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Old September 24th, 2009, 12:52 PM   #31
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Here is the California Law on all forms of guns, replicas, etc.:
http://www.atf.gov./firearms/statela...n/califpt1.pdf

Knives and the like are also covered.

It should be noted that laws vary from city to city, county to count, state to state. Laws are quite different in Burbank than in Los Angeles, for example.

It also should be noted that while a sporting goods store may be able to sell BB or airsoft guns, it is very possible these same guns are illegal to use in any manner within the city, county or state they are sold. In some cases, the only place such guns can be used is licensed parks or on shooting ranges.

Carry laws and transportation laws can apply to toy guns as well as real guns. Real guns can have less restrictions than toy guns often. For example, in many places airsoft guns must have orange tips on the barrels.

There are special laws regarding entertainment use of firearms as well. In California it is illegal to borrow a firearm to use in an entertainment production without a permit:
California Penal Code Section 12081 - California Attorney Resources - California Laws
This permit may also offer a bit of legitimization to an awkward situation with authorities no matter what kind of weapons are being used in a production.
(It is also illegal to lend a firearm.)

Another consideration is that if the police as questions about use of a plastic gun (for example) and you say you are making a video/movie, they will immediately start asking for shooting permits, etc. Some places (like Burbank for example) are particularly unfriendly to small productions, and these are very expensive.

And don't forget, you may run into someone who wants to take a minor technical infraction and make an example out of you to show the evil of guns.

Depending on the location, there can be very stringent laws regarding squibs and the like. Squibs could be considered explosive devices and if stuck in a pouch or pocket "concealed on a person" might lead a prosecutor to try to put you in prison for several years... especially if all the permists (and associated fees) are not taken care.

Non-firing - replica guns are totally illegal in some places, even when airsoft replicas (with orange-which can be removed-tips are not.

There are also some very strict laws on knives and other bladed devices.

While safety needs to be the primary concern, legal issues are more likely to destroy your life.

Finally, actors should get themselves firearm training. Actors should also learn to not trust anyone with guns on a movie set. As mentioned above, a reliable professional firearms person will explain and demonstrate everything. My experience is that the reliable firearms person does not let the gun and anyone holding it out of his or her sight. But at the same time, the actors must understand what the possibilities are, what is happening around them and watch out for themselves.
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Old September 25th, 2009, 04:21 AM   #32
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The one thing that I would miss seeing in a fully automatic weapon is cartridge ejection. While it's relatively easy to do it digitally with a single shot, a rain of brass is a lot tougher, especially if a lot of them has to end up on the floor.

Maybe the military will move ahead with its caseless ammo developments and make it easier on the visual effects guys! :-)
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Old September 25th, 2009, 07:36 AM   #33
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I totally agree that every actor should receive some basic training in firearms safety.

(I should state up front that that this is not entirely an altruistic belief on my part. Once a year, I host a three-day course specifically for actors that covers all the basics of safety, terminology, authenticity and the nature of blanks ... plus we spend one whole day at the shooting range practicing with various loads of blanks AND concluding with some live-fire practice with real handguns. Great fun and a unique learning experience for actors!)

I don't need them to know my job better than me; I need them knowledgeable enough to know when to ask questions and to know when things are NOT being done right.

For some strange reason, I seem to have become somewhat of an authority on this topic and am often asked to teach workshops on safety and what I do on film sets. I was once invited down to LA to teach at Dee Wallace's acting studio, simply because she had had a very bad experience with guns once and she really liked how careful and professional I was with her when we got a chance to work together. (She is a lovely lady and an amazingly talented actress - and one of the best parts of my job is that I get to stand around and watch some really really talented people like her at work.)

At the end of my presentation on staying safe, one of the actors approached me to ask when live ammunition would be allowed on film sets. I didn't really need to explain about the rare possibility of locked-off second-unit shots, simply because actors would NEVER be involved in such rare events, so I simply said, "Never." He then told me he was involved in an indie project in LA where the so-called gun 'expert' showed everyone on set the difference between the dummy cartridge that he held in one hand and the live round he held in the other.

Perhaps he thought he was helping educate people but the end result is that everyone just got freaked out that this gentleman had LIVE ammunition on the film set. (I think that actor was even more freaked out when he saw my face turn white!)

