Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — Production on the movie “Rust” remained suspended as investigations continued into the on-set shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins by a prop weapon fired by film star/producer Alec Baldwin, while new reports surfaced about activities that led up to the tragic mishap.
Citing an unnamed individual familiar with the production, The Wrap reported Oct. 25 that on the morning of the shooting, some crew members took prop guns — including the one that killed Halyna Hutchins — from the New Mexico set of the film and used them to go target shooting with live ammunition.
The unnamed source described the practice as “plinking,” with crew members shooting at tin cans to pass the time.
The producers of the film sent an email to crew members announcing that filming was suspended as various investigations into the shooting continued.
“As we go through this crisis, we have made the decision to wrap the set at least until the investigations are complete,” the producers said in an email sent to crew members Oct. 24 and obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
“Although our hearts are broken, and it is hard to see beyond the horizon, this is, at the moment, a pause rather than an end. The spirit that brought us all to this special place remains,” the email said. “Our hearts are with all of you, as we all go through this tragic time and mourn the loss of our colleague and dear friend, Halyna Hutchins. We are family and we must stand beside each other as families do in difficult times.”
Baldwin, 63, was rehearsing a scene outside a church on the set south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Oct. 21 when he discharged the prop weapon, killing the 42-year-old Hutchins and injuring the film’s director, Joel Souza, 48.
The Associated Press obtained an affidavit in support of a search warrant in Santa Fe, New Mexico Oct. 22, in which investigators stated that first assistant director Dave Halls picked up one of three guns from a mobile cart that had been prepared by the production’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed.
Halls allegedly declared “cold gun,” meaning the weapon was not loaded, as he was handing it to Baldwin. The shooting occurred moments later.
Local 44 of the IATSE, the union representing prop masters, sent its members an email after the shooting saying “a live single round was accidentally fired on set” by Baldwin.
CNN reported Oct. 25 that Halls was fired from a previous film production, the 2019 film “Freedom’s Path,” after a gun “unexpectedly discharged” on set, injuring a sound crew member. In a statement to CNN, that film’s production company, Rocket Soul Studios, said Halls was terminated and he was “very remorseful” about what had occurred and “understood the reasons he was being terminated.”
The death of Hutchins renewed concerns about on-set safety. A half-dozen camera crew workers had walked off the “Rust” set hours before the fatal shooting, protesting working conditions, including long hours, safety conditions and issues getting their paychecks. According to multiple reports, Hutchins had been advocating for safer conditions for her team.
One person who was on the set told The Times there had been three previous misfires involving the prop gun on the set.
The “Rust” production company issued a statement saying, “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.”
A crew member on the film, Serge Svetnoy, took to Facebook and said the shooting was the result of “negligence and unprofessionalism” on the set.
“The negligence from the person who was supposed to check the weapon on the site did not do this; the person who had to announce that the loaded gun was on the site did not do this; the person who should have checked this weapon before bringing it to the set did not do it,” Svetnoy wrote.
A GoFundMe page established by the International Cinematographers Guild Local 600 to benefit Hutchins’ family — her husband Matthew and 9-year-old son, Andros — had raised nearly $212,000 as of Oct. 25, far surpassing its original $10,000 goal.
Hutchins was remembered Oct. 24 at a candlelight vigil in Burbank. A vigil also was held Oct. 23 at the Albuquerque Civic Plaza in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Baldwin has expressed “shock and sadness” over the death.
“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,” Baldwin wrote on his Twitter page.
“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 Haylna.”