New Mexico Film and TV Union Criticizes ‘Rust’ Producers for Using Non-Union Crew

FILE - This Oct. 23, 2021, file photo, shows the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M., where actor Alec Baldwin pulled the trigger on a prop gun while filming “Rust” and unwittingly killed a cinematographer and injured a director. Experts predict a tremendous legal fallout. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

A leading film and television union in New Mexico has criticized the producers of “Rust” for replacing workers with non-union members and for ignoring complaints about conditions on the set of the Western. The statement by IATSE Local 480 comes in the wake of a fatal accident during filming of “Rust” last week, in which a gun handled by the film’s star and producer Alec Baldwin accidentally discharged killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza.

The incident occurred at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Baldwin was rehearsing a quick draw and had been told he was handling an unloaded gun.

“We have been greatly disturbed by media reports that the producers employed non-union persons in craft positions and, worse, used them to replace skilled union members who were protesting their working conditions,” the union said in a statement. “That is inexcusable. We are all awaiting the results of the investigation and are cooperating fully with the relevant authorities. In the meantime, we ask the public and media to respect our members’ privacy as they grieve this horrific event.”

In the wake of the accident, the Los Angeles Times released a report stating that members of the film’s camera crew walked off the job in protest over conditions and unsafe practices. The Times went on to report that they were replaced with nonunion crew members. It’s also emerged that the production suffered two misfires with prop weapons before Hutchins was shot. Law enforcement officials have yet to release the results of their investigation, and Santa Fe sheriffs are holding a news conference Wednesday. “Rust” has halted production until the investigation is concluded.

“The officers, members, and staff of IATSE Local 480 express their deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Local 600 member Halyna Hutchins,” the union’s statement reads. “We are devastated by the death of our union sister who is remembered as a leader amongst her peers, a talented and rising star in her craft as a Director of Photography, and as a wife and mother. Her death should never have happened. Union sets should be safe sets. We mourn collectively with our union and film community over this great loss.”

According to its website, IATSE Local 480 represents film technicians working below-the-line on TV and movie productions in New Mexico. These represent workers in 99 crafts over 20 departments. However, IATSE Local 600 – International Cinematographers Guild is the local that would have repped the camera crew members who walked off the job.

In addition, at a press conference on Tuesday, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said that if the film industry itself doesn’t put greater on-set safety measures in place, the state government will.

“My expectation is the industry better step up and identify any number of additional improvements and safeguards,” Lujan Grisham said, as reported by the Albuquerque Journal. “If the industry doesn’t come forward with very specific accountable safeguards, they should expect that we will.”

A spokesperson for the “Rust” production did not respond to a request for comment.