Guns! Guns! How to pull off a realistic killing ? at

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Old August 31st, 2009, 04:55 PM   #1
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Guns! Guns! How to pull off a realistic killing ?

So i'm shooting a little webisode in a couple days and i'm looking for advice on the best way to pull this off. It's a quick and simple killing: couple shots with a handgun. Guy goes up to a door, kills the girl.

Two options (that I know of):

During some of my research i've found non-guns which don't require permits, which look interesting. I'm not looking for squids or blank shooting guns as they require permits.

Going to sporting goods store buying a BB gun then doing it in post. I have limited FX experience. Can I recreate something cool in motion ? Really the killing doesn't need to be 100% as its a black comedy. Not a dark drama.

Its been tough finding links or people with experience in this field. Any advice for a first timer gun slinger user would be great. Thanks!

PS - also any advice on movie blood is great. thanks!
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Old August 31st, 2009, 06:18 PM   #2
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I don't have any immediate ideas for the most realistic firearm prop to use, but with clever editing, the proper angles, and appropriate use of sound effects, you can come up with a very compelling presentation of the murderous act.

For some examples of blood splatter effects, check out Detonation Films,

Detonation Films

Some of their effects are free and downloadable.

Also, check out Film Riot,

Revision3 > Film Riot

for some very entertaining video effects tutorials.

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Old August 31st, 2009, 07:17 PM   #3
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These folks have what looks like very realistic looking replicas, totally NON FIRING (solid barrel, no blanks), but have some moving parts.

Star Wars Attic - Products

The key to making something like this work is no "lingering" on any shots, very fast paced editing with many "cuts" to fill out the time. Muzzle flash or smoke can be added but again in very brief, sudden short clip so the eye does not have a chance to "linger" on anything.
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Old September 1st, 2009, 02:27 AM   #4
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There are video sites out there that have videos of actual shootings, and they are nothing like what you see on broadcast TV.

You want real, check those out.

Go to the nearest dollar store and get a revolver or something, probably will have orange plastic on the tip. Wrap it in some black electrical tape. For the muzzle flash, you can put that in during post.

A small shot of compressed air on the face (if its a head shot) will make the actor flinch and also look a little like the blast from the gun (there is a concussive shock wave that comes from the end of a gun, will make clothing and hair distort quickly for a very short instant).

In fact, setting up an air hose inside the gun is a more effective gag than worrying about a pyro show.

Again, air is your friend for things like splatter. Take a rubber/vinyl kid's ball, maybe the size of softball, put a large tube into it, glue the joint. Compress it a little, fill the end of the tube with your fake blood/brain matter. Let the ball go back to it's natural round state, the gore will suck down the tube somewhat.

Then when the head shot comes, the end of the tube is hidden in the hair, points out to a wall. 'Fire' the gun and step on the ball. There's yer splatter.

Think about a quick edit to another angle right after the shot, might help sell the scene.
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Old September 1st, 2009, 04:10 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Andy Dufrain View Post
So i'm shooting a little webisode in a couple days and i'm looking for advice on the best way to pull this off. It's a quick and simple killing: couple shots with a handgun. Guy goes up to a door, kills the girl.
Since nobody else has stepped up to address this aspect of this post I will.

Yes, you can easily learn the techniques of portraying this kind of stupid violence in realistic terms.

But why the hell would you?

Do you have any idea how unbelievably rare this course of action is in real life?

Years, possibly decades go by without the kind of "quick and simple killing" you seek to portray. And if you doubt that, call your local police department, talk to public relations and ask them the last time they found a gunshot girl at the FRONT door implying no discussion, no fight, just a random open the door and get blown away. No talk, no argument in progress, just: Hello? - BANG.

I can GUARANTEE you that you'll have to search worldwide and even then, you'll find VERY few instances of something like this if any. (And I'm basing that guarantee on years of discussions with friend who's a local homicide detective and who has ready access to the NCIC and bunches of other databases on criminal activity.)

So essentially, you're going to infect the minds of potentially THOUSANDS of others - just like the "movie violence" industry before you - with fear. All based on a LIE.

Yes, there's real violence out there. But it's not like you're discussing in this scene.

My advice, RESIST the temptation to propagate FALSEHOOD like this. It's not simple fiction. It's destructive modeling of behavior. Cuz some idiot out there will see it at age 12 and it will add to his belief that it's OK to walk up and shoot people. And it's not.

If you're going to portray violence. And there's NOTHING wrong with that. RESPECT it. Make it honest, and in order to do that - you need to understand how violence actually happens. And it rarely, if ever, happens as your post portrays.

(I'll retract, of course, if you can search ANYWHERE on the net and come up with a real instance of this - a girl blown away by a handgun at her front door - that even loosely resembles what you're going to portray. But I won't hold my breath)

IMO, the power of image crafting comes with SOME responsibility not to disseminate fear for fear's sake. At least not without thinking about it before hand.

