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FiredUp Gun Safety Movement from Industry Moms Teams With Brady United

FiredUp Gun Safety Movement from Industry Moms Teams With Brady United

It could have been any of the hundreds of mass shootings occurring in the United States each year, but it happened to be the one at Nashville’s Covenant School in March 2023 that prompted a group of industry moms to take action.

“It hit very close to home. Our own kids were in preschool,” says producer Stacy Keppler Calabrese. “We felt scared and powerless. In Hollywood, we like to joke that we take ourselves too seriously: ‘We’re not saving lives.’ But what if we could? We control the stories that are seen across the country. Isn’t there some power in that?”

Calabrese’s group text of women trying to juggle parenting and entertainment careers became ground zero from #FiredUp, a movement to curb gun violence through narrative change. Led by Calabrese and fellow producers Jen Gorton and Jessica Kantor, what sets this campaign apart from most other storytelling advocacy groups is that it is composed of active industry members and what Calabrese refers to as “the middle” of the business — the executives, reps and other Hollywood workers most closely involved in the day-to-day operations of making film and television for everyone.

“We are not anti-gun, we are not trying to eradicate all guns in film and TV. We’ve been working in this business for 20-plus years ourselves — we know better than anyone what’s realistic,” says Kantor.

“Hello, I worked on Hell or High Water and Drive,” adds Calabrese of her tenure as a senior vp, development and production at Oddlot/MWM.

What #FiredUp is trying to do is simple but potentially very impactful: to increase and normalize the portrayals of responsible gun storage onscreen. Such adjustments — a character retrieving a gun from a safe rather than a drawer — may seem minor and inconsequential, but safer gun storage could decrease firearm deaths of children under 19 years old by 32 percent, according to a 2019 study in the JAMA Pediatrics journal. Currently, 4.6 million children in the U.S. live in households with an unsecured gun, and eight kids are unintentionally killed or injured every day by an improperly stored gun in the home, according to Brady United Against Gun Violence, with whom #FiredUp has teamed to support the campaign.

The two groups held an official launch party for their partnership on June 6 at the Hancock Park home of Brady senior advisor Christy Callahan, a former film executive and TV writer, and her husband, Miramax CEO Jonathan Glickman. About 100 producers, executives, financiers and agents turned out for the event, co-hosted by managers Anastasiya Kukhtareva and Katie Cates, to learn about concrete actions they can take immediately to join the movement.

#FiredUp asked attendees to sign up to become advocates, which simply means committing to keep the issue of showing gun safety in mind during the development or production process. “You ensure that before cameras roll, there’s a conversation about how guns will be shown onscreen. You pay attention when you read scripts with guns in them, you bring it up in meetings or say something to your colleagues — whatever works for you,” Kantor told the assembled crowd. “Whether you work at a studio, production company, financier, agency or you’re a writer, writer’s assistant, actor, AD, independent producer, editor, PA — literally anyone contributing to our business can be an advocate.”

Advocates, whom #FiredUp hopes will eventually be found in every active company in Hollywood, will have access to Brady’s #ShowGunSafety team to meet with colleagues and writers rooms as well as quarterly check-ins with #FiredUp for additional support and accountability. The group is already logging examples of programs that include portrayals of safe gun storage, including Mare of Easttown, The Lioness, Sugar, Tulsa King and S.W.A.T., and they hope to secure the rights to clips in order to create a “proof of concept” compilation video to share with the rest of the industry.

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Brady has some additional priorities: depicting consequences of reckless gun use, limiting scenes that involve children and guns and encouraging parents and caregivers to ask about the presence of unsecured firearms wherever their children play (ASK Day is June 21), but #FiredUp, ever the industry pragmatists, are focused on the basic step of portraying gun storage for now. “Gun violence is an area where people make a lot of money. We wanted to find something people can get on board with,” says Gorton. Adds Kantor, “How can people save the most number of lives with a minimal account of action?”

There is precedent that simple narrative adjustments can catalyze broad cultural change. “You all have done this before. The term ‘designated driver’ was introduced into the lexicon through the creative community [through shows like Cheers], and deaths from drunk driving dropped substantially over the last couple of decades,” Brady COO Susan Lavington said to the industry guests at the party. “Think about how glamorized smoking used to be, until you guys figured out a way to deglamorize it, and we have seen a major drop in smoking deaths. The same thing with seatbelts. How normal is it now to get in a car and put your seatbelt on?”

Last month on Mother’s Day, #FiredUp circulated a pledge that gathered more than 200 signatures from producers, executives, creatives and reps committing to hold a conversation about firearm portrayals during the development and pre-production process of their film and TV projects. The signatories included both women and men, which the moms behind #FiredUp said is crucial in order to effect change.

“Dads in this business care just as much as moms,” says Calabrese. “We’ve been really cognizant of being very inclusive and not gendered in our messaging. It’s for anyone who cares, whether you have kids or don’t. It’s about not wanting to be the country where eight kids die every day.”

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