An actor filed a grievance on Tuesday accusing Allan Graf, the stunt coordinator on “Rust,” of engaging in unsafe practices involving firearms on the set of a different Western film two months ago.
Shawn-Caulin Young worked on “Dead for a Dollar,” which was filmed in New Mexico in August and was directed by Walter Hill. Young alleges that while positioned off-camera, he was repeatedly hit in the face with small shrapnel and gunpowder debris. Graf was serving as the both the stunt coordinator for that film and is also listed on IMDb as its second unit director.
Young filed the complaint with SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents actors. In an interview, he told Variety that he decided to come forward after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed by a live round on the set of “Rust” near Santa Fe last week.
Graf is credited as the stunt coordinator on “Rust,” but affidavits from the scene have not mentioned him playing any role in the events leading up to the tragedy. The investigation has focused on two other crew members, first assistant director David Halls and armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed. Halls is said to have shouted “cold gun” before handing a weapon off to actor Alec Baldwin, who fired the fatal shot while rehearsing a scene.
But in his grievance, Young alleges that Graf failed to properly supervise the stunts on “Dead for a Dollar.” Young states that the production did not initially provide him with protection for his eyes and ears when using pyrotechnics and explosives.
Carolyn McMaster, a producer on “Dead for a Dollar,” and Scott Corban Sikman, the film’s first assistant director, disputed Young’s allegations.
“I am very proud of all the safety protocols on our set,” said McMaster, who also noted that said she was not on the set when the incident allegedly occurred. “I completely understand that tensions are high and people are stressed and people are worried, but to find something on another film and compare it to what happened on our film isn’t right. We did things professionally and we did things the right way.”
In a statement to Variety, the producers of “Dead for a Dollar” reiterated that the production took safety measures seriously. “Shawn-Caulin Young, a member of the cast of ‘Dead for a Dollar,’ was a day-player who worked on August 2nd 2021,” the statement reads. “His claim, filed on 26th October – almost three months later, is the first time such a grievance has been raised. The Producers and all associated with the production of the movie strongly deny any allegation that safety requirements were not fully met and adhered to at all times.”
Graf did not respond to interview requests, but through a spokesperson for “Dead for a Dollar” he declined comment and referred Variety to the producers’ statement. SAG-AFTRA also did not respond to a request for comment.
In the incident involving gunpowder debris, Young said that he was placed off to the side in order to serve as a “target,” or sightline, for another performer. Sikman said that Young needed to stand there because his shoulder was in frame.
After he was hit with the debris and small bits of shrapnel, Young said that he and a camera operator became upset. In his grievance, he states that he and the camera operator were “publicly shamed.” The grievance goes on to claim that Graf was “hostile on set.”
In an interview, Young said he overheard Graf calling him a “pussy.” When he complained, he alleges Graf told him: “What’s your problem… you freaked out.”
“It’s Allan’s job is to make sure that the shots that involve stunts are as safe as possible and he didn’t think about pulling me out of the scene or providing me with protective gear,” Young said.
Sikman said that Young and the camera operator were 20 feet from the actor who was shooting the firearm and said the gun was not pointed at either person. After the initial set-up, he said both men said they had been hit with debris, so the team moved the actor and cameraman back an additional five feet. Sikman also said that the cast and crew were offered safety glasses and ear protection and that the members of the camera department were outfitted with Duvetyne masks as an additional precaution.
“We did two more takes and there were no incidents,” he said.
John Farner, an armorer on “Dead for a Dollar,” said he remembered a camera operator complaining about being hit with debris, but said that no actors complained to him.
“I know how to keep people safe,” he said. “No one got injured on the production.”
Two other people who were on set on that day, but declined to be named, corroborated the details of Young’s account. They described an “unnerving” atmosphere, one in which blanks were fired to create a smoke effect, and said they felt it was unnecessary. Farner acknowledged that the crew had shot blanks at the floorboards of the saloon where the scene was taking place in order to create smoke, but said that Graf had told him it was common practice on other films he had made with Hill, the director of “Dead for a Dollar” and the filmmaker behind Westerns and action movies such as “48 Hrs.” and “Wild Bill.”
“Allan told me they did it on all of the movies they’d made,” said Farner. “He said it creates atmosphere.”
Young claims he was supposed to work two days on the set of “Dead for a Dollar,” but he was not brought back for his second day after he asked for a pay increase for stunt work. In an email to Variety, McMaster disputed that. “That scene was rescheduled several times over many weeks and eventually moved to 2nd unit,” she wrote. “This happens all the time, he was not needed.”
Young said he was stunned to learn about the “Rust” shooting, and said it made him wish that he had spoken up sooner about his own experience.
“I was in shock and then I proceeded to have a full blown PTSD panic attack,” he said. “The first thing that went through my mind was that could have been me. I thought to myself, ‘Shawn, because you were so scared and afraid to say something, and because you were afraid that speaking up might hurt your career or your chance to work, you are partly responsible.'”
Young argues that SAG-AFTRA needs to do more to educate actors about their rights when it comes to being in scenes with firearms.
“There is no industry standard,” he said. “There are no set protocols. It’s different on different sets and nobody trains you about your rights at SAG. We need systemic change from the top down.”
Graf is a veteran stunt coordinator, and has worked on the likes of “Deadwood,” “Any Given Sunday” and “Muppets Most Wanted.” Young’s credits include “True Detective,” “Godless,” and “Santa Clarita Diet.”