The Implications of Accidents on Set: Hollywood’s Response to the Alec Baldwin Incident

Jasmine Judge, Design Editor

While working on a film set does not seem like a risky profession, many hidden hazards exist in the making of a movie or television show. With the recent fatal firing of a supposed prop gun on the set of “Rust,” the implications of set accidents have become a prominent point of discussion within the acting community.

On Oct. 21, Alec Baldwin was on the set of the upcoming film “Rust” in northern New Mexico. The scene required that Baldwin use a prop gun; however, the gun used contained live ammunition, and when fired off, it killed the movie’s cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins and injured the director, Joel Souza. In light of this tragedy, people have begun to question the safety of movie and television sets.

“It’s scary to think that you could get hurt anywhere, even when filming on a set where everything is supposed to be fake,” Palmetto sophomore and stagecraft student Sara Kramer said. “After talking about the Alec Baldwin shooting in class, it encouraged us to be extra aware of any possible dangers on the sets we build, and recognize that the actors are trusting us with their safety.”

Film sets like “Rust” often use real guns for authenticity purposes. To ensure safety, an armorer is present on nearly every set who checks that prop guns come loaded with blanks. Cast members must receive gun safety training prior to the start of filming, and weapons cannot be pointed directly at someone, even in rehearsals. Although guidelines like these are in place to prevent injuries, accidents still manage to occur. From 1990 to 2014, at least 194 serious accidents and at least 43 deaths have occurred on television and film sets in the U.S. 

“We’ve implemented numerous safety precautions to help combat any possible hazards on set,” Kramer said. “Although with COVID we haven’t really had the chance to build many sets, when we finally start hosting plays and shows, we want the people on stage to feel secure in their surroundings.”

Breaks in protocol like those on the set of “Rust” serve as an extreme example of what can happen when safety is not up to code. In most cases, set accidents do not result in events nearly this severe; nonetheless, this incident has made film workers more aware than ever of the risks that come with working with weapons.