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I do some work in film. I get it through an agency. I was on set the other day where actors dressed up as cops. Part of the costume included a fake gun. One guy, call him Joe, made a bad joke and pointed his gun at another person and said "Hands up!". Everyone who saw told him it wasn't appropriate, but Joe said no one told him not to and it was a stupid rule. I've had a bad past experience and am thinking of reporting Joe.

I know Joe's name and we both work for the same agency which only has one point of contact, so knowing who I would contact is easy. Should I say anything about this? If so, what exact wording should I use?

The guns looked very real, but they were actually plastic. I realized, in past jobs if there was any gun on set then everyone had to sign a contract saying they acknowledge this and that anyone who holds the gun will not point it at anyone and that there will be a firearms specialist on set etc. I never received any correspondence regarding this and was wondering, should I also comment about this to my agent? I guess it was because the guns were fake, but never did anyone tell me they are. I only found out later because a friend of mine commented saying they were plastic. I'm not sure what the law is, but when we do sign contracts (which has been the case on every other set that has had a gun) we agree not to point the gun at anyone unless the director deems it necessary and expressly tells us so (and obviously the gun is not loaded with live ammunition).

To clarify, they DO sometimes have real guns on set and ALL GUNS (including plastic ones) LOOK REAL. This is why I think it's important for this to be communicated to everyone in advance, and usually it is but this time it wasn't.

My question is should I report Joe's behavior to our manager / agency?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Mar 8 '17 at 22:06
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    It would be useful to indicate which country you are working in. In my country, nobody would think a gun is real. – Antzi Mar 9 '17 at 2:54
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    The rules regarding gun handling on film sets exists for a good reason, by the way. – Philipp Mar 9 '17 at 16:52
  • see also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon-Erik_Hexum – mcknz Mar 9 '17 at 17:38
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    @Antzi how could you possibly say that there are no real guns in your country? – ArtichokeS Mar 14 '17 at 7:56
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tl;dr - You are correct that action needs to be taken, but you are looking at the wrong solution

To clarify, they DO sometimes have real guns on set and ALL GUNS (including plastic ones) LOOK REAL. This is why I think it's important for this to be communicated to everyone in advanced, and usually it is but this time it wasn't.

I am not familiar with the film industry so I'm not sure how the hierarchy works there but I don't think this warrants a report to anyone. Instead of trying to get Joe reported or whatever, consider Hanlon's razor ("Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity").

So what I would do it approach whoever is responsible for these things and tell them you are concerned about gun safety and see if they won't give everyone a lesson on (then enforce) basic gun etiquette.

  • ALL GUNS are loaded until you have PERSONALLY checked
  • NO GUN should be pointed at someone or something not a target
  • NO FINGER should ever be on the trigger unless intended to fire

And if the gun LOOKS like a real gun. I'd argue the same rules apply. NO ONE should EVER be in confusion of the state of a gun. Everyone should either be without a shadow of a doubt that it is fake, or it should be treated with the care and attention of a loaded gun. (And then if you are sure it's fake, still treat it like a real gun).

I don't know what you bad experience was, but a healthy wariness of guns is never a bad thing. Depending on what it was, and if you are comfortable doing so, you could even use that as a basis for requesting gun safety being taught to everyone (which is also never a bad thing).

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Mar 11 '17 at 12:33
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How should I report someone who makes a potentially dangerous joke on the job?

After giving it some more thought, I'm going to ask my agency why this time there wasn't a memo about firearms on set as there had been one each other time.

If your goal is to attempt to get your agency to notify actors in writing about prop firearms on the set, then you don't need to report "someone".

Instead, relate the incident without mentioning names. Indicate your preference for the memo you have come to expect and explain why that is important. Focus on the process you want improved and not the person.

Also I had worked with Joe once before and he mentioned he had a criminal background. The agency we work with doesn’t screen. I’m guessing this is none of my business, but wanted to ask, should I message this in the email I send to the agency?

No you should not mention this in your email.

As you suspect it isn't any of your business. More importantly it is irrelevant to the goal you indicate you wish to achieve and will weaken your argument.

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    Spot on,attempt to fix the problem, not the person – Kilisi Mar 8 '17 at 14:27
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    +1 If the company cares to investigate they will find out who the person was without your going to the boss to rat them out personally. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 8 '17 at 14:34
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    The added bonus of anonymity here means that "Joe" will probably understand it was about him, but not immediately become defensive as is often the case with a named situation. – JohnHC Mar 8 '17 at 16:01
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    It may be important to note that the OP should not do or say anything IF the film company brings up the topic with the agent. That, in of itself, is enough and the OP should at that point stay out of it. – closetnoc Mar 8 '17 at 16:08
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    Why is this not the accepted answer? – Kevin Xu May 6 '17 at 1:00
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Here is a crazy idea: How about you try to talk to Joe about his actions?

