Filming fake gun fight on campus?

MrSinistar

Well-Known Member
Hey guys,

I'm working on my first movie with a bunch of friends from college and we're making a film (it's like Blade Runner, mixed in with some "Seven" and "Sin City" and other noir movies). Anyways, there's a gun fight scene and the director wants to shoot it on campus. One of my best friends is going to be holding a Fifth Element blaster and the last thing I want is her to get hurt or arrested or something bad happening because a campus cop mistook a prop as a gun.

My director friend is concerned that if we notify campus security or the police, we would lose our right to shoot there (according to him, this has happened before). However, I do NOT want to be reckless and shoot without permission...it's just plain dangerous.

How do I go about this situation and are there any tips when contacting local authorities about this? Thanks.
 
Hey guys,

I'm working on my first movie with a bunch of friends from college and we're making a film (it's like Blade Runner, mixed in with some "Seven" and "Sin City" and other noir movies). Anyways, there's a gun fight scene and the director wants to shoot it on campus. One of my best friends is going to be holding a Fifth Element blaster and the last thing I want is her to get hurt or arrested or something bad happening because a campus cop mistook a prop as a gun.

My director friend is concerned that if we notify campus security or the police, we would lose our right to shoot there (according to him, this has happened before). However, I do NOT want to be reckless and shoot without permission...it's just plain dangerous.

How do I go about this situation and are there any tips when contacting local authorities about this? Thanks.

Well, simply calling them and letting them know is actually more beneficial to the production than not (same with contacting security). If you let them know, there's a good chance that they could lend an off-duty officer to help you out on location.

It's also best to have a lot of signs up saying that you are shooting with prop weapons and that they are not real items. Also, going out the day before and letting any nearby neighbors know you're shooting with prop weapons will help.

If those two options are not available to you, there is only one other option: Spraypainting the prop gun chromakey green and then use After Effects to turn it black (a tip picked up from The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap when I thumbed through it once).

And if the above is not optional, and the first two are not optional either, there's only one thing you can do: shoot background plates at location and shoot your actors on greenscreen with the prop weapons.

If none of the above options are not optional... Then you're production is SOL.
 
I can't imagine the trouble you're going to get into if you are caught filming a gun fight on campus with anything that has any appearance of looking like a real weapon and the police haven't been notified. Ignore the director and talk to the police first.

Just use some freaking common sense already.
 
Well, simply calling them and letting them know is actually more beneficial to the production than not (same with contacting security). If you let them know, there's a good chance that they could lend an off-duty officer to help you out on location.

It's also best to have a lot of signs up saying that you are shooting with prop weapons and that they are not real items. Also, going out the day before and letting any nearby neighbors know you're shooting with prop weapons will help.

If those two options are not available to you, there is only one other option: Spraypainting the prop gun chromakey green and then use After Effects to turn it black (a tip picked up from The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap when I thumbed through it once).

And if the above is not optional, and the first two are not optional either, there's only one thing you can do: shoot background plates at location and shoot your actors on greenscreen with the prop weapons.

If none of the above options are not optional... Then you're production is SOL.

Thanks for all the tips, CB! I'm definitely going to contact the authorities tomorrow. I don't wanna spray paint my Coyle Blade Runner stunt blaster and Fifth Element blaster chromakey green, hahaha. I'll make those signs as well.
 
It would be nothing but ignorance to NOT notify the proper authorities. Otherwise they will bring some serious realism to your fake shoot out. Don't be stupid.
 
Just call the campus police and tell them what's-what. Then get yourself some chalk and break off a small piece. Whip it at the head of your main actor in a close-up but make sure it passes near and pops off the brick behind him. Totally looks like a squib but is almost budget-less.

You can thank me later.

Unless somebody gets hurt. Then I was never here.
 
I think the first step is going to be to get the university to grant permission to film in the first place. Without that, you're never going to get anywhere with campus police.

Are any of you students at this college? If so, any connections with a film class or TV broadcasting? That connection might certainly help your chances, and might point the way to asking the right people the right questions.

Your director friend is right, if you ask (or don't go through the process properly) you stand a very good chance of being told no. However, just going ahead and doing it, especially when prop guns are involved, is just plain asking for trouble.
 
On my campus, the rule is never ever ever. No student is allowed to film with fake guns on campus, even in a classroom where nobody is around. If you've already been told it's not allowed, the worst thing you could do is ignore that. The second worst is to try to go around that and just contact the police to get permission, third worst is to just post signs. I'd recommend moving the shoot off campus altogether.
 
What everyone else said........... If the school has ANY problems with it, find another location. Why the school in the first place? Is there some particular background element that MUST be seen in your shot that can only be had by shooting on school property? If so, negotiate with them for generic plate shots and 'B' roll that indicate you are there and shoot the action portion somewhere else that looks similar and can be shot tight enough to fool your audience.
 
You can have it both ways:

Shoot everything in the scene but the gunshots on campus, then shoot insert closeups at another location with similar architecture for any shot involving the guns. Just have the characters holster/pocket the guns when they're running/jumping, etc, so the props won't need to be in their hands in the campus footage.

A few wide shots of the characters running across recognizable campus buildings will establish the locale.
 
I'm sure you get the point already but I just have to echo what has already been said.

If you have to go about this clandenstinely, it is not a good idea. Gone are the days when if the police show up on the report of a gun (especially on school property) and it turns out to be fake, the police say "Whew! False alarm. No problem."

They don't say that anymore. There could be serious repercussions. Much more serious than asking permission and being told "no you can't".

(No sarcasm) I genuinely wish you good luck with your project. :thumbsup


Kevin
 
Brief update:

We're going to call Campus PD in a bit, but in the case that we don't get access to the college, we went ahead and did some location scouting for backup locations. We went ahead and shot in downtown Tampa for some establishing shots and they look absolutely fantastic.
 
You could always see if you can hire an off duty police officer to be there when you are shooting, to ensure everyones safety. Just a thought.
 
Man, when I was in college we did this all the time without thought! Times have changed...

Talking to campus security and a call to the local police is in order of course as others have stated. Worst case scenario you can get an off duty officer on your shoot. Otherwise use one of your backup locations (and still inform the police just in case).
 
We had a case at Uni where a crew filmed a piece with firearms and did not tell anyone. A dogwalker passed by and called the police. It got a little hairy by all accounts for a while. The last thing you need is someone to actually get shot!!!
 
The director told me that he called campus pd and that the person responsible for inquires like this wasn't going to be in until Monday. I'm crossing my fingers. I'll also look into the off-duty office idea as well.
 
We've called police for movies and music videos I've filmed with guns involved and hired off-duty police to be onsite when we shot them. One of those shoots used real fire arms loaded with blanks and required a tactical training person on set at all times. He was just as strict with his training of stunt pistols used as he was with the real arms. Make sure your cast respects what it is they're asked to do to. Give them some basic training in gun safety even if you're not using real guns. Nothing looks as fake as an actor that doesn't handle a weapon like a professional, and a little training goes a long way. Also consider safety precautions, like what to do in the situation they're confronted with real guns.
 
This thread is a joke right?

The FIRST place your director friend should be is in the Dean's office asking for permission in writing.

P.S. Make sure you guys have enough bale money for everyone.
 
Back in '89, I didn't ask for permission, either. But I wasn't having gunplay, except for a couple quick shots. But the location was in a wooded area between two dorms, and a resident (who saw one the actors with the prop (but real) machete pacing around waiting for us to show up) called the campus cops. They were cool, though, and told us to just put the machete away. I said sure, and spent the next few hours shooting everything but. Then I got the machete shots anyway, after they were long gone.
chop1sm.jpg
 
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