Details about the tragic accidental gun discharge on the set of the low-budget Western Rust are still emerging, painting a damning portrait of an industry that doesn’t do right by its employees. On Thursday, star Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun that was reportedly loaded. It resulted in the wounding of director Joel Souza and the killing of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Now we’re learning that conditions on set were already febrile beforehand, and that it wasn’t even the first time a prop gun had gone off.
According to The Los Angeles Times, sources from the Santa Fe set said that, hours before the shooting, a half dozen camera crew members had walked off the set in protest of terrible working conditions, including “long hours, long commutes and waiting for their paychecks.”
What’s more, safety protocols, including gun safety inspections, were not being strictly followed. Last Saturday, mere days before the fatal shooting, there had even been another accidental discharge:
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,” a 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.
The person in charge of the gun props, known as the armorer, was 24-year-old Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the daughter of a veteran armorer and who had recently completed The Old Way, with Clint Howard and Nicolas Cage. She could not be reached for comment by the Times.
Meanwhile, crew members were forced to make alarmingly long commutes. They had been promised that they would receive hotel rooms in a nearby Santa Fe hotel.
But after filming began, the crews were told they instead would be required to make the 50-mile drive from Albuquerque each day, rather than stay overnight in nearby Santa Fe. That rankled crew members who worried that they might have an accident after spending 12 to 13 hours on the set.
Hutchins had been reportedly advocating for better conditions for her crew. When they walked off, she was heartbroken about how badly they’d been treated. “She said, ‘I feel like I’m losing my best friends,’” a source told the Times.
(Via The Los Angeles Times)