No matter if you are a seasoned stunt performer or an actor who has never touched a weapon, safety should be a top priority. Whether it’s a samurai sword or a fork, if it’s being used to attack, it is a weapon and deserves thought and respect. Although it may be tempting to swing a sword about with your best pirate dialect, when on set, you must keep that inner child in check. Because every weapon carries with it the potential for deadly force, respect it by following these tips:
Don’t ever point a weapon. Even though it is a prop, you never know how someone may react to having a weapon pointed at them. Only use the weapon as you have rehearsed.
Inspect your weapon. Is it constructed well? A well-constructed aluminum prop is usually the best choice. If someone hands you a sharp weapon, don’t take it. Also, pay attention to the weight of it; where is its center of gravity? Take this into account as you practice, and know that a heavy weapon will tire you out faster, so conserve your energy. If you are working with a rubber prop, remember that just because it is rubber doesn’t mean it can’t hurt someone.
Know how to use your weapon. Never “wing it”; get familiar with the weapon prior to showing up on set. If training is not available to you, then read about it, study up and, when you get to the set, find the weapons handler and/or stunt coordinator and ask him or her to go through the action with you until you feel comfortable with the weapon. It is also important to rehearse the physical action combined with the acting without your weapon. That way, when the emotions start to flow in a scene, you will have trained your body to react with the weapon as rehearsed.
Play well with others. People come to the set with different backgrounds, so when rehearsing the action, respect all performers as equals. Be cooperative, do not direct them and be receptive to the authority on set, usually the fight/stunt coordinator.
Accept the weapon as your responsibility. From the moment the weapon is handed to you by the prop master, that weapon is your responsibility. You must keep track of it at all times, until it is returned to the same person who gave it to you.
During safety meetings, make sure that you understand everything that is being said. If there is any confusion or safety concern, speak up — there are no stupid questions. This applies not only to the person wielding the weapon but anyone working near it as well.
Quoting Jet Li, “A weapon isn’t good or bad, depends on the person who uses it.”
Make the choice to be a good, responsible performer so that everyone goes home safely.