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5 UNSAFE incidents on 'Rust' set that may have led to Halyna Hutchins' tragic death

The working conditions were so appalling that the crew had staged a walkout on the very day of the shooting incident, hours before the mishap
UPDATED OCT 25, 2021
Halyna Hutchins was a Ukrainian cinematographer working on 'Rust' (Instagram/IATSE)
Halyna Hutchins was a Ukrainian cinematographer working on 'Rust' (Instagram/IATSE)

The tragic death of Halyna Hutchins due to a prop gun mishap on the set of Alec Baldwin's film 'Rust', has caused quite the stir in Hollywood. The accident prompted more productions to look into the safety protocols and work ethics followed on their movie sets. As the investigation into the Ukrainian cinematographer's death continues, more crucial details have unfolded which indicate how lack of safety on 'Rust' set might have claimed the life of Halyna Hutchins.

The Los Angeles Times reported on October 22 that "Safety protocols standard in the industry, including gun inspections, were not strictly followed on the 'Rust' set,' according to sources. In fact, the working conditions were so appalling that the crew had staged a walkout on the very day of the shooting incident, hours before the mishap. While the accident that killed Hutchins occurred on October 21, it appears the concerns go way back.

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Rust crew walked out in protest hours before the shooting

Barely hours before Baldwin accidentally fatally shot Halyna Hutchins due to the prop gun misfire, over six camera crew members and a cinematographer had walked out of the set in protest of the existing working conditions. Complaints were aplenty regarding long hours, delay with paychecks and questionable safety precautions. 

In fact, one of  Hutchins' last Instagram posts was a repost from 'Rust' actress Frances Fisher, where she expressed her solidarity with the protesting crew members. "Standing in #IAsolidarity with our @IATSE crew here in New Mexico on RUST," the caption read.


Protesting crew members were immediately replaced by non-union crew

While the camera crew was assembling their gear on the day of the protest, they were replaced by several nonunion crew members. In fact, one of the producers reportedly threatened to call security on the union crew members if they did not leave the set voluntarily. "Corners were being cut — and they brought in nonunion people so they could continue shooting," a person from the set commented. Barely six hours later, the fatal accident took place. 

Camera operator complained to production about gun safety a week ago

Gun inspections were not properly conducted on the low-budget film set. In fact, according to Los Angeles Times, one of the camera operators had earlier complained to a production manager about gun safety issues on the set. "We’ve now had 3 accidental discharges. This is super unsafe,” the complaint read.

Three other crew members also expressed their safety concerns after Baldwin's stunt double accidentally fired two rounds from a prop gun which was believed to be "cold", i.e, without ammunition. “There were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. All they wanted to do was rush, rush, rush," a crew member shared. 

Halyna Hutchins advocated for her crew's safety

Crew members were mandated to spend over 12 to 13 hours on the set and then drive back 50 miles from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, where their staying arrangements were made. Despite repeated appeals, the production did not take any step to arrange their overnight stay in and around Santa Fe. 

Hutchins had particularly advocated for safer working conditions for her fellow crew members. In fact, she was in tears when the camera crew walked out in protest, on the very day of her fatal shooting. "She said, ‘I feel like I’m losing my best friends,'" recalled one of her co-workers.

Alec Baldwin ignored the Golden Rule of gun safety

Experts have claimed that Baldwin ignored the golden rule of gun safety by pointing the prop at someone and also said the gun should never have been loaded with live ammunition in the first place. "There should have never been live rounds on a movie set, that's number one. Number two is every single person on a movie set has a right to inspect a weapon before it's fired. And number three is, there is no reason to ever put a person in front of a weapon that's firing," Zak Knight, a pyrotechnic and special effects engineer who is a member of Local 44, said.