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Total Disaster: We Know What Happened Prior to Alec Baldwin’s Accidental Shooting of Cinematographer

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Will they even finish this movie? First, the tragic shooting death during the production of Rust seems to have been a disaster in the making. Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed the film’s cinematographer and director this week. The cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, was killed in the incident. Director Joel Souza was injured. It was an eerie throwback to the tragic death of Brandon Lee on the set of 1994’s The Crow in which he too was killed by a prop gun. Yet, there were other issues that plagued what appears to be a nightmare production. 


The crew walked off set days before this deadly accident. There were complaints about the hours, the working conditions, paychecks, and safety measures. Since this accidental shooting, there are more leaks than the Iraqi Navy concerning what went down during this shoot. It’s a busted pipe. The prop guns weren’t checked properly—I mean, serious allegations here. Reportedly, nothing was followed per regulations. The LA Times had the story, along with a retelling of the tragic shooting death of Ms. Hutchins:

The camera operators and their assistants were frustrated by the conditions surrounding the low-budget film, including complaints about long hours, long commutes and collecting their paychecks, according to three people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment.

Safety protocols standard in the industry, including gun inspections, were not strictly followed on the “Rust” set near Santa Fe, the sources said. They said at least one of the camera operators complained last weekend to a production manager about gun safety on the set.

Three crew members who were present at the Bonanza Creek Ranch set on Saturday said they were particularly concerned about two accidental prop gun discharges.

Baldwin’s stunt double accidentally fired two rounds Saturday after being told that the gun was “cold” — lingo for a weapon that doesn’t have any ammunition, including blanks — two crew members who witnessed the episode told the Los Angeles Times.

“There should have been an investigation into what happened,” the crew member said. “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 colleague was so alarmed by the prop gun misfires that he sent a text message to the unit production manager. “We’ve now had 3 accidental discharges. This is super unsafe,” according to a copy of the message reviewed by The Times.


Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was huddled around a monitor lining up her next camera shot when she was accidentally killed by the prop gun fired by Baldwin.

The actor was preparing to film a scene in which he pulls a gun out of a holster, according to a source close to the production. Crew members had already shouted “cold gun” on the set. The filmmaking team was lining up its camera angles and had yet to retreat to the video village, an on-set area where the crew gathers to watch filming from a distance via a monitor.

Instead, the B-camera operator was on a dolly with a monitor, checking out the potential shots. Hutchins was also looking at the monitor from over the operator’s shoulder, as was the movie’s director, Joel Souza, who was crouching just behind her.

Baldwin removed the gun from its holster once without incident, but the second time he repeated the action, ammunition flew toward the trio around the monitor. The projectile whizzed by the camera operator but penetrated Hutchins near her shoulder, then continued through to Souza. Hutchins immediately fell to the ground as crew members applied pressure to her wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

Late Friday, the Associated Press reported that Baldwin was handed a loaded weapon by an assistant director who indicated it was safe to use in the moments before the actor fired it, according to court records. The assistant director did not know the prop gun was loaded with live rounds, according to a search warrant filed in a Santa Fe County court.

The person in charge of overseeing the gun props, known as the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, could not be reached for comment. The 24-year-old is the daughter of veteran armorer Thell Reed and had recently completed her first film as the head armorer for the movie “The Old Way,” with Clint Howard and Nicolas Cage.


It's a western movie whose plot is centered on accidental death. Well, the picture just came to life, but it’s more of a horror movie. Also, it seems the working conditions mirrored that of the era. Always treat any firearms, prop or not, as loaded, and deadly. That should have been the number one rule. If this pans out, what the hell was going on here? Unlike The Crow, can this small picture survive? Will it move forward? Will there be criminal charges relating to the alleged safety lapses? Lawsuits are coming. 

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