Connect with us

News

Let computers do it: Film set tragedy spurs call to ban guns

Published

on

Let computers do it: Film set tragedy spurs call to ban guns

NEW YORK (AP) — With computer-generated imagery, it seems the sky’s the limit in the magic Hollywood can produce: elaborate dystopian universes. Trips to outer space, for those neither astronauts nor billionaires. Immersive journeys to the future, or back to bygone eras.

But as a shocked and saddened industry was reminded this week, many productions still use guns — real guns — when filming. And despite rules and regulations, people can get killed, as happened last week when Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins after he was handed a weapon and told it was safe.

The tragedy has led some in Hollywood, along with incredulous observers, to ask: Why are real guns ever used on set, when computers can create gunshots in post-production? Isn’t even the smallest risk unacceptable?

For Alexi Hawley, it is. “Any risk is too much risk,” the executive producer of ABC’s police drama “The Rookie” announced in a staff memo Friday, saying the events in New Mexico had “shaken us all.”

There “will be no more ‘live’ weapons on the show,” he wrote in a note, first reported by The Hollywood Reporter and confirmed by The Associated Press.

Instead, he said, the policy would be to use replica guns, which use pellets and not bullets, with muzzle flashes added in post-production.

The director of the popular Kate Winslet drama “Mare of Easttown,” Craig Zobel, called for the entire industry to follow suit and said gunshots on that show were added after filming, even though on previous productions he has used live rounds.

“There’s no reason to have guns loaded with blanks or anything on set anymore,” Zobel wrote on Twitter. “Should just be fully outlawed. There’s computers now. The gunshots on ‘Mare of Easttown’ are all digital. You can probably tell, but who cares? It’s an unnecessary risk.”

Bill Dill — a cinematographer who taught Hutchins, a rising star in her field, at the American Film Institute — expressed disgust in an interview over the “archaic practice of using real guns with blanks in them, when we have readily available and inexpensive computer graphics.”

Dill, whose credits include “The Five Heartbeats” and “Dancing in September,” said there was added danger from real guns because “people are working long hours” on films and “are exhausted.”

“There’s no excuse for using live weapons,” he said.

A petition was launched over the weekend on change.org for real guns to be banned from production sets.

“There is no excuse for something like this to happen in the 21st century,” it said of the tragedy. “This isn’t the early 90′s, when Brandon Lee was killed in the same manner. Change needs to happen before additional talented lives are lost.” Lee, the actor son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, was killed in 1993 by a makeshift bullet left in a prop gun after a previous scene.

The petition appealed to Baldwin directly “to use his power and influence” in the industry and promote “Halyna’s Law,” which would ban the use of real firearms on set. As it stands, the U.S. federal workplace safety agency is silent on the issue and most of the preferred states for productions take a largely hands-off approach.

Hutchins, 42, died and director Joel Souza was wounded Thursday on the set of the Western “Rust” when Baldwin fired a prop gun that a crew member unwittingly told him was “cold” or not loaded with live rounds, according to court documents made public Friday.

Souza was later released from the hospital.

The tragedy came after some workers had walked off the job to protest safety conditions and other production issues on the film, of which Baldwin is the star and a producer.

In an interview, British cinematographer Steven Hall noted that he worked on a production this year in Madrid that involved “lots of firearms.”

“We were encouraged not to use blanks, but to rely on visual effects in post (production) to create whatever effect we wanted from a particular firearm, with the actor miming the recoil from the gun, and it works very well,” he said.

He noted, though, that special effects add costs to a production’s budget. “So it’s easier and perhaps more economic to actually discharge your weapon on set using a blank,” said Hall, a veteran cinematographer who has worked on films like “Fury” and “Thor: The Dark World.” But, he said, “the problem with blanks is, of course … something is emitted from the gun.”

Besides financial concerns, why else would real guns be seen as preferable? “There are advantages to using blanks on set that some people want to get,” said Sam Dormer, a British “armorer,” or firearms specialist. “For instance, you get a (better) reaction from the actor.”

Still, Dormer said, the movie industry is likely moving away from real guns, albeit slowly.

The term “prop gun” can apply to anything from a rubber toy to a real firearm that can fire a projectile. If it’s used for firing, even blanks, it’s considered a real gun. A blank is a cartridge that contains gunpowder but no bullet. Still, it can hurt or even kill someone who is close by, according to the Actors’ Equity Association.

That’s why many are calling to ban blanks as well, and use disabled or replica guns.

“Really there is no good reason in this day to have blanks on set,” director Liz Garbus wrote on Twitter. “CGI can make the gun seem ‘real,’ and if you don’t have the budget for the CGI, then don’t shoot the scene.”