My 2 cents.
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Old September 1st, 2009, 05:36 PM   #6
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If what you are looking for are good prop guns, google "Airsoft" (or search it on E-Bay). They make incredibly realistic air guns which sell at amazingly inexpensive prices. They are so real that when my little production group needed some guns for a short we were working on, we equipped ourselves with a small arsenal for under $100, but they were so damn real looking (and hence VERY DANGEROUS out in public - think of a poor peace officer's response on seeing someone brandishing one) that I refused to keep them at my place, requesting that they be placed in a gun safe at someone elses home.
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Old September 1st, 2009, 07:45 PM   #7
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Yeah, it's amazing what you can pull off with clever shooting. I've used cap guns, rubber prop guns, and a few non-firing replica types, that you could chamber and pull the trigger on and stuff. It really depends on your budget, but searching for prop guns should give you more than enough options.
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Old September 1st, 2009, 10:50 PM   #8
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Thanks all for you feed back. What I found was going to Big 5 and getting a BB gun with compressed air. It has that air pop that was talked about. Looks realistic and I'll work with the actor to 'act' for the recoil.

I really like the ball idea for blood. It will be two shots in the chest. Does that change how ?

As far as the comment for senseless violence. Wow, how can you critique a project without knowing any context or angle ? Thats pretty irresponsible. Not that I feel the need to defend my project, but I will explain some aspects of it. The reason why it's a 'quick' killing is because I don't want the piece to be all about this killing - it's not a Tarintino film, it's a comedy. The focus and social commentary is actually going to be about the Health Care system.
And i'm using various tools as a filmmaker to communicate my msg. Are there other ways, sure - but this is the one I chose.

Thanks for the advice all and i'll let you know how it went!
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Old September 1st, 2009, 11:59 PM   #9
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A couple of points.

First, if you are keeping the firing mechanism active in that BB gun, do not aim it at a person's face. Even compressed air in the wrong spot at very close range can lead to injuries.

Secondly, when the gun comes out, assign one person on your crew to be SOLELY responsible for the BB gun while it is being handled, and that person should have no other duties to perform. That person should know how to operate the mechanism of the BB gun and, most especially, should know how to be ABSOLUTELY 100% CERTAIN there are no BBs or pellets remaining in the gun. (In the real world, if we are using BB guns as props, they are always permanently altered so they cannot load, chamber or fire BBs or pellets in any way.)

Before anyone handles the gun, that crew person should do a safety briefing for ALL cast and crew. (This applies if your crew is 2 people or 200 people.) Everyone present should know the gun is safe and they should be aware of the rules:
- The BB gun is not to be pointed at anyone except the actors in the scene, and only then once both actors have thoroughly inspected it for safety;
- The BB gun is NEVER to be pointed at bystanders under any circumstances;
- The BB gun must remain within the immediate eyesight of the supervising crewmember at all times;
- When finished, the BB gun is to be handed directly back to the person, and is not to leave the set under ANY circumstances;
- If the police show up, put the BB gun on the ground and stand still with your hands fully visible and await further instructions; and,
- Horseplay will NOT be tolerated.

Yes, it's a BB gun; yes, it's a toy. But this is the professional approach, and if you want to be professional in your filmmaking, then be professional in your approach to your tools.

If the BB gun can be seen by any passersby during the scene, you want to notify your local law enforcement agency where and when you will be there, the fact that the scene will be properly supervised and that there will be no blanks or loud noises during filming. It is a good idea to give them a contact phone number on set in case of questions. (A simple letter addressed to the local Chief or the officer in charge a few days in advance should suffice.)

If the scene is VERY visible to the public, it is also a good idea to follow up the letter with a phone call to the police when you begin the scene and a phone call when you are done.

Just be aware that it may be a toy to you, but it can invoke a police response - with potentially bad results. (In certain states or countries, replica firearms are illegal, and the only people who can use them are people in the film business.) If you follow some simple steps in preparation, notification and safety briefing, no one gets hurt, the police won't even show up (they have better things to do) and everyone walks away happy and safe.

My goal in life when doing these scenes is for the entire cast and crew to walk away thinking, "Well, that was easy." (I do this for a living.)

As for the actor simulating the recoil, don't worry about it. It will give you more options in editing if the actor simply holds it out straight. Simulated recoil always ends up looking fake. (Real guns recoil, of course, but it is so brief and fast that the camera wouldn't pick it up much anyway so the most realistic way is to hold it steady.) If you get really fancy, you can photoshop in a slide on a semi-automatic moving back and forth and an empty shell casing being ejected ... and it is much harder to do if the gun has been tossed upward in fake recoil.

