This month’s blog comes from RED‘s only antipodean actor Marla Jane Lynch:
Guns. No matter what you personally think of them, the current fact is, that there are a helluvalotta shows that feature them in some way or another, and the cool factor of a cop bursting through a door yelling “freeze”, even to an anti-gun person like me, is still, well, cool! It’s also a reality of the industry. So with all this rationale in my head, I decided to take a theatrical firearms workshop and learn how to use them safely and responsibly – and also to add another trick to my actor tool belt – or should that be holster?!
Our lovely guides for the day were three guys from Independent Drama, a company in London who train actors in all manner of stuff (I’m doing a Sword & Shield workshop with them next week), and I’m glad to say that they really knew what they were doing. I’m also glad to say that they opened up the day with some very strict rules, that besides obviously including the safety element, also included that we were not permitted to take any photos that glorified the use of guns. This, I really, really liked. Even more importantly, they asked us to not upload one to any public site (this is obviously added in as inevitably someone does an “I’m a cool action hero” pose at some point in the day, and they were used to this).
They were coming from a very professional mind-set, people who really cared for and respected the craft of what they did, and not a “woo hoo we’re shootin’ guns” mind-set. Straight away I felt safe in their hands, and confident about what they were going to teach us. Ok, we did take a group shot at the end, where we all went a bit Charlie’s Angels and James Bond Baddies, but it was very heavily supervised, and safety (incorporating what we all learnt during the day) was the main ingredient!
My first reaction to holding a gun was what a stupid thing it was.
They took us through the history of guns, which, when I saw the information sheets up, would be very boring, but it actually made all the bits I didn’t understand fit into place! Historically (thinking a good period drama), and in terms of what the difference is between a semi-automatic, and automatic – and why the Terminator has a certain gun, and the Special Agents in an FBI drama have a different one – all of that. I was actually excited to start watching stuff with this new knowledge, and thinking about characters I may play or write, that use guns with it too. Why THAT gun? What does it say about the character etc.
After that, and lots more safety stuff, we got to play. My first reaction to holding a gun (after thinking it was a lot heavier than I thought it would be), was, what a stupid thing it was. After learning more about them, they seemed even more ridiculous. No big deep thing to go into here, but it was an interesting, and unexpected reaction. There was a lot of unexpected reactions going on for a lot of us, and as a room full of Actors, who study human reaction, it was worth mentioning. This didn’t make me want to stop doing the workshop though, it made me want to learn even better so that I never use them incorrectly.
We learnt how to wield them, how and why cops hold them, how non-trained people may hold them, the training from different generations, how to search and move about with them, how to disarm a close-range attack with them – remember we are talking choreographed for performance here – not real-life defense class stuff!
They go bang. Loud. Very loud.
And firing them. It is what you expect. They go bang. Loud. Very loud. And if you don’t stand and do exactly as instructed, you can hurt yourself, or the person standing next to you! That cool looking flash that explodes out the side of an old pistol, yep, that sucker stings, so pay attention!
The best bit was definitely at the end. The group was divided up into two, and we did a choreographed scene for each other. Baddies, goodies, hostages and lots of bangs! This is where the whole day all came together, and the importance of every single smidge of safety we were taught became even more evident in big neon letters. Having a gun (even one loaded with blanks) pointing at you is a pretty unnerving experience, and you want to make sure the person pointing it is all over the way to do it properly!