Megan Griffiths, a Seattle-based filmmaker, wrote that she often gets pushback when demanding disabled, non-firing weapons on set.

“But this is why,” she said on Twitter. “Mistakes happen, and when they involve guns, mistakes kill. … Muzzle flashes are the easiest & cheapest visual effect.”

“Why are we still doing this?”

___

Associated Press writers Lindsey Bahr, Lynn Elber in Los Angeles, Hillel Italie in New York and Lizzie Knight in London contributed to this report.

google news

News

US plans diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Published

on

US plans diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

By AAMER MADHANI and ALEXANDRA JAFFE

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. will stage a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing t o protest Chinese human rights abuses, the White House confirmed Monday, a move that China has vowed to greet with “firm countermeasures.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said U.S. athletes will continue to compete and will “have our full support,” but added “we will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games.”

“U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that,” Psaki told reporters during Monday’s briefing.

“We have a fundamental commitment to promoting human rights. And we feel strongly in our position and we will continue to take actions to advance human rights in China and beyond,” Psaki added.

The announcement came as Biden prepares to host a White House Summit for Democracy, a virtual gathering of leaders and civil society experts from more than 100 countries that is set to take place Thursday and Friday. The administration has said Biden intends to use the meeting “to announce both individual and collective commitments, reforms, and initiatives to defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., called such a diplomatic boycott “a necessary step to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to human rights in the face of the Chinese government’s unconscionable abuses.”

He called on “other allies and partners that share our values to join with the United States in this diplomatic boycott.”

Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, however, said the diplomatic boycott amounted to a “half measure.” American officials, including Biden, have criticized Beijing for human rights abuses against Uyghurs in northwest Xinjiang province, suppression of democratic protests in Hong Kong, military aggression against the self-ruled island of Taiwan and more. President Donald Trump’s administration in its final days declared the abuses in northwest China “genocide.”

“The United States should fully boycott the Genocide Games in Beijing,” Cotton said. “American businesses should not financially support the Chinese Communist Party and we must not expose Team USA to the dangers of a repugnant authoritarian regime that disappears its own athletes.”

Cotton appeared to be referring to former Grand Slam doubles champion Peng Shuai, who dropped from sight after publicly accusing a former top Communist Party official of sexual assault. Concerns over her safety prompted the Women’s Tennis Association to suspend events in China and provided added fuel to opponents of China’s hosting of the games.

Psaki would not comment whether Biden weighed pulling athletes from the games — many of whom have been training for years for the moment to compete on the global stage. In 1980, in the midst of the Cold War, Jimmy Carter kept U.S. athletes home from the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

“I don’t think that we felt it was the right step to penalize athletes who have been training and preparing for this moment, and we felt that we could send a clear message by not sending an official U.S. delegation,” Psaki said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused U.S. politicians of grandstanding over the issue of not sending dignitaries to attend events that China hopes will showcase its economic development and technological prowess.

Speaking to reporters at a daily briefing, Zhao said such a move would be an “outright political provocation,” but gave no details on how China might retaliate.

Human rights advocates and lawmakers in the U.S. who support a boycott say it is a necessary step. They cite China’s poor record on human rights as justification, saying China is using the games to whitewash its ill treatment of civil rights activists, political dissidents and ethnic minorities.

“Without being invited, American politicians keep hyping the so-called diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which is purely wishful thinking and grandstanding,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing. “If the U.S. side is bent on going its own way, China will take firm countermeasures.”

The International Olympic Committee in a statement called the decision to keep dignitaries away from the game a “political decision for each government” that it “fully respects.”

“At the same time, this announcement also makes it clear that the Olympic Games and the participation of the athletes are beyond politics and we welcome this,” the IOC statement said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had been advocating for a diplomatic boycott for months, applauded Biden for taking the step. Still, she said the IOC “allowing a country notorious for its appalling human rights record to host the Olympics makes a mockery of the Olympic Charter, which states that the Games should seek to foster ‘respect for universal and fundamental ethical principles.’”

The dispatching of high-level delegations to each Olympics has long been a tradition among the U.S. and other leading nations. Then-President George W. Bush attended the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Summer Games. First lady Jill Biden led the American contingent to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo this year and second gentleman Doug Emhoff led a delegation to the Paralympic Games.

The diplomatic boycott comes as the U.S. attempts to stabilize turbulent relations with Beijing, even as it maintains a tough approach toward trade and conflicts over China’s actions on Taiwan, human rights, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. CNN was first to report that an announcement was expected this week.

Beijing has mounted a stiff response to all U.S. criticisms, denouncing them as interference in its internal affairs and slapping visa bans on American politicians it regards as anti-China.

