The first reports stated that a prop gun was “misfired” and “two crew members” were injured on the set of Rust, a Western starring Alec Baldwin that is currently filming in New Mexico. Last night, though, more details emerged. Baldwin discharged the gun, and the two crew members involved were director Joel Souza, who was in critical condition as of Thursday night, and cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was pronounced dead at the hospital. This is, obviously, a horrible tragedy. And for those of us old enough to remember, it will take its place alongside the accidental on-set shooting of Brandon Lee, which also resulted in his death; and the deaths of Vic Morrow, Myca Dinh Le, and Renee Shinn Chen on Twilight Zone: The Movie; and also the more recent death of second assistant camerawoman Sarah Jones on Midnight Rider, who was struck by a train while filming on a trestle bridge (the production had not been given permission to film on the bridge by CSX, the rail company that owned it). Movie sets are idealized as glamorous, exciting places, but this is a stark reminder that they are also dangerous work sites.
Iâ€™m so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set. She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely committed to art and to film. â¤ï¸ pic.twitter.com/vcdFqHsGA0— Adam Egypt Mortimer (@adamegypt) October 22, 2021
No charges have been filed, but there is an investigation into the incident. With the IATSE strike so recently averted (probably, members still have to ratify the new contract and not everyone is happy with the terms), set and personnel safety is fresh in everyone’s minds. Accidents happen, and there is always a margin for human error when it comes to stunts, but this sounds like a very serious incident. There are going to be some big questions asked about what happened, how it happened, and what safety measures can be extrapolated to stop it happening again.
This is part of a larger conversation about worker safety that hasn’t really taken hold outside the crew community. The horrific accidents make it into the news (sometimes), but the injuries that result from the daily grind never do, though social media has given crew a place to share their stories. It shouldn’t take a tragedy to bring worker safety to the forefront, but we’re sure to be talking about this in the days and weeks to come as more details about what happened on the set of Rust are confirmed (there is a lot of unconfirmed info circulating right now). Our thoughts are with Halyna Hutchins’ family and friends, and with Joel Souza, and Alec Baldwin and everyone on set who was party to this trauma. This is a safety failure of unthinkable proportions. Making a movie shouldn’t cost anyone their life.
Rest in peace, Halyna Hutchins. pic.twitter.com/XxaHIzrGva— Screen Queens @ #TIFF23 (@screenqueenz) October 22, 2021
Live long and gossip,