guns, hollywood, the rock

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson explains why his production company won't use real guns anymore.

The tragic shooting that took place while filming the movie "Rust" shocked the world. Even if it wasn't Alec Baldwin himself who pulled the trigger that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, the fact that a gun used in a movie was able to kill anyone during filming is beyond comprehension.

Much has been made of the people involved, the protocols ignored and the safeguards that could have and should have prevented such a terrible accident. Part of those discussions is the question of why film productions use real guns in the first place. Obviously, authenticity is desirable in a movie—we viewers expect films to look as realistic as possible. But in the days of digital enhancement, computer-generated special effects and postproduction editing tools that can do almost anything, are real guns necessary to achieve realism?

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson says no. In an interview with Variety, The Rock said that his film production company, Seven Bucks Productions, will not use real guns in any of its films or television shows moving forward.

"We're going to switch over to rubber guns," he said. "We're going to take care of it in post. We're not going to worry about the dollars."


"It just sucks that it had to happen like this for us, on our end—and I can't speak for anybody else—but for us to wake up," he said.

He said that within two hours of learning about Hutchins' death, he was on the phone with his team to discuss how they could make productions safer.

Several people in the industry shared the dangers of guns on set—even prop guns that fire blanks.

Television David Slack wrote on Twitter:

"When I was in college, we were lucky to have a teacher who was REALLY good about prop gun safety. He did a demo where he hung a piece of paper from a c-stand and then fired a prop gun BESIDE it, not even pointed at the paper.

But because this prop gun had a plugged barrel, that means all the blast — 1/2 the gunpowder required to propel a bullet beyond the speed of sound — comes out the SIDE of the gun. It blew a hole in the paper and lit it on fire. Prop guns are guns. Full stop."

Movie armorer SL Huang also chimed in on Twitter with a thread about how many safety protocols were obviously missed or ignored.

Huang also shared that "prop guns" are not guns that fire blanks. A prop gun is fake, a replica often made out of rubber. A blank fire gun is a real gun. "Sometimes real guns are used 'cold' (unloaded) if either there's no matching prop gun or if they want a closeup (the props are usually not as nice looking in detail)," she wrote.

However, she reiterated, there are so many measures and checks and protocols that should have prevented this incident many times over.

Some may feel that The Rock's pledge to not use any real guns on set is overkill, considering the fact that strict safety protocols, when followed properly, can prevent incidents like the one that killed Halyna Hutchins. But if the same effect can be achieved without the use of real guns, why not go the safer route?

Perhaps it's worth considering how often guns are used in our entertainment industry. According to research from Ohio State University, gun violence in PG-13 movies nearly tripled between 1985 and 2015. Is Hollywood fueling an obsession with guns or is America's obsession with guns fueling Hollywood's choices? Who knows. But considering the fact that 2020 saw 20,000 Americans die from gun violence (more than double that if we include suicide), which is the highest number in at least two decades, perhaps it's worth examining.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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