Last Updated on October 22, 2021
Actor Alec Baldwin apparently hired a non-unionized “local crew” for his “lower budget” film Rust that launched the sequence of events that led to the anti-Trump, anti-gun actor shooting and killing a cinematographer while on set of the Western movie.
Baldwin, who is producing the movie and thus may face lawsuits over the death and injury sustained yesterday, apparently hired a non-union “local crew” for the film Rust. At present, the origin of the gun used for the prop is unknown.
Tobey Bays, a prop and set artist and agent for a Hollywood who spoke to The Daily Beast regarding the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, explained to the publication that propmasters “only put the amount of blanks into the gun that are meant to be shot in the scene.” Bays added, “They’re pretty strict, they’ll always yell out, ‘Gun is hot!’ before they hand it over to the actor.”
The publication noted that virtually all movie props come from “two major armorers in Los Angeles.” According to Bays, “a proper round would not work in any of those guns.” He also told the publication that the Rust shoot was “lower budget.”
Bays also noted that the film had not hired a propmaster or armorer from his union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the de facto union for this profession that boasts 150,000 members and has continued to grow even as private sector union participation has lagged throughout the late 20th and 21st centuries.
Bays speculated, “I don’t know where this gun could’ve come from, if it came from a private owner and wasn’t fitted for entertainment weaponry?”
Richard Howell, of a New York based production studio, explained that “It’s up to that armorer company to prepare the firearms a day or two before and test fire them.” He added that movie and television sets are typically “a very controlled environment” where propmasters “have to do risk assessments.”
Perhaps indicating Baldwin could have been acting inappropriately when handling the prop weapon, theatrical firearms instructor Rob Hunter explained the typical process for handling such a gun:
“Rule number one, when you’re doing these rehearsals, the firearm, even though it has blanks, it’s never fired at anybody, the angles are always cheated,” Howell says. “Those angles always look to the viewer as though it’s directed at them, but it isn’t, it’s always aimed off. So, the actors train, train, train, and then when the armorer decides that rehearsal is fine and lets everybody know, then you go ahead. So, it’s very, very controlled—health and safety risk assessments before you get there, and everybody is aware when there are live firearms on the set firing blanks.”
“We never point that barrel at another actor, even if it’s a gun that has a block barrel, it’s just good training,” Hunter added. “If you don’t point a gun at another human, it won’t kill them. You’re never supposed to have live ammunition on the set, but just because there’s no live ammunition does not mean that something can get in the barrel of a gun and become a projectile.”
Hunter added that the weapon “should go from a hand that knows the gun is operating safely and is loaded [or] unloaded” to the actor, thus creating an “unbroken chain of knowledge” between those who know the weapon is safe to handle. He also added that the actor is never meant to point the weapon at another person, even if the scene calls for it, until after several rounds of rehearsals.
“We don’t know, did Alec Baldwin pick up a gun that he shouldn’t have picked up and was it not ready to fire? He’s the producer and is someone afraid to tell him not to pick that up?”
Originally it was reported that the death was caused by “the misfire of a prop gun with blanks.” The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office released a statement explaining that both Hutchins and director Joel Souza “were shot when a prop firearm was discharged by Alec Baldwin.”
Hutchins was evacuated via helicopter but was pronounced dead at the hospital. Souza was transported to an area hospital via an ambulance and is being treated for his gunshot injury.
Baldwin has been mocked for a 2017 tweet about a police shooting in which he wondered what it would feel like to kill someone unjustly. The police officer Baldwin referred to in his tweet was eventually found to have acted appropriately.