Saturday, December 4, 2021

New Mexico Community Mourns Rust’s Halina Hutchins

“This moment shook all of us to the core,” said IATSE Local 480 President Liz Pecos, holding a lit candle against the pink-veined New Mexico sky.

Hundreds of people stood in front of her with lighted candles, preparing to mourn cameraman Galina Hutchins.

Many of those who flocked to the Albuquerque Civic Plaza Saturday night were members of Pecos’ Local, which represents below the line crew members working on films and television in New Mexico.

Several of the vigils knew Hutchins from working with her on the set of Rust, where she was fatally wounded by a rifle fired by actor Alec Baldwin.

But most of them were part of a large family of film crew members who mainly live in Albuquerque or Santa Fe and are the driving force behind New Mexico’s thriving and close-knit film industry. These were people who were in the trenches together, working during such harsh hours that they helped provoke constant calculations on working conditions on the set.

“This is definitely not Atlanta or Los Angeles. There’s a lot less here, ”said Jonathan Hubbart, location coordinator in Albuquerque, wearing a Stranger Things zip-up hoodie in New Mexico. “In fact, you know almost everyone.”

When Rebecca Rhine, National Cinematographers Guild Executive Director, IATSE Local 600, and Filmmakers Guild President John Lindley addressed the crowd, participants hugged old friends and colleagues with tears in their eyes.

Lane Looper, the cameraman who worked with Hutchins on Rust, praised her in public as “one of the most talented, kind and helpful people” he has ever met.

“She is a wonderful mother, a wonderful wife and just a wonderful soul. And I really hope there will be more people like her, ”he said, his voice held back by grief. “I love everyone in this community. And thank you – I know I haven’t answered many of you, but thank you, because it means a lot. ”

The 42-year-old native of Ukraine became one of the rising stars of American cinema in 2019.

“Tonight is about Galina,” Rein said during his speech. “There will be plenty of time in the future to focus on who, what, why.”

Still, looming questions about the circumstances leading to Hutchins’ death on Thursday, hours after half a dozen crew members left the set to protest the working conditions, were hard to ignore in the crowd. Standard industry safety protocols, including gun inspection, were not strictly enforced on set, several crew members told the Los Angeles Times on Friday.

“We have to take care of ourselves, very often people don’t pay attention to us,” said one man, bending down to hug several friends.

In the crowd, costume designer Kim Trujillo and Ashley Crandall, working in the props, discussed how the productions that both women worked on had an immediate change in response to the horrific incident on Friday.

Crandall said the show she is currently working on was supposed to use a blank pistol replica for Friday’s scene, but at the last minute she made the decision to switch to airsoft guns – a discussion that was discussed with the entire team, Crandall said.

“It just made everyone feel safer,” she said, describing the precautions as long overdue.

Trujillo, who, like Crandall, was wearing an IATSE shirt, said the production she was working on announced that they would now only use rubber weapons.

Vinema’s dresser Chávez Quintana held a sign with photographs of Hutchins and handwritten text: “She deserves a safe workplace!” and “SOS safety on set !!”

Chavez Quintana said she was related to Hutchins as a mother.

“She deserved to go home to her children,” Chávez Quintana said through tears. Chávez Quintana’s 25-year-old son now also works on set, and she said she sometimes feared for his safety.

But amid the shock and sadness, there was hope — many said they hoped or believed that real change could come from an unbearable tragedy.

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“We were going to hit our health, and we barely managed to prevent it, and now I think everyone will fight a little harder for their rights – for our physical safety,” said Amrit Khalsa, a decorator in Santa Fe.

Standing with actors John Hamm and John Slattery, producer Ross Kahn spoke about the horror of Hutchins’ death.

“We heard there were problems on this set,” said Kahn, who was in New Mexico with Hamm and Slattery on the set of Maggie Moore (s). “This tragedy can be avoided.”

In a statement to Deadline Saturday, Rust director Joel Sousa, who was also injured during filming, thanked the local film community for the outpouring of support and said he was “devastated by the loss of my friend and colleague Galina. She was kind, energetic, incredibly talented, fought for every centimeter and always pushed me for the better. “

Among other security considerations, several picket participants spoke of the need to provide film crews with hotel rooms when the length of filming would otherwise make workers traveling from Albuquerque to Santa Fe on a long drive or sleeping little.

The cities are located about an hour away on interstate 25 from each other. The decision not to provide previously promised hotel rooms to the Rust crew, many of whom lived in Albuquerque, about 50 miles from Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe County, played a role in Thursday morning’s strike.

On Saturday afternoon, Bonanza Creek Ranch was almost empty, its rusty gates closed by a padlock chain leading to a wide open desert road. Inside the gate, two guards stood by a windswept American flag outside a sentry hut while a team of Australian news outlets fired across the street.

More than twenty minutes before the ranch in picturesque Santa Fe, talk of gunfire continued to ricochet through the tight-knit city early Saturday morning.

Locals have described New Mexico’s film industry, which has been booming since the early 2000s and has grown exponentially in recent years, as a welcome boon to the city’s hospitality economy.

New Mexico is small, with a population equivalent to just over 20% of Los Angeles County, and has one of the highest poverty rates in the country – factors that made many locals feel like they were collectively investing in the success of the roaring movie. industry, whether they work in it or not.

They say the booming industry feels like an integral part of the community. Sure, you can dance with Bill Murray at Cowgirl BBQ or spy Reese Witherspoon hanging out in the Plaza, but communication is clearly low-key. Santa Feana prides itself on its arrogant attitude towards celebrities, which probably makes the city even more attractive to film. Many said they were shocked by the tragedy.

“This is a small town and we meet a lot of people who are directly connected,” said hairdresser Laura Rivera, who shared a plate of meager fries with two friends at the popular Santa Fe cafe.

“It’s very, very close to home, and it’s very scary,” added her friend Sam Staletovich, a Santa Fe communications worker who has provided replacement and background work for numerous Western-themed films in the area.

Staletovich said he took part in pyrotechnic and gun scenes, but personal safety never seemed to be an issue because it was “such a tough process” even in low-budget films.

“Everything was checked, twice and three times checked,” he recalled, saying that he struggled to understand how the shooting happened and experienced a new sense of anxiety about future action.

On Sunday at 6:00 pm, a local 600 will hold a similar vigil in honor of Hutchins in Burbank. On Friday, the union launched a GoFundMe campaign for her family. Hutchins is survived by husband Matthew and 9-year-old son.

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