapons and blanks be used safely?
Hexum’s death alerted the problems of chelating weapons, as they could be very dangerous.
Adding to the risks is that some filming locations raise the amount of explosive in order to enhance the visual effect.
Filming locations usually set strict rules for the use of acting weapons. They are provided by professionals who give instructions on how to use it.
Weapon expert Bill Davies, who has worked on several TV sets, says: “If someone put live ammunition in the gun, first the live ammunition shouldn’t have been on the set. Second, they had to make sure the gun was empty by inserting a pen into the barrel and looking at it. And third, they had to keep an eye on the ammo they put in the gun.”
Some of those working in filming are wondering why chelating ammunition is still used in the first place, while the technology now provides the effects of computer shooting, with simple techniques.
Actor and director, Craig Zobel, wrote on Twitter: “There is no need today to have pistols filled with blank bullets or anything else. Why not ban them permanently by law?”
Television writer David Slack tweeted: “Acting pistols are real pistols, and blanks have real explosives in them. They can hurt and kill. If you’re on a set with non-safety acting weapons, just leave.” No program or cinematography is worth risking people’s lives.”