In my experience, you should always give a person the chance to fix their behavior, before reporting them to a supervisor.

The tricky part here is how. This article has a good overall approach: Positive Corrective Action ( co-worker to co-worker )

Here is a key piece of the article:

Never correct someone publicly: Always opt to do it one-on-one and make it look like the true fact has just slipped their mind momentarily. Giving them the chance to save face will help strengthen your working relationship instead of demolishing it with a “I-can’t-believe-you-don’t-know-this!” speech. Try not to use “you” when correcting; blaming the error on technology or other inanimate objects is always received better. The only time you might look at correcting someone publicly is if it will save a lot of time and hassle later. For example, if you’re in a meeting and everyone is talking about the completely wrong topic, helping them get on the right track will save a lot of time—just be tactful when you make the correction

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You don't mention a country or region. This makes it kind of tricky.

For example, in the USA guns are everywhere and people are more comfortable with them, then say in London. But even this depends on region. Here in Florida, several stores have gun checks. Where you can check your guns in, and some have signs asking you to leave your guns outside the store.

In Texas, guns are more common then they are here. In Michigan it was very common for people to keep several rifles in their car on school grounds. There states and regions where teachers bring guns to school like they would to any other job. Heck my high school had a shooting range.

Point is that guns, and gun related things are tricky. There is no over-arcing set of rules that apply to all locations and interactions, with one exception. Gun Safety. Rather up north, down south, out west, or back east, gun safety remains pretty much the same (again might only apply to the USA).

Here's the basic rule. (again this dill be region dependent) If you waggle your real looking gun at my neighbor and go "stick-em-up" and I shoot you. That's fine. I wouldn't even be arrested. You would be. You would be handcuffed to your hospital bed as you tried to recover from your bullet wound, and when/if you recovered, you would likely face jail time, and possibly civil action.

This has lead to the common sense rule of, treat fake, real looking guns just like real guns, least you be shot, and then promptly laughed at.

On a job, this falls under the same concept of job safety, and should be addressed as such.

State clearly, and without blame your safety concern. Try not to make an anti-gun stance or anything that could be construed as one.

"I felt unsafe the other day on set. Some co-workers were waving around there prop guns as if they were real guns. This seems like a very unsafe thing to do, specially when we work with real guns from time to time.I feel this could have ended very badly."

That's all that needs to be said. Again focus on your feelings. Make yourself center of the memo, not Joe. Let the safety team decide what needs to be said after that point.

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Yes

You should report it. Or, to let me rephrase it: you should do something to make it less likely that this happens again. The reason simply is that people have died because of foolish things like this (for example, the guy who played the protagonist in "The Crow"). It is not an issue of stupid regulations/rules.

How exactly you do this is hard to prescribe. You seem to have talked to the guy already, so that is done. Note that you should not talk about rules to him, but just ask him to stop. "I do not want to witness an accident here, please stop."

The next escalation would be to talk to your point of contact. Don't mention any names, just make sure they know about this and that they should inform everyone again about this problem.

If the actual guy does it again and again, and does not listen to you, then you go to your point of contact, but will have to have a more "sensitive" talk with him.

Of course, if you are ready for it, you can also do something out of your own accord (outside of hierarchy). Design a simple poster with the face of the "Crow" actor or something like that.

  • Brandon Lee wasn't killed by a plastic model of a gun, he was killed by an actual firearm which, due to some very serious mistakes made, was loaded with a blank round (that is, a round with explosive but no bullet) and had a bullet trapped in the barrel. Treating every piece of plastic like a firearm isn't an appropriate response. If something is physically incapable of emitting a projectile, on account of having no firing mechanism and indeed no moving parts, then it's not so dangerous as the "prop" firearm that killed Lee. – Steve Jessop Mar 9 '17 at 16:33
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    @SteveJessop, if Brandon had refrained from play-shooting that gun at his temple, he would note have died then. That's my only point. – AnoE Mar 9 '17 at 16:37
  • Your point is that what happened on the set of The Crow is a "foolish thing like this", where "this" is pointing a convincing-looking plastic model at someone. What about pointing fingers in the shape of a gun, is that OK, or is that also "like" failing to check and clear the barrel of a firearm before loading it with blanks? More to the point, never mind me, how to explain to Joe that one thing is like the other, given that the rules in effect on set seem to be different for real firearms vs. plastic models? – Steve Jessop Mar 9 '17 at 16:55
  • Look, I am not that interested in discussing minutiae of meaning here, especially not if they are placed into my mouth. I meant what I wrote, and stand by it. It is completely irrelevant (to my answer) whether it was a plastic or a real gun. The OP obviously regards it as a problem (no matter whether you, I or anybody else agrees or whether it is an "objective" problem), and my answer tell him to react according to that - with some sensible actions that are not immediately going to get Joe fired or sour their relationship. – AnoE Mar 9 '17 at 17:12
  • Ah, that's probably where we differ then. I think that describing this incident as being "like" what happened to Brandon Lee, and especially putting up "remember Brandon" posters, would sour their relationship. Nobody likes being accused of something far worse than what they actually did. He already thinks the questioner's proposal (don't point fake guns at people) is stupid, poor attempts to justify it will double down on that. – Steve Jessop Mar 9 '17 at 17:22
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Because the country/region/culture was not specified, I will answer what I would do in my region. I would politely invite Joe to the range to participate in some gun safety courses. He would then respect firearms and know the importance of safety with them; fake or not. Hopefully another result would be the bonding of you two, creating a more comfortable workplace overall. Too often people use TV and movies as their source for firearm safety.

