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View Full Version : Weapon prop control on movie sets


Arkcon
05-10-2015, 01:44 PM
I'm watching movie reruns, and I get to see an old favorite of mine, Payback. In one scene, Lucy Liu and Mel Gibson press handguns to each other's head, pull the trigger and *click* out of ammo. I contrast that in my head to the movie The Crow, which killed Brandon Lee in a prop mishap. I wonder, what exactly are the procedures for prop control, so that no gets hit by a blank casing, or something like that. What did the Payback crew likely do that The Crow crew neglected?

Joey P
05-10-2015, 01:56 PM
Haven't seen either, but maybe one used real guns and the other used fake or one used live ammo (or blanks (which still fire)) while the other made sure no ammo was allowed on the set. Or, the most obvious to me, is that one cleared the guns before the scene was filmed and the other didn't.

Johnny L.A.
05-10-2015, 01:59 PM
We made sure that only one designated crew member handled the firearm(s), and that person collected them as soon as the actors were done with the take. Two sets of eyes verifying they were unloaded, and then only the number of blanks required for the take.

Joey P
05-10-2015, 02:01 PM
Just read the wiki on The Crow, it's pretty well explained there. It crew made their own blanks and one lodged in the barrel (which they didn't know happened). When they shot the fatal scene, the blank that they used made the round that was lodged in the barrel continue the rest of the way and kill Brandon.

As for what they didn't do on Payback...probably that.

Here's the wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crow_%281994_film%29#Death_of_Brandon_Lee).
This is what happens when when you let the wrong people handle the stunt guns. I mean, you wouldn't let the costume department do the rigging for the guy jumping repelling off the building, even if they've seen it done a bunch of times, why they let prop crew make their own blanks (instead of the firearms specialist), I don't know.

Uosdwis R. Dewoh
05-10-2015, 02:07 PM
I'd bet real money that the guns used in the Payback scene were prop guns. Any clicking sounds they made were added in post. Brandon Lee's death happened in a scene where the guns actually needed to fire onscreen.

Still, I imagine there was a procedure in place to make sure the guns used in the Payback scene were not real. Most likely the person in charge of prop weapons and the actors together checked that they received fake guns before shooting said scene. Maybe the actors signed a paper said they had taken possession of a fake gun that they personally confirmed was not real.

Arkcon
05-10-2015, 02:14 PM
Seems reasonable from a liability standpoint. If you're going to press it against another actors head, the onus is on you as an actor to to check that you're holding the empty gun. Each one was probably grateful the othe other actor's attention.

Payback was made years ago, I'm suddenly wondering what if Bill Murray had to do the scene with Lucy Liu -- they probably would have checked each other's guns first. And I'll leave any possib le Mel Gibson jokes to anyone else.

Johnny L.A.
05-10-2015, 02:18 PM
We modified a Beretta 92FS to fire blanks for a film. We also used an airsoft gun in some scenes. The airsoft gun looked real, and the slide recoiled to boot. Flash and sound effects would have been added in post, had the film been finished.

You know when people drop their weapons in movies? Maybe slide them across the floor? Those are often replicas made of solid rubber, silicone, or other material. Here's one made of foam (http://www.amazon.com/Solid-Flexible-Handgun-Professional-Theatre/dp/B008WDAMX2). 'Background extras', for example, soldiers, often carry solid rifles. It's a lot cheaper and safer to use solid foam guns that look good enough, than go for realism and use a real gun!

Joey P
05-10-2015, 02:22 PM
I'd bet real money that the guns used in the Payback scene were prop guns. Any clicking sounds they made were added in post. Brandon Lee's death happened in a scene where the guns actually needed to fire onscreen.

Still, I imagine there was a procedure in place to make sure the guns used in the Payback scene were not real. Most likely the person in charge of prop weapons and the actors together checked that they received fake guns before shooting said scene. Maybe the actors signed a paper said they had taken possession of a fake gun that they personally confirmed was not real.

A lot of times in movies, fake guns are just made from rubber and painted to look real. They couldn't shoot if you wanted them too, not anymore than you could shoot someone with a sponge cut into the shape of a gun. You could hit someone over the head with them and not hurt them. I assume there's no real question that it's fake if you're holding it in your hand.
Again, I haven't seen the movie, so I don't know the scene, but it might have to be more realistic if it involved racking the slide or moving cylinder around, but even in that case, the actors may have checked for themselves first.

DinoR
05-10-2015, 02:42 PM
You know when people drop their weapons in movies? Maybe slide them across the floor? Those are often replicas made of solid rubber, silicone, or other material. Here's one made of foam (http://www.amazon.com/Solid-Flexible-Handgun-Professional-Theatre/dp/B008WDAMX2). 'Background extras', for example, soldiers, often carry solid rifles. It's a lot cheaper and safer to use solid foam guns that look good enough, than go for realism and use a real gun!
Fakes get used at times in the US military too. Colloquially they got termed "rubber ducks." It's easier than managing security for an actual weapon for times you don't actually need something to go bang and you remove the risk of it being loaded. A color guard out in public frequently has fakes for example. They are part of the equipment kit supporting combatives (aka hand to hand) training.

I wince when I see weapons drop on hard surfaces in the media. It's worse when I know they are of an age/type where the protection against going off when they hit was minimal.

