If Guns Disappear from Sets, Hollywood Needs Alternatives — This Danish Startup Has One

The list of industry notables rethinking the on-set use of firearms is growing longer. Dwayne Johnson joined the ranks this week when he pledged that his Seven Bucks production company would end the use of real guns on its movies. Legislation looms in California that would make it a requirement. Hollywood will need solutions to simulate gunfire — and Copenhagen Industries, from the country that brought you the most stringent gun laws in Europe, may have a solution.

For the last five years, the Danish company has been working on Violette, a simulated firearm that doesn’t use bullets, blanks, or dummy rounds. Instead, it uses a mix of propane and oxygen to create a small explosion that simulates the muzzle flash and bang of a gun. Its founders are Søren Haraldsted, an armorer and special effects consultant whose credits include “Melancholia” and “Babylon A.D.,” and Daniel Karpantschof, an entrepreneur who served on President Obama’s Council of Experts for Entrepreneurship and as a Danish UNESCO representative.

Karpantschof spoke during a press conference hosted by Bandar Albuliwi, a filmmaker and one of the leaders of the growing movement to eliminate real guns on set. “It shoots out of something that looks like a gun, but it has never been remotely close to a gun — it’s a replica — it’s 100 percent safe,” said Karpantschof. “You can take the weapon, you can fire directly into your hand or directly into your face without any risk whatsoever of personal injury.”

Albuliwi posted a Change.org petition on October 27, the day that Halyna Hutchins was killed after Alec Baldwin shot a prop gun on the set of “Rust.” Since then, the movement has grown: In addition to the 107,000 people who signed the petition, California State Sen. Dave Cortese said he plans to introduce a bill addressing production firearm safety, 200 cinematographers pledged to never work on movies that use real firearms, and the showrunners of “The Boys” and “The Rookie” said they’re taking real guns out of their shows.

Johnson told Variety that his productions would switch to rubber guns, adding effects in post. However, with no combustion, there’s sound and no recoil — the backward thrust produced by a real gun. Violette, Karpantschof said, is “100 decibels less audible than a blank, but it still makes a noise. You get some recoil.”

The current conversation around Hollywood’s guns represent a second chance for Karpantschof and his partners. They spent nearly five years developing Violette and gained the interest of major studios, actors like Harrison Ford and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and their advisory board included Mark Chambers, who spent over two decades as Universal’s head of safety and security. In December 2020, they were ready to give up: The financial commitment wasn’t there.

“Universal, Netflix. [Bulgarian film studio] Nu Boyana we had a very close relationship with,” Karpantschof said. “Everyone saw how they could save money, save lives, save time, eliminate uncertainty. Everyone basically said ‘We want it, we want it now,’ We were supposed to deliver for ‘Rambo 5,’ and they basically said ‘Can you deliver in two weeks?’ We said ‘We are not ready, we need funding to complete R&D.’ “Everyone, without exception, said ‘Call us when you’re ready.’”

Karpantschof said Copenhagen Industries now has $1 million in investment, but it needs $5 million. “Once we have the funding, we have six to nine months to complete development,” he said.

Violette has been used in several low-budget projects, including the web series “De Efterladte,” according to the company. Promotional videos for Violette show it firing just inches from a person’s hand, while representatives from the company discuss the product’s virtues: no reloads, no stopping filming, all while mimicking the appearance of a real gun.

“For cinema-goers, nothing changes,” Karpantschof says in one video. “But for filmmakers, everything changes.”

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