Reload founder Stephen Gutowski joined Cheddar News on Monday to discuss the latest in the shooting on the set of Alec Baldwin’s latest film.
He said that while some details remain unclear, it is clear the fatal accident was the result of a series of mistakes by multiple people. He told None of the Above host J.D. Durkin the tragedy could not have occurred without more than one person breaking a basic safety rule.
“Really, there was a series of mistakes made that led to this,” Gutowski said. “There had to be because this is a very rare event on a Hollywood set or any set. There are strict protocols that are supposed to be followed and you have to break several rules along the way in order to get to something like this.”
He specifically pointed to live ammunition being present in the first place as the biggest failure.
“I think the biggest mistake here was the mixing of live ammunition with blanks,” Gutowski said. “That should never happen on a movie set or in any context, really. It’s something that can be deadly and, in this case, was.”
Another clear failure was the gun being pointed in the direction of people, according to Gutowski.
“A gun had to be pointed at someone for this to end the way it did,” he said. “Usually, they try to mitigate how often that occurs–if ever. Really, you should strive to make it so that a gun is never pointed in the direction of a person, even when you’re using blanks, because they can be dangerous. So, you have to follow through on these things all the time.”
He also pointed to the fact that Baldwin was reportedly told the gun was unloaded by the person who handed it to him. Given it clearly wasn’t, it is also clear nobody in the chain of people who handled the gun actually checked to ensure it really was unloaded. He said that was a serious failure.
“Anytime you’re using a gun, even if they’re just designed to fire blanks, but anytime you use a real gun as well there’s dangers involved. There’s risks involved,” Gutowski said. “Anyone who handles that firearm ought to know the proper safety rules to handling that firearm. For instance, in this case, Alec Baldwin was told the gun was “cold’ or unloaded–it didn’t have any ammunition in it. Well, that’s easy to check. And he was apparently told that by the Assistant Director which would’ve been at least the second person to handle that firearm. So, everyone along the way should’ve been checking to make sure that gun was actually unloaded. It doesn’t take long to do that. Anyone can be trained to do it. So, that’s one of the circumstances where there were a number of breakdowns before we got to a circumstance where somebody was killed.”
When asked what alternatives to real guns could be used for movie productions moving forward, he said he didn’t believe it was necessary to remove them completely but did note there already are a number of techniques for filmmaking without working firearms.
“Hollywood already uses a number of different kinds of prop guns,” Gutowski said. “You can eliminate real guns completely from the process. I don’t know that it’s necessary as long as people are actually following all of the rules. But they do use things like rubber guns for certain scenes. They use airsoft guns which use CO2 cartridges instead of gun powder to simulate gunfire and then they’ll add, in post, CGI gunfire.”
Ultimately, he said the horrible accident was more likely caused by negligence and inexperience than by the inherent risks of using guns on movie sets.
“When you have what was reportedly a rushed production with a new armorer, who was only on her second movie from what’s been reported, that’s how you get into a situation like this where a lot of rules aren’t followed and dangerous things occur,” Gutowski said.