In-depth: Armorers often around prop guns on sets, but film workers union says sets could be safer

Prop Firearm Movie Set
Posted at 6:32 PM, Oct 25, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Movie and TV set safety is in the spotlight after a prop gun used by actor Alec Baldwin fired and killed a crew member.

In the last few days, the horrific accident that happened on the set of "Rust" in New Mexico has resurfaced the set safety conversation.

"There were several people who could have prevented this from happening, and so it was a multiple system failure," said soundmixer Peter Kurland, who represents film and television crew workers in Tennessee for IATSE Local 492.

Kurland says even with an armorer — a weapons specialist — everyone on set should get prop safety training. But that is not currently the standard.

"If there is somebody, you know, brandishing a weapon or driving a vehicle unsafely or whatever, we need to know it's unsafe to keep ourselves out of the path of that," Kurland said.

There are reports crew members walked off the set of "Rust" before the shooting because they felt it was unsafe. That left the film down several workers.

"Where people are pressed for time and there isn't a lot of people to do the work it's easier to bypass certain safety things that shouldn't be bypassed... It may be a freak accident, but it required so many things to happen to make it possible for that freak accident to take place," Kurland said.

Kurland said the union does not like to hear people feel like they're working on an unsafe set.

"We will do everything we can to keep you safe, but if you're in an environment that's not safe you have to leave," he said.

When it comes to real guns, Kurland said they can add to the drama, but the industry could also move away from using them in many cases.

"There's this non-gun tech that you can have, weapons appear to fire but aren't. You can have CGI weapons," he said.

Kurland says perhaps real weapons should play a smaller part in film, until safety training is more widespread.

"All the safety training you can get helps people recognize dangers and helps all people get them," he said."

On Monday it was announced the shooting of "Rust" has officially been halted.