On October 21, there was a tragic shooting on the New Mexico set of the film Rust. The TL:DR is that Alec Baldwin accidentally fired a prop gun that had live ammunition inside. This resulted in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured the director Joel Souza. That’s the basics of what happened. The full story is a bit more complicated.
The investigation is still ongoing, but recent facts have come out that paint a very damning picture. Rust was a film conceived of and produced by Baldwin. Now Baldwin has dabbled in producing since 1994, but hasn’t had any notable success. The project was low budget for modern Hollywood standards, and was considered an independent film. This meant they didn’t have a studio backing the project and instead funding came from individuals. And none of these individuals had much if any experience making movies.
This might explain why there was another big problem with the Rust production. There was a culture of complacency around firearms. Cast and crew would regularly take the prop guns, load them with live ammo, and shoot cans off set. Before October 21st, There were 3 accidental misfires where prop guns were thought to be empty. Several crew members complained to producers about the lack of gun safety.
To add another layer to this tragedy, most of the crew walked off set the day before the accident. I’ve written before about IATSE and their negotiations and possible strike. Well this is a clear example of what they were fighting for. Crew workers had to drive 50 miles to and from set every day. This is after spending 12-13 hours working in the harsh sun. The day of the shooting, members of IATSE packed up and left set. At least one producer forced them to leave. New non-union workers were brought on to replace them. 6 hours later Hutchins was shot.
Oh, and the Assistant Director who gave Baldwin the gun was fired from a set in 2019 after he mishandled a prop gun which misfired and injured someone.
As I said before, the investigation is still ongoing. Hutchins death was a tragedy and an accident. But it was a highly preventable one. And now everyone is scrambling to control the narrative.
The New Mexico Governor is saying that if the film industry doesn’t set stricter regulations to ensure set safety, then the state will. IATSE is blaming the producers and non-union workers who were present. They called the replacement of union with non-union “inexcusable”. In response, the remaining producers have issued a statement that they were “in good standing with all major production unions and guilds”. Then you have the California State Senator calling for the ban of all live ammunition on theatrical productions.
Everyone is trying to add their own two cents and put their spin on it. Placing blame, deflecting blame, and trying to get their 15 minutes of fame. Because the cat’s out of the bag. Film sets are incredibly unsafe and people can die. Now it’s time to see what the investigation finds and which narrative spin comes out on top.
— Harper Hunt | October 29, 2021|