As the industry grapples with the tragic on-set death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, a picture is emerging of a low-budget film set that was already chaotic before the fatal accident occurred.
Several IATSE crew members on the New Mexico set of the Western “Rust,” where cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed Thursday by a prop gun shot by Alec Baldwin, reportedly quit the production because they felt producers were not following safety guidelines, according to numerous reports.
“Rust” began shooting Oct. 6 at Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, and crew members had been observing safety problems for several days.
Several crew members walked off the set due to concerns over gun safety procedures, other safety issues and COVID protocols not being followed. The production had also allegedly refused to pay for hotel rooms in pricey Santa Fe, asking some crew members to stay in Albuquerque instead, a one-hour drive from the ranch.
Producers called security on the crew members who submitted their resignations to ask them to leave the location. The fatal shooting is said to have occurred about six hours after the union crew members left. After the accident, a 911 caller was heard telling a crew member they were supposed to check the guns and placing the blame on them, TMZ reported.
Hutchins and the Steadicam operator were the only original crew members who remained in the camera and electrical departments, and the other positions had been replaced with non-union members, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
A crew member said there had already been other prop gun misfires before Thursday’s fatal accident, the L.A. Times reported.
There have also been social media posts from people identifying themselves as members of the “Rust” crew that claim the production was poorly funded and lacked sufficient oversight.
The “Rust” producers released a statement Friday saying they were not aware of complaints, but would conduct an “internal review” of procedures. “The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company. Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down. We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time,” read the statement from Rust Movie Productions LLC.
The New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau released a statement saying it is investigating the incident. “On Thursday evening, the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau (OHSB) learned through the New Mexico Film Office of a workplace fatality and an injury to a second person that occurred during filming on a movie set in Santa Fe County. The production company reported the fatality and injury to OHSB last night, in accordance with workplace safety laws. OHSB is investigating the incident in coordination with law enforcement, the employer, and employees. No additional information will be released at this time, pending completion of the investigation.”