This is not a minor issue either. On big-budget productions, there are often paid-duty police officers doing traffic lockups. My policy is that producers have to notify me in advance when this is going to happen and what they are carrying for firearms, plus I never allow paid-duty officers to come closer than 100 meters to the prop guns. There have even been situations where real police officers play roles as a SWAT team and they show up on set with pouches full of loaded magazines. (This is where a policy of giving EVERYONE who handles firearms - even plastic ones - a complete safety briefing pays off!)

CGI is still a time-consuming and expensive process, especially when one needs to CGI muzzle flashes, slide movements and empty shell casings. Blanks are still the most viable option for most filmmakers provided they can access the appropriate expertise.

I am a big fan of doing as much as one can in the camera.

If a filmmaker really needs to CGI some muzzle flashes though, one tip is to light the actor's face on the set with a snooted strobe or a quick burst of light. This will provide a good spot to add in the muzzle flash in post.

(For a good example of how to do this, watch the opening sequence of "True Lies." All the gunshots were blanks except the last two shots. If you remember the sequence, Arnold fires his gun directly in front of Tom's face and the ONLY way this could be done safely was CGI. Watch the last two shots frame-by-frame and you will see they flash a quick burst of light onto Arnold's face from below, and then the visual effects folks add in a muzzle flash and then one frame of solid white.)

I would love to hear more stories - good and bad - from all you folks. Stay safe and have fun!
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Old September 25th, 2009, 12:55 PM   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Sensui View Post
The one thing that I would miss seeing in a fully automatic weapon is cartridge ejection. While it's relatively easy to do it digitally with a single shot, a rain of brass is a lot tougher, especially if a lot of them has to end up on the floor.

Maybe the military will move ahead with its caseless ammo developments and make it easier on the visual effects guys! :-)
I had a full auto rifle in my last shoot that I had to CGI the ejection for. It was tedious but once I got into the groove it wasn't so bad. Since I never shot the ground, I didn't have to worry about shell casings resting. The overall effect was pretty good.
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Old November 19th, 2011, 03:37 AM   #35
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Re: Guns! Guns! How to pull off a realistic killing ?

I know this is an old thread but I wanted to revive it to perhaps provide some more useful tips for filmmakers.

We are in production of a large theatrical Shakespeare play, with modern costumes and contemporary locations (but traditional Shakespearean dialogue) plus a couple of full-auto UZI submachine guns that fire in the air during the show. There was talk of doing this the traditional way with wooden replicas and backstage sound effects but the production and director really wanted to explore the possibility of actually firing blanks on stage.

Now, this requires special modified blank-firing imitation firearms, a highly experienced firearms specialist, specialized training for the cast members involved in the scene, some very careful blocking of the scene, permits from the police ... and a LOT of blank cartridges. But the point is that it CAN be done safely.

It took a lot of very careful work but the effect is amazing. The audience loves it because they jump out of their seats (even thought they are fully informed about the gunshots,) the noise and smoke are real, and the empty shell casings are still raining down on the stage platform seconds after the firing is over.

There is just no way to get the same effect with special effects, sound effects or CGI.

But back to film. I wanted to bring this thread back to life to see if others wanted to share other stories or techniques.

Plus, I was extremely honoured to be recently interviewed by LA Talk Radio's "Film Courage" on firearms safety issues on film sets:

Filming with Firearms | Film Courage
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Old November 19th, 2011, 01:46 PM   #36
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Re: Guns! Guns! How to pull off a realistic killing ?

Dave Brown out of Winnipeg???

We have done some SWoT presentation together MANY years ago... How are ya?!?!?

What Dave DOESN'T make apparent in his post is that he IS a professional armourer. AND an all around great guy!
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Old November 20th, 2011, 12:47 PM   #37
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Re: Guns! Guns! How to pull off a realistic killing ?

Thanks for the kind words Shaun.

Yup, that's me. When not teaching on a shooting range, working on a film set or traveling to do a workshop, I still enjoy volunteering my time with Safe Workers of Tomorrow (SWoT) and talking kids about safety in the workplace. I still love what I do and I am very fortunate to have met and worked with some wonderful folks over the years. (Including yourself.)
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Old November 22nd, 2011, 01:49 PM   #38
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Re: Guns! Guns! How to pull off a realistic killing ?

