On October 25, 2021 Halyana Hutchsons, an award-winning cinematographer on Alec Baldwin’s film ‘Rust,’ tragically passed away from a gunshot wound in the chest on set. The same bullet that was fired also wounded the director on set Joel Souza. This fatal mistake can be chalked up to the crew’s carelessness and rushing to get a scene in.
As Alec Baldwin was getting set up for his scene in his independent western movie, he pointed his real .45 Long Colt revolver towards the camera and fired the gun. While shooting the gun, it should never be pointed or directed at anyone — this rule was not followed on set. Typically the cinematographer is near the camera watching the set-up of the shot, the closeness of Halyana to the lens was unfortunate. Baldwin was assured that the .45 Long Colt revolver didn’t have any ammo or any real ammunition. Typically in Hollywood, there is almost never any use of real ammo in prop guns, which makes the calamity even more questionable on how the gun was loaded with live rounds.
The real guns on set are supposed to be loaded with blanks or pellets; if the gun is loaded at all. It is fairly easy to edit the effects of a gunshot in post-production according to Daniel Leonard, the associate dean of Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.
The process to make certain that the gun has no ammunition is extensive. Whenever there is a real gun onset, a weapons master must be present during the shooting. Prior to use of the gun, there must be a test fire to make sure that the gun is not loaded and the weapons master or prop master must check the barrels to see that there is no danger.
There has been loose speculation with nothing confirmed, that the prop master made sure that the .45 Long Colt revolver was “cold” meaning no ammo was in the gun, before a break. Then during the break, some crew members were playing with the gun with live ammunition. The crew members must’ve thought they properly unloaded the gun and it was still “cold,” not checking the barrels to see if any ammunition was caught or any gunpowder was left in the gun. After the break, the crew assumed the gun was still “cold,” not going through the process of firing the gun and checking the barrels. The inspection of the gun is something that has to be done before and after breaks.
Many factors lead to this devastation, the crew, including the producers and assistant directors, should not have been in such a rush or careless to not check the gun before the scene. The weapon master on set claims in reports that she “has no idea how live ammunition got in the gun,” the weapon master’s attorney assures.
No criminal charges have been filed for the death of Halyna Hutchins, but her friend Serge Svetnoy, who also was chief lighting technician on Rust, is suing Alec Baldwin and other producers for negligence and emotional distress. Svetnoy blames the numerous errors on set for his dear friend’s death. According to the script supervisor, Mamie Mitchell, Baldwin was not supposed to even fire the gun. Mamie Mitchell is also suing Baldwin for an assault lawsuit. Mitchell largely blames Baldwin and the other crew on set for not checking the gun.
Alec Baldwin described this event as “one in a trillion,” in an interview with TMZ. Woefully, Alec Baldwin is not completely correct. Such a tragedy has happened before. There was another famous death in 1993, Brandon Lee, the son of Bruce Lee was also killed by a real bullet.
On the set of The Crow, Brandon Lee’s character gets shot with a .44-caliber slug. The .44-caliber slug was supposed to be filled with blanks but a tip of a real bullet was still lodged in the gun. Brandon Lee was the last death recorded before Rust on a movie set; there were no criminal charges pressed in that tragedy.
Now after Brandon Lee’s death, what happened after? What new safety measures were added to sets? How did they make prop guns safer? Well the The Crow was still released and not much has changed. Or if anything has really changed when it comes to regulating guns on set. Brandon Lee’s sister and fiancée is pressing for mandatory gun training on set and increased safety measures. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson recently announced, via Variety, that he has pledged to stop using real gun on the sets of his films. The Associate Press estimates that there have been 43 fatal injuries on a movie set since 1990. A fight for a safer work environment continues.
Since Halyana Hutchsons passing, a petition has been started by Bandar Albuliwi, a fellow filmmaker, to ban real guns on set. As of November 17th, over 115,000 people have signed the petition. A California Senator, Dave Cortese, wants to introduce legislation to ban live ammunition on set. People within the industry and the viewers of the art they make are taking a stand for gun safety. Things are changing within the industry and legally.
Perhaps the only real guarantee that this tragedy will never happen again is Senator Cortese’s legislation of banning live ammunition on set. The passing of Halyana Hutchins is devastating and there needs to be a change in the movie industry with gun safety.