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More Details from Fatal Rust Set Shooting Point to a Production in Disarray


Aerial shot of the Rust set following the shooting
Aerial shot of the Rust set following the shooting

More details about the fatal shooting of Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the Santa Fe, New Mexico set of the independent Western, Rust, have come out overnight from a variety of sources. We will try to parse them down to the facts, because there has been a lot of rumors, conjecture and hearsay about the incident, leading to far too many theories. What it all comes down to is that the set of Rust was already in major disarray, and there were a lot of things that were being done wrong leading to this tragic on-set accident.

This is what we’ve learned and heard so far from the investigation, both from local authorities and other news outlets:

*There was a live round in the gun that actor Alec Baldwin fired, presumably towards the camera where 48-year-old Director Joel Souza and 42-year-old DoP Hutchins were standing.

*The accident happened while an indoor scene was being rehearsed, although it’s now being said that the incident was recorded, and Detective Joel Cano has petitioned for a search warrant “to confirm if the incident that took place was or wasn’t recorded.”

* The gun fired was one of three that the film’s Armorer Hannah Guttierez had placed on a cart outside the wooden building where filming was taking place.

*The film’s Assistant Director, Dave Halls, was the person who handed Baldwin the gun with the live round, not realizing it contained a live round and presuming it was safe, according to the warrant. Halls yelled “Cold gun!” before handing the gun to Baldwin to inform the actor that it was safe, reported The Associated Press.

*The film’s Script Supervisor Mamie Mitchell was standing next to Hutchins, who was shot in the chest, and she told AP that she “ran out and called 911” saying, “Bring everybody, send everybody”

*Souza was standing behind Hutchins, and he was wounded in the shoulder, hospitalized and released. It has yet to be reported how many rounds were actually fired.

Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin on set after incident (Photo: Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)

*It was reported earlier on Thursday that 911 was called about an incident on the Bonanza Creek Ranch. Emergency personnel arrived on set and Hutchins was flown to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where she died.

*Investigators have seized other guns and ammo that were being used on the set as evidence. So far, no charges have been filed and Baldwin is not being held responsible and is being allowed to travel. Juan Rios from the local sheriff department said that Baldwin was a “free man.”

*Mitchell also told the AP that the film crew attended a private memorial on Friday night for Hutchins.

*The Los Angeles Times reported that there was a major crew walk-off from the set before the shooting. In the midst of negotiations by labor union IATSE to get its members a new three-year Basic Agreement, there were reported complaints about long hours and low pay, which led to the exodus of disgruntled union workers, who were replaced by non-union replacements. According to a few sources, Hutchins had been pushing for better conditions for her team.

From the L.A. Times article:

“The camera operators and their assistants were frustrated by the conditions surrounding the low-budget film, including complaints about long hours, long commutes and waiting for their paychecks, according to three people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment.

Safety protocols standard in the industry, including gun inspections, were not strictly followed on the “Rust” set near Santa Fe, the sources said. They said at least one of the camera operators complained last weekend to a production manager about gun safety on the set.”

*Reportedly, the prop gun used by the actor in Hutchins’ death had also misfired before, which led to dissatisfaction among the crew about the safety of the set.

*Also related to the union workers’ demands from a contract, another source has said that some laborers on the film expected to be housed near to the set during the scheduled 21-day shoot, but instead they had to commute from a location 50 miles further away.

*As with any incident such as this one, the safety of using “prop guns” on set is now being explored and questioned with many artillery experts and armorers talking to the media and showing how something like this can happen and how they can be prevented.

Halyna Hutchins
Halyna Hutchins (photo by Adam Egypt Mortimer)

The internet has been swarming with a combination of shock, outrage, and sadness about this unfortunate event and its outcome. What it comes down to is that this was a horrible accident that never should have happened if things were done correctly on set. More importantly, a woman and a mother is dead, cut down in the prime of her life and career, merely because she was on a movie set doing her job, and that is something that never EVER should happen.

You can read a beautiful obit to the Ukraine-born cinematographer by The New York Times, and learn a lot more information about her life and career via the bio on her personal website. Loving tributes continue to pour out from everyone who knew this up and coming talent, as well as many who didn’t.

The day before the incident, Hutchins had posted a video of herself riding a horse in New Mexico on her Instagram, saying,”One of the perks of shooting a Western is you get to ride horses on your day off.” She also posted other photos from set, including one of the entire cast and crew of Rust showing support for the film’s IATSE crew this past Tuesday.

Matt Hutchins, Kalyna’s husband, spoke out on Twitter, saying “Halyna inspired us all with her passion and vision, and her legacy is too meaningful to encapsulate in words. Our loss is enormous, and we ask that the media please respect my family’s privacy as we process our grief. We thank everyone for sharing images and stories of her life.”  He also thanked his wife’s alma mater, the AFI Conservatory, for setting up a special fund in her name to honor her memory and support other female cinematographers.

Lastly for now, the film’s director, who co-wrote the screenplay for Rust with Baldwin, spoke to Deadline, saying that he’s “gutted by the loss” of the film’s DP.  His full statement about the on-set accident:

“I am gutted by the loss of my friend and colleague, Halyna. She was kind, vibrant, incredibly talented, fought for every inch, and always pushed me to be better.”

“My thoughts are with her family at this most difficult time. I am humbled and grateful by the outpouring of affection we have received from our filmmaking community, the people of Santa Fe, and the hundreds of strangers who have reached out….. It will surely aid in my recovery.”

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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