I remember you always wowed the kids by doing a breakdown of the skiing scene from True Lies. Always got them more interested than me telling them about their rights...

Had the opportunity to work alongside Ah-nold's stunt man/double of 14 years last weekend, Peter Kent. Great stories...

Keep well and thanks for your ongoing commitment to safety, on set and in the workplace!
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Old May 25th, 2012, 03:57 PM   #39
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Re: Guns! Guns! How to pull off a realistic killing ?

Well, I just received word that my own little film was just accepted into the Action on Film International Film Festival in Pasadena in August, and this simple little boy from the Canadian prairies is seriously thinking of making the trip down there to see his work up on the big screen. I am excited beyond belief.

I am thrilled to think that a career spanning nearly 20 years of standing behind a motion picture camera watching others at work actually DID teach me a thing or two about the actor/director relationship, and helped me direct actors with some, albeit rudimentary, skills.

So ... if anyone on these forums will be at Action on Film (AOF) in August 2012, be sure to look me up. If you missed seeing me on Discovery Channel last month talking about firearms in film and the mistakes leading up the the death of Brandon Lee that night 19 years ago, then corner me to chat at AOF.

I wonder if I can talk the organizers into having me give a talk or a forum panel on exactly what we have been discussing on this thread: how to achieve the look you want with guns safely, legally and inexpensively.

I have had an amazing career and have worked with some amazing people.
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Old May 27th, 2012, 04:00 AM   #40
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Re: Guns! Guns! How to pull off a realistic killing ?

Relating to the puff of air trick, here is a modest example.

REVISED TRAILER VERSION By Bob Hart On ExposureRoom

The speed was ramped up in post and due to a very tight deadline, the head impact was not CGI'd into the vision.


On safety, It is inevitable that some low budget production players are going to take shortcuts. A very, very important message to hammer home to them is NOT to demand that any volunteer armourer be multitasked. The volunteer armourer should have the guts to tell the production that if his safety demands are not met, he will walk and furthurmore be prepared to do so.


I do endorse the post furthur back about the regrettable gratuitous tendency towards more graphic blood and gore and depicting casualness about ending someone's life.

There are the slow-witted and sociopathic individuals out there with peculiar thought process and logic who do NOT need that extra implied licence that graphic depictions of gun violence may bizarrely convey to them.
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Old May 27th, 2012, 03:18 PM   #41
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Re: Guns! Guns! How to pull off a realistic killing ?

I've had enough guns fired in my general direction on sets over the years that I'm pretty delighted not to have to be in the line of fire these days. Never got used to it, never thought it was "cool". It's definitely better these days with the non-guns.

For situations where muzzle flash will be added, I have a low-tech solution for creating the reactive lighting on the shooter's face that I came up with years ago. We set a silver "pizza box" (2x2) bounce set pointed back at the actor from the direction of the end of the gun; we aim a hot narrow source like a tungsten par at it. I have the grips cut an approximately 10" hole in the center of a piece of show card, and have them hold it between the light and the bounce so that if the light shines through the hole, it fills the card. Then I simply have them start with the card slid off to one side so that no light comes through; when the actor mimes firing the gun, they quickly slide the card across, stopping so that the light remains blocked on the other side of the hole. The result is a very quick flash of hot light on the actor's face. In a perfect world, it would last no more than two to three frames (one hot, subsequent decaying) which would be very close to what an actual muzzle blast does, but it still works if it plays a few frames longer. It's easier to control than panning the actual unit, which also blasts light around the set, and much controllable than trying to switch a light on and off (tungsten units generally take too long to decay to off).

Example here, at :41:
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Old May 27th, 2012, 04:28 PM   #42
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Re: Guns! Guns! How to pull off a realistic killing ?

What a great idea! I love it, and will pass that on to filmmakers. I have seen various attempts with strobes but they rarely work because the flash duration is just too short, or tungsten lights panned on and off but they also don't work, exactly as you describe.