In my mountain town on the West coast of the US every single man, woman, and most adolescents instinctively know gun safety. They know any firearm (fake or not) is to always be aimed down range, or at a target you intend to pull the trigger on like a bear or coyote. So I'm assuming this resolution would not apply to many other countries/regions/cultures. However, I felt that this perspective should also be shared.

  • The difficult thing to explain to Joe, I suspect, is why it's not OK to point the fake gun at a target shortly after the director yells "cut", when he was pointing the same fake gun at the same target during filming with no special precautions. The problem seems (to me) to be that the film set itself uses different rules and procedures for real vs. model firearms: no memo in advance, no contractual requirement not to point them, probably no firearms specialist on set unless there are real firearms present. So how to say "treat them the same", when the whole process treats them differently? – Steve Jessop Mar 9 '17 at 17:32
  • I suppose that is a good point, due to the possible requirement of an actor to point a realistic firearm at another human being. However, firearm safety training in general would greatly increase the confidence of both the person aiming the weapon and the person being aimed at. This is due to the learned proficiency of being able to identify an inert firearm (ie no firing pin) and/or be able to clear and make safe that firearm. But, in that very rare circumstance, your point is valid. – Always Lucky Mar 9 '17 at 19:09
  • Well, this was a plastic model, not an inert firearm. I can tell you from sitting here at home, with no firearms training beyond one range visit and a couple of air rifle ranges, that it didn't have a firing pin. Joe had it in his hand. And you can't really clear and make safe a firearm-shaped object with no openings for a magazine or cartridges. But maybe I'm reading the situation differently from other people answering the question, what a "plastic fake firearm" actually is. If it had been a real firearm that Joe had merely been told was disabled: totally different safety issue. – Steve Jessop Mar 9 '17 at 19:30
  • Furthermore, non-firearms-trained users of plastic models will need to have it explained to them in immense detail when it is that a plastic toy bought from a store must be treated with the same safety precautions as a live firearm, given that the toy store doesn't even do background checks ;-) Obviously at a range you treat even the fakest of gun-like objects with a lot of caution: in a toy store not so much... – Steve Jessop Mar 9 '17 at 19:40
  • ... Someone might have left a real Uzi on a toy store shelf, but when you pick up that plastic "Uzi" you rule out that hypothesis quite fast and surely don't bother checking the breech before stowing it. So a film set needs somehow to be put on that spectrum: this particular set gave no warnings and basically treated itself like a toy store, and Joe followed suit. Of course, one can argue that realistic-looking toy firearms are a stupid idea in the first place no matter what they're made of, and in fact my country (UK) has banned them, but habits remain for now. – Steve Jessop Mar 9 '17 at 19:50
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The first and only answer is that you need to talk to him directly about this before you go to a supervisor. You are, in effect, asking the best way to go over this guys head. Always, always, always talk with someone as 99% of the time this gets your point across; they don't have the embarrassment of management getting involved; the issues never occurs again!

When you speak to him, be friendly. Smile and say "Hey mate, look about the prop gun thing yesterday, I wanted to let you know that I know someone that was almost fired because they did a similar thing to you, so I just wanted to give you a heads up as you're a great bloke! I try and remember that when we handle prop guns, they look real to any observers, so I treat it like I would a real gun. If you want more details then the gun safety guys are always keen to help!"

This means that if it does happen again, then you can say something to your agency. Right now if you said something you're not giving him the chance to adjust his behaviour.

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    Also not all behavior should be given a chance to adjust. I am not sure this is not one of those times. If I had done this in the military I would have lost at least 1 stripe and there is a good chance I would have spent time in the brig and been tossed out. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 8 '17 at 16:29

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