Hours before actor Alec Baldwin killed cinematographer on the set of “Rust” in New Mexico with a propeller pistol, half a dozen crew members left the set. to protest against working conditions.
Cameramen and their assistants were frustrated with 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.
Standard industry safety protocols, including firearms inspections, were not strictly followed on the “Rust” Plateau near Santa Fe, the sources said. They said at least one of the cameramen complained last weekend to a gun safety production manager on set.
Three crew members who were on the set at Bonanza Creek Ranch on Saturday said they were particularly concerned about two accidental propeller weapon releases.
Baldwin’s double stuntman accidentally fired two rounds on Saturday after learning the weapon was “cold” – lingo for a weapon that has no ammunition, including blank – two crew members who witnessed the episode told the Los Angeles Times.
“There should have been an investigation into what happened,” said a crew member. “There were no security meetings. There was no assurance that this would not happen again. All they wanted was to rush, to rush, to rush.
A coworker was so alarmed by the misfires of the propeller gun that he texted the unit’s production manager. “We have now had 3 accidental discharges. It’s super dangerous, ”according to a copy of the post reviewed by The Times.
“The safety of our cast and crew is a top priority for Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company,” Rust Movie Productions said in a statement. “Although we have not been made aware of any official complaints regarding the safety of weapons or accessories on set, we will conduct an internal review of our procedures while production is down. We will continue to cooperate with authorities. de Santa Fe in their investigation and to provide mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time. “
The tragedy occurred Thursday afternoon while filming a shootout that began in a church that is part of Western Old Town at the ranch. Baldwin’s character was supposed to withdraw from the church, according to production notes obtained by The Times. It was day 12 of a 21-day shoot.
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was curled up around a monitor lining up her next camera shot when she was accidentally killed by the propeller pistol fired by Baldwin.
The actor was about to film a scene in which he takes a weapon out of a holster, according to a source close to the production. The crew had already shouted “cold gun” on the set. The film crew were lining up their camera angles and still had to retreat to the Video Village, an area on set where the crew gathers to watch the shoot from a distance via a monitor.
Instead, the camera operator B was on a cart with a monitor, checking out potential shots. Hutchins was also looking at the monitor over the operator’s shoulder, as was the film’s director, Joel Souza, who was crouched right behind her.
Baldwin removed the pistol from its holster once without incident, but the second time he did, the ammo flew towards the trio around the monitor. The projectile whistled through the camera operator but penetrated Hutchins near his shoulder, then continued to Souza. Hutchins immediately fell to the ground as crew members applied pressure to his wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding.
The Associated Press reported on Friday evening that Baldwin was handed a loaded gun by an assistant director who said it could be safely used in the moments before the actor fired it, records show court. The deputy principal was unaware the propeller pistol was loaded with live ammunition, according to a search warrant filed with a Santa Fe County court.
The person overseeing gun accessories, known as gunsmith, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, could not be reached for comment. The 24-year-old is the daughter of veteran gunsmith Thell Reed and had recently completed her first film as chief gunsmith for “The Old Way”, starring Clint Howard and Nicolas Cage.
Earlier today, the camera crew arrived as scheduled at 6:30 a.m. and began assembling their gear and belongings to leave, a knowledgeable crew member told The Times.
Labor issues had been brewing for days on the dusty plateau of Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe.
Filming began on October 6, and members of the low-budget film said they were promised the production would pay for their hotel rooms in Santa Fe.
But after filming began, crews were told they would be required to drive 50 miles each day from Albuquerque, rather than spending the night in nearby Santa Fe. This angered crew members who feared they might have an accident after spending 12 to 13 hours on set.
Hutchins had advocated for safer conditions for his team and was in tears when the film crew left, a crew member who was on set said.
“She said, ‘I feel like I’m losing my best friends,’” one of the workers recalls.
While the film crew – members of the International Alliance of Theater Workers – spent about an hour assembling their equipment at Bonanza Creek Ranch, several non-union crew members showed up to replace them, said two of the knowledgeable people.
One of the producers ordered union members to leave the set and threatened to call security to remove them if they did not leave voluntarily.
“The corners were cut – and they brought in non-union people so they could continue shooting,” the knowledgeable person said.
The shooting took place about six hours after the union’s film crew left.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office said deputies were sent to the Bonanza Creek Ranch film set after 911 calls at 1:50 p.m. Thursday. Baldwin starred in the film and was one of the producers.
No charges have been filed, but the sheriff’s office said “witnesses continue to be interviewed by detectives.”
Baldwin said on Friday he was “fully cooperating with the police investigation” into the incident.
“There are no words to express my shock and sadness over the tragic accident that claimed the life of Halyna Hutchins, a deeply admired wife, mother and colleague,” Baldwin wrote in a series of tweets on Friday.
Production was stopped on the film.
In an email to its members, Local 44 of the International Alliance of Theater Workers, a union that represents prop masters, said the gunshot that killed Hutchins and injured Souza on Thursday was “one shot live”.
“As many of us have heard before, there was an accidental gun discharge on a production called Rust being filmed in New Mexico,” the North Hollywood-based local said. “Only one live bullet was accidentally fired onto set by the lead actor, hitting both cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, a member of Local 600, and director Joel Souza. Both were rushed to hospital, ”the email said. The New Mexico-based crew were represented by another local.
A source close to the union said Local 44 did not know what projectile was in the weapon and clarified that “alive” is an industry term that refers to a firearm loaded with material such as this. than a blank ready for filming.
Bonanza Creek Ranch has been a popular filming location for over 60 years. The first film to be shot there was “The Man From Laramie”, starring Jimmy Stewart. It was also the setting for “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” and the popular television show “Longmire”.
One of the financiers of “Rust” is the Santa Monica-based lender BondIt Media Capital, founded in 2013 by Matthew Helderman and Luke Taylor. According to its website, BondIt finances films through instruments such as side loans, bridging loans and tax credits.
The company has primarily funded low-budget films, including Bruce Willis’ action film “Hard Kill”, Charlotte Kirk’s horror film “The Reckoning” and Robert De Niro’s upcoming film “Wash Me in the River “, directed by Randall Emmett.
BondIt has been particularly active during the COVID-19 pandemic, stepping in to fill funding gaps as independent producers struggled to find support for films during the public health crisis.
Times editors Wendy Lee, Anousha Sakoui, Ryan Faughnder, Richard Winton, Josh Rottenberg and Scott Wilson contributed to this report.