As the days pass, more news has begun to emerge about the tragic incident on the set of Rust in New Mexico where cinematographer Halyna Hutchins lost her life and director Joel Souza was injured. More details from the Rust shooting accident are coming in thick and fast.
These details, as reported in The Los Angeles Times, don’t paint a great picture of the set before the incident. Half-dozen camera operators and their assistants walked off the set in a union-supported move to protest working conditions just hours before the incident.
Complaints about the conditions included unreasonably long hours, unexpected long commutes, and long paycheck turnaround times. Standard safety protocols, including gun inspections, were not strictly followed says the paper’s sources with at least one of the camera operators allegedly complaining last weekend to production managers about gun safety on the set.
Alec Baldwin’s stunt double accidentally fired two rounds last Saturday after being told that the gun was ‘cold’ (no ammunition, including blanks). There was also an additional misfire the week before. A crew member was pretty damning:
“There should have been an investigation into what happened. There were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. All they wanted to do was rush, rush, rush.”
On the morning of Thursday’s incident, a non-union crew reportedly showed up, being brought in to replace the union crew. According to the newspaper, the producers ordered the union members to leave the set and threatened to call security to eject them.
Baldwin himself has released a statement on Twitter saying:
“There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours. I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna”
Local 44 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) union which represents prop masters said in a statement that the shot was
“…a live single round accidentally fired on set by the principal actor”.
In this context ‘live’ refers to a gun being loaded with some material, including a blank, ready for filming.
An affidavit filed by the Sheriff’s Office says the gun was declared safe by the production’s assistant director who shouted ‘cold gun’ (so it was safe to use) moments beforehand. Whatever came out of the barrel, a live round or other debris, fatally struck Hutchins in the chest and hit director Joel Souza’s shoulder. It is reported that Hutchins was standing in front of Souza.
The production company, Rust Movie Productions LLC, has released a statement:
“The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company. Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down. We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time.”
Of course, this will be felt across the industry. Even though it is apparently becoming clear that protocols and safety regulations were not followed, instead of simply following them properly Hollywood knee-jerking is already underway. According to The Hollywood Reporter the Nathan Fillion-led show The Rookie has banned all gunfire from the set, using air soft guns and CG muzzle flashes instead.
It is almost certain that a lawsuit of some kind will be filed. The question is where? Many of the crew were from California but the set is in New Mexico. The production company is Californian. The California code contains an ample criminal negligence or manslaughter provision:
PART 1. OF CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS [25 – 680.4]
( Part 1 enacted 1872. )
TITLE 8. OF CRIMES AGAINST THE PERSON [187 – 248]
Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. It is of three kinds:
(a) Voluntary—upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.
(b) Involuntary—in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony; or in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection. This subdivision shall not apply to acts committed in the driving of a vehicle.
New Mexico has a similar provision that allows involuntary manslaughter charges for:
“…the commission of a lawful act which might produce death in an unlawful manner or without due caution and circumspection.”
Baldwin was also a producer on the movie as well as the lead actor. This one is going to run and run. We have most definitely not heard everything that will eventually come out about the Rust shooting.