Local filmmaker explains potential dangers of prop firearms

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — After actor Alec Baldwin discharged a prop firearm Thursday on a movie set in New Mexico, killing one and injuring another, many are asking: what are prop firearms and are they dangerous?

According to local filmmaker Don Rittner, prop guns are used in all types of films, including some shot here in the Capital Region. Rittner says in “The Place Beyond the Pines”, staring Ryan Gosling, which was shot in Schenectady, a prop gun was used but with extreme caution.

“What happened is the Prop Master would bring the gun out. He would announce to everybody on set that there was a gun on set. Then Ryan and I would examine the gun. And then Ryan took the gun and he pulled the trigger two dozen times,” Rittner says.

So what exactly is a prop gun? Prop guns can be functional firearms capable of discharging blank ammunition from a blank cartridge. A blank cartridge is the same as a live round, except it does not have a projectile or bullet.

Rittner says the way filmmaking has advanced over the years, there is not much need for prop guns to be loaded. “CGI is so realistic. I don’t even see the need to have anything in a gun. Real or prop. Or fake. Just do the CGI,” Rittner says, “most of the stuff you see in the movies is CGI anyways. So that would alleviate the whole problem.” 

Rittner also says even though blank rounds are commonly used for filmmaking, accidents, although rare, can occur as shrapnel from the round can fire up to 25-feet.

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