Earlier this year Channel 4 commissioned Rogan Productions to make a one-off documentary in the USA that explored the legal purchase of firearms as part of its Cutting Edge series. The CCC were over the moon to be involved in a documentary that would clearly require unprecedented access, bravery and a sensitive approach. Thankfully we had just wrapped on a huge production in the USA and were able to proceed both logistically and economically on a one-hour budget by transporting the kit directly from one location in America to the other. The costs and challenges of rigging internationally were therefore significantly reduced. Both Directors of The CCC, Paul & Ben, had worked with the Director John Douglas (24 Hours in A & E) and Production Manager Evie Sangale (The Tribe) and were delighted to be joining forces with them again.
Rebecca Coxon, Asssistant Producer, and John Douglas explored various possible options before settling on Freedom Firearms in the small town of Battle Creek, Michigan. CCC Director Ben Hoffmann then joined them in order to finalise the camera positions, technical requirements and to form a rig plan. Collectively we decided that 12 hothead cameras would cover the action, along with 2 fixed minicams. In total there were 8 personal mics for the staff and customers, and 15 atmospheric mics to cover the shooting range and the shop floor. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome was the source of power. This is always the case in the USA when trying to make British television as the power works on different voltages and frequency. This dictates the kit that can and cannot be used and must be planned carefully prior to transit.
We were dealing with events that are culturally a world away from the UK – it was important that we remained as sensitive as possible to the beliefs of the contributors we were filming so that we could inhabit their space as unobtrusively as possible and film them being as open and genuine as they would be without us there. The brilliant production team from Rogan led the way with this, but it was vital that The CCC followed their lead. It took 3 days to rig Freedom Firearms, using 6 members of crew, and we had the huge benefit of 2 American crew members that knew the location well.
At times there was a lot going on in the shop – various stories needed to be followed, and the small CCC crew handled the pressure brilliantly, maximising on every filming opportunity available to us during the 8 day shoot.
The result was a ground-breaking, thought provoking documentary that shocked and amazed the viewing public. It created great debate among a wide range of audiences on the moral and legal principles of the rights to carry firearms. Seeing the diverse customer base that entered Freedom Firearms, from older women to children, from experienced shooters to novices, highlighted the huge difference between different countries gun laws.
Facts & Figures
Filmed: July 2016
Aired: November 2016
Channel: Channel 4
Location: Michigan, USA
The Gun Shop was terrific, a portrait in miniature of a society in which the freedom to bear arms was a given
In the midst of this chilling portrait of everyday gun-shopping, I thought I detected some reasons to be faintly hopeful
This documentary needed no voiceover. It let the people involved speak honestly, with no traps or tricks, and left the viewers to make up their own minds