It wasn’t clear whom the U.S. might have sent to Beijing for the games and Zhao’s comments appeared to indicate that China has not extended any invitations.

Australia, whose ties with China have nosedived over a range of disputes, has also raised the possibility of a diplomatic boycott.

Psaki said Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping did not discuss a potential diplomatic boycott of the games when they spoke last month. She said Biden’s decision to keep U.S. dignitaries home was conveyed to Beijing by aides before it was formally announced by the White House.

google news
Continue Reading

News

Atlanta lights up Timberwolves from deep as Minnesota drops third straight

Published

on

Atlanta lights up Timberwolves from deep as Minnesota drops third straight

The Timberwolves seem to have a clear matchup problem — elite shooting teams light them up from deep.

Much like Charlotte did last week, Atlanta chowed down on a feast of open triples Monday at Target Center, going 25 for 49 from 3-point range en route to a 121-110 victory.

Minnesota’s lone lead of the game was 2-0.

The Hornets and Hawks entered Monday as the League’s top-two 3-point shooting teams.

The loss was the Wolves’ third straight as they struggle to navigate the most difficult portion of their schedule to date. It doesn’t get any easier Wednesday, when Utah comes to town.

The Jazz currently rank sixth in 3-point shooting percentage.

Minnesota has given up a bevy of wide-open 3-point attempts all season — often to the opponent’s third, fourth and fifth offensive options — as a product of the team’s aggressive, fly-around defense.

The Wolves are always scrambling and recovering, so enough ball movement generally leads to an open triple. But opponents haven’t been able to connect on those open looks for most of the season.

Teams like Atlanta (13-12) almost always will. The Hawks’ lineups always feature four or five shooters. Eight different Atlanta players hit triples Monday. Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot hit seven. Former Wolves center Gorgui Dieng went 3 for 4 from deep. Jaden McDaniels said the Wolves didn’t do a good enough job closing out hard and running shooters off the 3-point line.

“It’s just something we come in with and we know they shoot the three ball tremendously well. If we do a great job of defending the three and making it at least difficult on them, they’re not going to shoot 51 percent from three, giving ourselves a better chance,” Karl-Anthony Towns said. “Even if we get them to shoot 40 percent today, we’re talking about a whole different game and a whole different postgame (press conference). It wasn’t the offense for us that was the problem. It was the defense tonight, which was the flip in the narrative we have of us.”

Some of Atlanta’s offensive success came in transition, but the Hawks also had plenty of success from deep in the half-court sets. Atlanta shot just 15 for 41 from inside the arc, but that doesn’t matter when you’re lighting it up from deep.

Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said the Wolves didn’t possess their usual urgency to contest shots.

“A lot of them were just short closeouts or not getting out to guys who we didn’t think could shoot the ball,” Finch said. “When I look at the tape, in terms of our scheme, I was pretty happy. I didn’t think we were being picked apart in the initial. It’s just that we didn’t keep moving around.”

Hawks star guard Trae Young posted 29 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. Clint Capela had nine points, 16 rebounds, four blocks and four assists.

Minnesota (11-13) shot well from deep, as well — a welcomed change from the norm this season. The Wolves shot 43 percent from three. Malik Beasley went 6 for 13 on triple tries en route to 24 points. Anthony Edwards had 20 points and seven assists, but shot just 6 for 19 from the floor, while Towns finished with 31 points and 16 rebounds.

Minnesota was without D’Angelo Russell, Jaylen Nowell and Patrick Beverley. It’s been short-handed in each of its three losses, but Finch noted other guys simply have to step up more than they did Monday.

“There’s no margin for error for our team no matter what you’re talking about — rotation, effort or defense or shooting. We just don’t have much margin for error,” Finch said. “That’s why we’ve got to play basically full throttle and get back to guarding people. When we do that we have a chance.”

google news
Continue Reading

News

Registration for annual Stillwater art and science festival for students accepted until Dec. 23

Published

on

Registration for annual Stillwater art and science festival for students accepted until Dec. 23

The Partnership Plan is scheduled to hold its annual DaVinci Fest on Jan. 22, celebrating science and art in the St. Croix Valley.

Students in fourth through 12th grades who live within the boundaries of the Stillwater Area Public Schools, regardless of where they attend school, can submit projects in science, art, upcycling and film. Top students who participate in the science fair will be eligible to go on to further competitions.

Registration is open until Dec. 23 and information can be found at partnershipplan.org/davincifest.

The DaVinci Fest is hosted by the Partnership Plan, the non-profit educational fund for Stillwater Area Public Schools. The Jan. 22 festival will be held at Stillwater Area High School. Admission is free and face masks will be required.

google news
Continue Reading

Trending