Uosdwis R. Dewoh
05-10-2015, 02:43 PM
A lot of times in movies, fake guns are just made from rubber and painted to look real. They couldn't shoot if you wanted them too, not anymore than you could shoot someone with a sponge cut into the shape of a gun. You could hit someone over the head with them and not hurt them. I assume there's no real question that it's fake if you're holding it in your hand.
I feel that fake guns aren't the problem. As you said a fake gun feels and is obviously fake, but would an actor necessarily recognise a real gun as real?

Imagine a really haphazard production where real and fake guns are stored in a big pile on the studio floor. Some intern is tasked with retrieving a fake gun from the pile and he grabbs the first one. If the gun is fake then there's no problem, but if it isn't then who's going to notice? Probably not the intern nor the actor. I think that even with prop guns someone who knows guns is needed to double check.

Joey P
05-10-2015, 03:01 PM
I feel that fake guns aren't the problem. As you said a fake gun feels and is obviously fake, but would an actor necessarily recognise a real gun as real?

Imagine a really haphazard production where real and fake guns are stored in a big pile on the studio floor. Some intern is tasked with retrieving a fake gun from the pile and he grabbs the first one. If the gun is fake then there's no problem, but if it isn't then who's going to notice? Probably not the intern nor the actor. I think that even with prop guns someone who knows guns is needed to double check.

Hopefully no one is storing fake guns and real guns in a big pile on the floor but the last part "I think that even with prop guns someone who knows guns is needed" is literally why Brandon Lee is dead. Literally, exactly, 100% the cause of his death. The firearms expert went home early so the prop guys made blanks from real rounds, but they made them incorrectly (not being fire arms experts). That directly resulted in the actor being shot in the head.
If you didn't read the wiki I linked to, it's explained there in fairly good detail.


Yes, I'll agree that any time any kind of weapons are being used, it wouldn't be a terrible idea for some kind of firearms expert to be on the set. Just someone to check to make sure they are what they're supposed to be. If all the guns are supposed to be fake rubber guns, even just someone with gun experience (but someone named the 'gun expert' that personally hands all guns to the actors and is held responsible) to make sure nothing real makes it into an actors hand. If there's real guns but nothing loaded, I'd be okay with someone like an off duty cop or whatever, to check to make sure each gun is safe etc. As scenes get more dangerous we would need people with more and more expertise. An off duty cop or someone that spends weekends at the range probably isn't qualified to make sure handmade blanks are being prepared properly, for example (FTR, this isn't something I've really thought out until now, there's probably holes in my thought process).

Trinopus
05-10-2015, 03:03 PM
Dumb anecdote: some friends of mine made a student film in college. One scene involved shooting a shotgun. The director had opened up a shotgun shell and taken out all the pellets.

Or so he thought.

One pellet remained, so, when the gun was fired, it whirred down the hall and lodged in the bathroom door.

Nobody hurt, lots of people dismayed and alarmed, and the director hugely shame-faced.

Leave this kind of stuff to the real experts!

Habeed
05-11-2015, 12:51 AM
They make internal blank adapters for guns. That's where the barrel is completely plugged except for a small hole. I would assume that for any scene that needs a real gun, you use this except in the extremely rare cases where you need the camera to actually see directly up the barrel of the gun. (and in that case, you could capture that camera shot separately from any scenes with actors in them)

I've always wondered if some movies create realistic scenes of bullet impacts by removing all people from the set and firing real guns into the set. (then digitally merging the camera shots of pieces of the set getting stuck by real bullets with shots with actors in them). After all, squibs aren't quite the same thing.

Trinopus
05-11-2015, 01:01 AM
Real bullet strikes are kind of blah. A hole appears. For the movies, they like to tart things up, by having the bullets impart huge kinetic energy differentials to the target -- knocking things back, shattering things into big explosions of splinters, spraying liquids all over the pitch, and gouging out immense craters.

Also sparks, however the trend of sparks from bullet strikes has peaked, and you don't see it quite as much these days. Always made me laugh, as bullets just don't do that.

(Unless, you know, you invest in special flint-tipped bullets.)

They certainly could use real bullets the way you describe, but I strongly suspect they don't. Also, it could mess up the inside of the sound stage building, so the guys monitoring costs probably would discourage it.

Elendil's Heir
05-11-2015, 08:34 AM
Another "fake gun" tragedy on set: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon-erik_hexum

TBG
05-11-2015, 09:03 PM
Another "fake gun" tragedy on set: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon-erik_hexum


More a "fake bullet" tragedy with the dumbass playing with a gun and not realizing blanks are dangerous at point blank range.

Max the Immortal
05-11-2015, 10:05 PM
When I was in acting school, we had an orientation class for how to deal with prop guns on set. A few key points I remember:

1) Most of the time, treat a prop gun like a real gun; don't point it at people, and so on. You only point a prop gun right at another actor if you can't "cheat" the angle with camera trickery.

2) When the armorer hands you a gun, you should either immediately check it to confirm that it isn't loaded, or, if you're not used to handling guns, demand that the armorer show it's not loaded you before you accept it.

3) Blanks are dangerous when fired at close range.

4) If you don't have experience handling guns, be aware that seeing an actor holding a gun incorrectly is really distracting to those the audience who are proficient (and that's a sizeable chunk of most audiences).

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