As for the gunshot, consider that real gunshots NEVER burst violently out of the front of a target anyway. If a person is shot, they won't even know it for a second or two. There is a sharp tug, a moment of disbelief and then the realization only when they see the blood. If you want to do this real, consider keeping it simple and implying your violence and finality through your story and your acting (which is the way it should always be done.)

It can be as simple as a fake bloodpack under a shirt with a thumbtack taped to the front. They clutch their stomach, look down and see a tiny bit of blood start to seep out their shirt. They have this moment of disbelief and a look of incredulity as the blood seeps through their fingers, and then they crumple to their knees. There is no need for a fancy wound because the entry hole would be so small as to be unnoticeable anyway. (When doing autopsies, doctors sometimes have a VERY hard time finding all the bullet entry points.)

Another way to consider is to not see the violence anyway but to imply it. You see the person walk toward the door with his hand in a pocket - quick flashbacks to jump-cuts where he is getting ready, including putting putting on his coat and slipping a gun in his pocket - pull back to a POV from the side of the house, the inside of the house through a window or the inside of a car while driving past, and use a couple of bright flashes of light to imply the gunshots.

By the way, I am not advocating violence. (It does pay the groceries, however.) I AM advocating doing these scenes SAFELY if you are going to do them.

If I can help any further, ask away. Good luck, have fun and stay safe!

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Old September 2nd, 2009, 12:23 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Dave Brown View Post
A couple of points.

First, if you are keeping the firing mechanism active in that BB gun, do not aim it at a person's face. Even compressed air in the wrong spot at very close range can lead to injuries.


If I can help any further, ask away. Good luck, have fun and stay safe!


THAT was a useful post.

And precisely accurate.

Never forget Jon-Eric Hexum. Google the name. Somebody on that set figured they were just blanks so it would be OK to be relaxed about them.

I live in Arizona. Guns here are a way of life. I was in NRA training classes on weekends from age 7. And I still see so much INSANITY regarding them that it makes my head spin.
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 12:42 AM   #11
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Do not use bb guns!!!!!!!!!!

BB guns are NOT toys! In most states (in the US) anything that can launch a projectile is considered a weapon or a firearm and serious legal consequences can result from such being brandished in public. Especially in urban areas.

Do NOT use anything that could launch a projectile. Brandon Lee was killed when shot with a blank firing handgun during the final days of filming "The Crow".

Blank firing gun.

One type of blank for loud report, another for muzzle flash. Each type with a different wad and someon got them mixed up.

Use a totally non firing replica or prop. Even airsoft should be avoided unless rendered inoperable. Even plastic BBs used in those can cause serious injuries.

There is NO excuse WHATSOEVER for allowing even the slightest risk when portraying firearms in films.

I teach Defensive Handgun and am very paranoid when it comes to safety. I also may film a scene or two in which firearms are portrayed. I have the "real thing" available to me but what I will use is a rubber GI .45 1911 molded after one of the Remington Rand 1911's made under contract from the Colt 1911A1 design when Colt could not make enough to fill WWII needs.

There are replicas with slides that can be retracted/"racked" and removable magazines but have solid barrels and no way to even "chamber" anything.

Safety...Safety...Safety! Take no chances!
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 02:41 AM   #12
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Good points. Brandon Lee was killed because of a series of contributing factors that led to a real bullet being stuck down the barrel, and a blank being fired behind it.

It all began when the non-union production in North Carolina decided to send the firearms specialist home early to save a few hundred dollars, and they were confronted by a scene where they wanted a close-up shot of the back of cartridges being loaded into the chambers of a revolver. (Brandon Lee was not involved in this scene; they used a hand-double for the night.)

The props people had no idea how to make dummy cartridges, so they bought real ones and pulled the bullets from the cases. They dumped out the gunpowder, but forgot to remove the primers. (The primer is the tiny sparking cap at the end of the case that ignites the gunpowder.) They warned the hand-double actor to not pull the trigger but because they sent the firearms specialist home early, the props people were supervising the firearm, and had to run off to handle their regular props jobs. The background actor (of course) pulled the trigger.

What no one realized - but any firearms expert knows very well - is that when a firing pin hits a primer but there is no gunpowder, the energy of the spark is sufficient to drive the bullet almost silently an inch or two forward. (It is called a "primer pop.")

The props people took the gun back and put it away. They had no idea how to check the barrel for obstructions or even why this is important. They didn't even know how to clean it!

Two weeks later, they used the same gun to fire blanks at Brandon Lee. Again, they had no idea how to check the barrel or even how to brief the actor on how to 'cheat' the angle away from Brandon Lee. The force of the blank expelled the previously-stuck bullet out the barrel with enough force that Brandon Lee fell instantly and never regained consciousness before he died on the operating room table 10 hours later.

He was two weeks away from getting married.

