Crew expressed safety fears ahead of fatal shooting on set of Alec Baldwin film

Hours before actor Alec Baldwin fired a fatal shot from a propeller pistol he had been told he was sure of, a crew from the movie he was filming left work to protest the conditions and production issues that included safety issues.

Disputes over the production of the western film Rust began almost as early as early October and culminated with the departure of seven crew members hours before cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, was killed.

Crew members had expressed dissatisfaction over issues ranging from security procedures to their accommodation, according to one of those who left.

During a rehearsal on the set of the film at Bonanza Creek Ranch outside Santa Fe on Thursday, the gun Baldwin used was one of three that a gun specialist, or “gunsmith,” had placed on a cart outside the building where a scene was being rehearsed. , according to court records.

The documents indicate that an assistant director, Dave Halls, grabbed a propeller pistol from the cart and handed it to Baldwin, mistakenly indicating that the weapon did not contain live ammunition while shouting “Cold gun”.

When Baldwin pulled the trigger, he unintentionally killed Ms. Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza, who was standing behind her inside a wooden chapel-like building.

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was gunned down on the set of Rust after an assistant director unwittingly handed actor Alec Baldwin a loaded gun and told him it was safe to use (Andres Leighton / AP)

Baldwin, 63, known for his roles in 30 Rock and The Hunt For Red October as well as his impressions of former President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live, called the murder a “tragic accident.” He was a producer on Rust.

A 911 call that alerted authorities to the shooting hints at panic on set, as detailed in a recording released by the Santa Fe County Regional Emergency Communications Center.

“We have had two people accidentally shot on set by a propeller pistol, we need help immediately,” screenplay supervisor Mamie Mitchell told an emergency dispatcher. “We were rehearsing and it went off, and I ran out, we all ran out.”

The call manager asked if the gun was loaded with a real bullet.

“I can’t tell you. We have two injuries,” Ms. Mitchell replied. “And that (expletive) AD (assistant director) who yelled at me at lunch, asking me for revisions… He’s supposed to check the weapons He is responsible for what happens on the set.

Court records indicate Mr Halls seized the gun from the cart and brought it to the actor, also unaware it was loaded with live ammunition, a detective wrote in a search warrant request.

It is not known how many shots were fired. Gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez removed a casing from the gun after the shooting and turned the gun over to police upon their arrival, court records show.

Weapons used in making movies are sometimes real guns that can fire either bullets or blank bullets, which are charges of gunpowder meant to produce little more than lightning and a bang.

New Mexico workplace safety investigators are examining whether film industry standards for gun safety were met during production of Rust.

Set of gun films
Crew members working on Rust at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe had raised safety concerns (Jae C Hong / AP)

The Los Angeles Times, citing two crew members it did not name, reported that five days before the shooting, Baldwin’s stuntman accidentally fired two live ammunition after learning the weapon had no ammunition.

A crew member alarmed by the misfires said in a text message to a unit production manager: “We have now had 3 accidental discharges. It’s super dangerous, ”according to a copy of the post reviewed by the newspaper.

The New York Times also reported that there had been at least two previous accidental firearm discharges, citing three former crew members.

Ms Mitchell, the script supervisor, told The Associated Press that she was standing next to Ms Hutchins when the cinematographer was shot.

“I ran out and called 911 and said ‘Bring everyone, send everyone,” she said. “This woman left early in her career. She was an extraordinary, rare, very rare woman.

Filmmaker Mr. Souza, who was shot in the shoulder, said in a statement to NBC News he was grateful for the support he was receiving and “gutted” by the loss of Ms. Hutchins.

“She was kind, dynamic, incredibly talented, fought for every inch and always pushed me to be better,” he said.

Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said prosecutors would review the evidence of the shooting and were unsure whether charges would be laid.

Set of gun films
Candles are placed around the panels during a candlelight vigil for cinematographer Halyna Hutchins (Jae C Hong / AP)

During a vigil on Saturday, around 200 employees of the film crew gathered for a sunset candlelight vigil. They shared the grief of losing one of their own and the fear of accidents on their own sets.

Several people in attendance lit candles, observed a minute’s silence, read poetry and made brief comments, including a testimonial to Ms. Hutchins’ artistic spark and generosity.

“Her death shouldn’t have happened, the union sets should be safe sets,” said Liz Pecos, president of IATSE Local 480.

Rust’s production was halted after filming.

The crew member who spoke to the AP said he had never witnessed any formal orientation on the weapons used on set, which would normally take place before filming began.

He also said that only minimal precautions against Covid-19 had been taken, although the crew and cast members often worked in small, enclosed spaces on the ranch.

The crew were initially accommodated at the Courtyard by Marriott in Santa Fe, according to the crew member. Four days later, however, they were told they would be transferred to the economy Coyote South hotel. Some crew members were reluctant to stay there.

“We packed our gear and left that morning,” the crew member said of Thursday’s walkout.

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