The only thing that works well is a snooted strobe that can deliver flash durations of 1/10th of a second or slower. (As you say, you only need 2 or 3 frames to achieve the effect.) Unfortunately, these strobes are HUGELY expensive, very large and very heavy.

Being a bit 'old school' I still love to achieve the effect in the camera where possible, and Charles' idea for the flash on the face effect is wonderful.

This emphasizes the point that blanks should only be used when there is a highly experienced professional on set. If there is, then you can do some great stuff with blanks very safely because an experienced professional will: #1 - know how to get the look you need safely; and #2 - be prepared to stop the scene or even walk off the set if anyone's safety is being compromised. They are also there to give the firearms - loaded or not - their undivided attention, as Bob points out above.

For low budget filmmakers who think they can just bring in a friend because they own guns or their uncle because he's a hunter or a cop, you have to realize non-professionals don't know #1 and may not be prepared to do #2 above.

This is where serious forums like this are invaluable for trading information and finding safe ways to achieve these effects when you may not have access to professionals to help you. I am in awe of the talents of the people in this forum and their willingness to share their experiences.

(Plus, if any filmmakers are attending the Action on Film Festival in Pasadena this year in August, it looks like they will be sponsoring a forum specifically on this topic. I will get a chance to talk about how low-budget filmmakers can achieve gunshot effects safely, legally AND cheaply. If you are in the area of Monrovia or Pasadena during AOF, watch for the forum and be sure to drop in and say hi.)
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Old May 27th, 2012, 05:18 PM   #43
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Re: Guns! Guns! How to pull off a realistic killing ?

Please do pass this tip around Dave, just call it the "Papert Technique", haha!!

I will say that my key grip thought I was a little nuts when I suggested this last season for the clip linked above, but he has become a believer! Ironically I seem to pull more from my low budget bag of tricks these days than from the "legit" techniques--purse strings are pulled tighter than a drum and any time I can find a way to achieve something with the gear we possess rather than dayplay anything exotic like a strobe, it allows me to bank that for the time I really need it.

Along these lines and to clarify Dave's point: I did a few low budget shoots in the past couple of years while in the moving-up process but I would NEVER allow gun wrangling to be done by anyone who didn't have the proper training. Some things should not be skirted and that is one of them. It's not the easiest thing for me to have to shoot at blistering top speed and compromise everything and then have everything skid to stop and proceed at a much slower speed when a gun is being managed, but it's the way it has to be and I will never fight it. That nearly wiped us out when shooting a music video with a lot of vintage guns and a single armorer handling all of the reloads--we had tons of setups to get through in an afternoon and we barely made it before we lost light. At a certain point we had to commit to post effects for the muzzles. I can't remember which is which in the final video. Personally I thought the gun battle went on way too long but fans of the band loved it, so what do I know.

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Old May 28th, 2012, 02:29 AM   #44
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Re: Guns! Guns! How to pull off a realistic killing ?

Nice work as always, Charles!

I could see which ones were done on post and which ones were done in the camera (but then I'm a perfectionist.)

Ironically, one difference between blanks and post muzzle flash effects is that blanks don't always show up on every shot. The flash is much briefer than the shutter speed, and handguns show a good muzzle flash only about 1 out of 4 tries. Rifles and shotguns are slightly better but it is just a matter of random chance.

A good DOP can increase the odds, but here is a valuable tip. When shooting on film, if you saw the muzzle flash on the monitor or in the eyepiece, it did NOT show up on film. When shooting digital, if you saw it in the monitor, it IS captured.

This is why low-budget filmmakers have to budget about 10 blanks for every gunshot they want to see on the final cut. This allows for test shots, multiple takes and multiple angles.
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Old June 21st, 2012, 09:28 PM   #45
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Re: Guns! Guns! How to pull off a realistic killing ?

Wow, tons of good info in this thread!
The only time I've used a gun in a shot so far was a gag, which happens at 0:30 in this video

It was a cheap airsoft gun, and I just did a quick and easy after effects muzzle flash and some sound effects with it. I have been looking in to getting some blowback airsoft guns so that there's some more sense of realism, has anyone found good cheap versions of these to use? I'd like to not have to stress with $100 guns, so if I could get them on the cheap it'd be awesome.
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