(I once had a famous Hollywood actor - no need to mention who - once ask me, before I handed him the prop revolver, why I always showed him the empty chambers, pointed it in a safe direction and pulled the trigger EXACTLY eight times. He told me he had been watching me for six weeks, and I never failed to do this, and I always pulled the trigger EXACTLY eight times; never seven, never nine; always eight. I told him, "Sir, the first six are for you, the seventh is for me and the eighth is for Brandon Lee.)

Rare situation and think it would never happen again?

Think again.

Jon-Erik Hexum died when he pointed a revolver loaded with blanks against his head and pulled the trigger. It started when THEY also sent home the weapons specialist, and the props assistant handed him the revolver and walked away.

Three years ago, I was interviewed by a New Jersey paper on a situation that happened at a wild west theme park. They violated just about ALL industry safety standards: they allowed stunt people to bring their own firearms to set, and they didn't have ANYONE to supervise gun safety. One of the stunt people was shot in the head with a real bullet when another stunt person simply forgot to unload his gun before coming to set.

Last year I was again interviewed on TV when a local theatre troupe in Bradenton Florida shot one of the actors in the head with a real gun. The director was rehearsing the final scene of the play "Of Mice and Men," and asked for the prop revolver. One of the other actors opened her purse and said, "Here. Use mine." He took it out of her purse, put it against the back of the actor's head and pulled the trigger. Boom!

Surprisingly enough, the actor may have been the luckiest person on the face of the earth because the bullet ricocheted around the inside of his skull and came out his head just above his ear. (He lived - AND went on stage that night!)

So ... what are the common elements? Lack of proper supervision is certainly the biggest one.

This is why EVERY firearm - real or fake - MUST be treated as if it was loaded at all times, and why every production, no matter how small, must have someone on set who knows what they are doing (even if it is a toy.)

(I was once called "the most anal guy in Hollywood" by an actor in an interview. He meant it affectionately, by the way, and now you know why. In my defence, I must point out that we MUST be anal; mistakes are not acceptable. When your actor makes a mistake, they get another take. When your weapons specialist makes a mistake, you will read about it in a thousand newspapers in the morning.)

So the bottom line is .. just think of how much more fun it will be to do scenes like this when everyone can relax and enjoy the filmmaking process if they know proper steps have been taken to protect their safety. The reality is that, for us professionals in this business, we wouldn't do any other job on the face of the earth.
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 12:11 PM   #13
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I think you and I are in agreement on many points here.

Among them, safety being paramount. The production studios can afford firearms experts but as you pointed out cannot be counted on to insure they are present and overseeing firearm handling.

We, as independent producers (and often hobbyist producers) usually have no way of affording experts and in the eyes of authorities often lack the legitimacy the professional production studios have.

Your accounts of firearms "accidents" during filming dramatically underscore my insistence that nothing that fires a projectile should be used by us in our indie or hobby productions. The only time I used a real .45 was when I was doing the acting myself and nothing in the script called for a weapon to be pointed at anyone. I showed a "press check" (pressing the slide back enough to show brass in the chamber) and then the piece being returned to an inside the waistband concealment holster. It was the same weapon I was carrying concealed (licensed) for real most of that week and there was no way it was going to be "drawn" and brandished or pointed at anyone. I did that whole project as a "one man show", doing the acting and camera work by myself. No one else was even present so that variable didn't exist.

One scene called for what was going to look like suicide and for that I used a rubber replica, no simulated shot was fired, it was the end of a "dream" sequence and that scene faded to the actor (me) waking up from having dozed off at the computer.

The rubber 1911 I have was purchased from an individual who carried it in a GI holster while on maneuvers when he was in the army. As an officer a sidearm had to be visible in the holster but was never going to be fired so having the rubber replica saved him from having to draw a pistol from the armory and turn it back in. Plus it was lighter.

I use it mostly to have my students practice safe handling until I am comfortable with them loading live ammo.

If I had a project that called for more visual realism in the weapon than that black rubber pistol can provide, then I would order one of the replicas with moving parts but totally solid barrel.
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 02:40 PM   #14
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I'd just like to add one more public message of appreciation for the heavy dose of professionalism that this thread has finally achieved.

The casual way it was heading in the first few posts sent a terrible chill down my spine.

People come here to learn. What you've all been reading - particularly in the final few posts by Dave and Bruce mirrors the proper procedures for allowing ANY kind of firearm on any set you work on.

And while it might seem like a giant pain in the butt for a small project or off-the-cuff personal shoot - reality has proved time and again that it's a CRITICAL part of professionalism each and every time anything like a gun is used in visual content creation.

Thanks guys.
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 02:49 PM   #15
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I echo Bills comments, I have never done filming involving any gun work but it is good to read the expert words of true pro's who know all the aspects involved in such work.

Thank you for all your insights and I have learned a great deal that will assist should I be asked to film any scenes in the future.
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