The safety issue of Hollywood movies was raised in a nationwide conversation this week after Alec Baldwin pulled the trigger on the rifle that killed cameraman Halina Hutchins while filming the indie western Rust on a ranch in New Mexico.
The film’s director, Joel Sousa, was also injured during the incident, but recuperates at the Santa Fe hospital. He said he was “shocked” by the loss of Hutchins in a statement released to Deadline on Saturday.
“She was kind, bright, incredibly talented, fought for every inch and always pushed me for the better,” said the director.
Baldwin also expressed shock, telling Friday that his “heart is broken” for those close to Hutchins. He was photographed Saturday leaving the Santa Fe hotel with his husband Matt Hutchins and their young son, whom the actor hugged before parting ways.
Here’s what we know about what happened, how it happened and what is being done to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
How did the rifle become lethal?
At the time, Baldwin was faking a gunfight, according to the Los Angeles Times, citing production records that said Baldwin had to step back from the church and draw a pistol from his holster. While the film crew usually watched the scene from a distance, according to the LA Times, Hutchins was still lining up her next camera shot with Sousa and another person. Baldwin reportedly pulled his pistol out of its holster once without incident, but fired a second time.
Hutchins was wounded in the chest and Sousa in the shoulder. The cinematographer was taken by helicopter to the hospital, but died from his injury.
Many elements of the incident remain unclear, including what type of weapon was used, what type of projectile hit the crew, how many projectiles were, who prepared the weapon for use on set, and whether the person followed safety protocols.
Weapons on the set must be operated by a gunsmith – a person who has experience with weapons, who knows the difference between live ammunition and blank cartridges. Both consist of a cartridge filled with gunpowder, but the live cartridge has a projectile on the tip, while the blank does not. But even blank cartridges can be deadly when fired at close range.
One seasoned props master told CNBC that usually for shots where the actor is aiming a pistol directly at the camera, ballistic shields are installed between the pistol and the crew just in case.
Why were the crew members unhappy with the filming of Rust?
Union workers in Hollywood are generally unhappy with the state of their industry. Nearly 60,000 people associated with the International Alliance of Stage Workers, Filmmakers, Artists and Allied Craftsmen – or IATSE – threatened to quit their jobs earlier this week if their schedule, health and safety requirements were not met. Their union has managed to prevent a strike so far, but frustrations persist.
Several media outlets reported that at least six crew members left the set just hours before the fatal shooting to protest the working conditions. The film crew was frustrated by the long drive to work – believing they would be provided with hotel rooms near the set – and that they would have to wait weeks for their paycheck.
The film has a very modest budget of $ 7 million.
It is important to note that, according to reports from the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press, workers also expressed concern that safety protocols were not followed on set. They were especially alarmed that someone had allegedly fired two shots by accident in the days leading up to Thursday’s tragedy. According to the LA Times, the third accidental discharge happened even earlier.
“There were no security meetings. There were no guarantees that this would not happen again. All they wanted to do was hurry, hurry, hurry, ”a crew member told the newspaper. It was reported that a text message from a crew member before Hutchins’ death complained about the conditions: “It’s very unsafe.”
A source told The Daily Beast that the gunsmith, who was allegedly on set at the time, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was only 24 years old and lacked the experience to maintain a safe environment.
Who is to blame for the incident?
Police are continuing their investigation and no charges have been filed.
According to IndieWire, IATSE Local 44, which covers Skip Masters, sent out an email to attendees stating that Skip Master ‘Rust’ was not a Local 44 member.
Baldwin was unaware that there was a live round in the rifle, according to records from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office obtained by news outlets including The Washington Post.
Assistant director Dave Halls removed the gun from the cart, handed it to Baldwin, and shouted, “Cold steel,” according to AP. (“Cold” means the weapon had no live rounds and was therefore safe.)
The recording of Mamie Mitchell’s follow-up emergency call illustrates the panic that arose: “Two people were accidentally shot dead while driving a rifle, we need help immediately,” she told the dispatcher. “We rehearsed and everything passed and I ran out, we all ran out.”
When asked if a real bullet was fired from a pistol, Mitchell replied: “I can’t tell you. We have two injuries. And this [expletive] ANNOUNCEMENT [assistant director] who yelled at me at lunch asking for fixes … He has to check the weapon. He is responsible for what happens on the set. ”
The affidavit said the assistant director was unaware that the rifle was loaded with live ammunition, according to The New York Times.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office told The Times that it hopes to have more information to share early next week.
Who was Galina Hutchins?
Hutchins, 42, was born in Ukraine and raised on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle, where she was “surrounded by deer and nuclear submarines,” according to her website. She was just starting to make a name for herself in the industry, working on independent films including Armando Gutierrez’s The Mad Hatter and Joe Manganiello’s Nemesis.
In 2019, she was selected as one of the rising stars of American cinema.
Mitchell, who called the emergency services, told AP in an interview: “This woman left early in her career. She was an extraordinary, rare, very rare woman. “
Matt Hutchins, her husband, reflected on her life on social media.
“Our losses are enormous,” he wrote on Saturday.