The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) has advocated for nationally consistent laws when it comes to the use of firearms on screen productions, following a coronial inquest into the shooting death of stuntman Johann Ofner in 2017 that found an armourer had supplied an illegal weapon and ammunition.
Ofner, a former Australian Ninja Warrior contestant, was acting in a music video for hip hop trio Bliss n Eso at Brisbane’s Brooklyn Standard Bar when he was fatally shot in the chest with a blank shotgun.
In his findings on Tuesday, Coroner Donald MacKenzie ruled that Ofner’s death was “avoidable” and had come as a result of criminal actions from set armourer Warren Ritchie, who provided a firearm that was in breach of Weapons Act Regulations (Queensland).
Ritchie has since died of natural causes, but MacKenzie said he would have otherwise been faced with multiple charges, including manslaughter, unlawful possession of a handgun, and breach of workplace health and safety causing death.
As part of his recommendations, MacKenzie suggested the Office of Industrial Relations consider creating a Code of Practice for armourers and the use of firearms in the film industry, based on Firearms/Armourer section of Screen Producers Australia (SPA) and the MEAA’s National Guidelines for Screen Safety, in consultation with the requisite industry stakeholders.
The findings come three months after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza injured after Alec Baldwin shot a prop gun on the set of Rust in New Mexico in the US, prompting questions about on-set protocols in relation to firearms.
In a statement, the MEAA said it would closely examine the coroner’s findings and work with the industry where needed to ensure lessons were learned from the event.
Further, it said the time had “truly arrived” for regulators and screen professionals to come together and “fix the patchwork of laws and regulations purporting to govern safety on film and television sets throughout Australia”.
“The message from Johann’s death and the incident on the set of Rust in late 2021 is clear: safety on set is critical,” it said.
“Those responsible for filming, especially producers, need to take safety seriously and implement firearms safety procedures without equivocation.
“When firearms are to be used, pre-planning must occur and everyone on set must be aware of the rules and be guided by professional theatrical armourers.
“No-one should have a gun capable of emitting a projectile discharged towards them.
“The screen safety guidelines make this abundantly clear.”