On October 22, 2021, security guards and compliance officers at Bonanza Creek Ranch in New Mexico injured director Alec Baldwin after he fatally shot cinematographer Halina Hutchins and fired a propeller gun. This is a film set.
Adria Malcolm | Reuters
Injuries and deaths from prop firearms are extremely rare, but Thursday’s accidental killing of Harina Hutchins on the set of the Santefe film prompted inquiries about the working conditions of the Hollywood crew.
“I’ve been in the industry for 21 years,” said Kevin Williams, supervisor of the props division at the UCLA Theatre, Film and Television School. “I’ve never heard of a situation like this, so it’s definitely one of these things, and while it sounds like a cliché, it actually sounds like an unusual accident.”
The firing status is being investigated. Actor Alec Baldwin fires a prop gun on the western “Last” set at Bonanza Creek Ranch, killing the cinematographer and injuring director Joel Sousa. I confirmed that I had permission to do it.
Soja was then discharged. There is no fee. The sheriff’s office in Santa Fe County did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
It is not yet clear what happened on Thursday, but many in the industry have started asking about working conditions on the sets. These questions are asked as the International Alliance of Theatrical Film and Theater trade unions work with the Union of Film and Television Producers to end a new three-year contract.
“I’ve been asked to come back in 6 hours after working 18 to 20 hours on a project,” Williams said.
Crew protested working conditions
The IATSE issued a statement Friday, addressing Hutchins’ death and encouraging union members to contact the union’s safety hotline if they feel unsafe in the area.
“Our alliance with Harina’s family, friends and the crew of ‘Rust’ mourns this indescribable loss,” the statement said. “Every day, each of us needs constant vigilance to create a culture of safety. If you see something, say something.”
The union declined to comment further.
A person familiar with the matter told NBC News that six camera crew workers had left the set “rusty” to protest working conditions hours before the shooting. Among his concerns were multiple misfires in the prop gun.
Last Friday, the Los Angeles Times quoted three unnamed people involved in the production and reported that the crew was dissatisfied with the long hours of production. He also claimed that there were two prop gun misfires last week and Saturday.
“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 to CNBC. “We have not been notified of any official complaints about the safety of the weapons and props in the set, but we will conduct an internal review of the process once production ceases.”
Rust Productions is cooperating with Santa Fe authorities in the investigation.
“Possible System Failure”
Hollywood works generally follow strict safety measures for stunt work, especially when it comes to the safety of weapons and props. The industry-wide Labor Protection Commission creates and distributes breaking news on best practices for television and film production.
“The blank can be struck,” reads the first newspaper. “Treat all firearms as if they were loaded. Do not use “live ammunition” or bring them to a studio parcel or stage.”
These guidelines are recommendations and may not apply to reality shows such as “Mythbusters” and “Top Shots” where live rounds are used for scientific theory testing and shooting competitions.
“It’s clear that with the hands of experienced armorers and props it is really easy to differentiate between blank and live ammunition,” Williams said. “I can’t imagine anyone saying ‘oops’ and putting it out there.”
He also stated that all cast and crew involved in the firearm stunt would be accompanied by a safety demonstration, instructed that prop weapons should not be aimed at other actors or crew. He said that if the director wanted to shoot the weapon fired at the camera, ballistic shield would be used.
“Many security measures have been taken. “If it turns out that a live round was loaded into an old weapon and it turns out that’s how it happened, you need to understand why.”
It’s a “potential failure of the system,” Williams said.
Alec Baldwin’s deadly prop gun shooting raises questions about working conditions
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