The crew of the Alec Baldwin movie Rust reportedly experienced on-set gun safety issues prior to Thursday’s deadly shooting incident in which the actor discharged a prop gun, killing the movie’s cinematographer and injuring its director.
While much still remains unclear about the fatal incident that took place on the movie’s New Mexico set, early reports are painting a picture of a production that was already in trouble days before the tragic killing, with crew members allegedly protesting against working conditions.
About a half-dozen camera crew workers walked off the set to protest working conditions just hours before the fatal incident, according to a report in The Los Angeles Times. The camera operators and their assistants were reportedly frustrated by the conditions surrounding the indie film, including complaints of long hours and pay, according to three people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment to the newspaper.
Several nonunion crew members showed up to replace them, an anonymous source told the Times. A member of the producer staff then ordered the union members to leave the set. She said if they didn’t leave, the producers would call security to remove them.
“Corners were being cut — and they brought in nonunion people so they could continue shooting,” the source reportedly said.
There were two misfires of the prop gun on Saturday and one the previous week, according to the Times report, and “there was a serious lack of safety meetings on this set.”
The prop master who handled the gun that killed the cinematographer was “just brought in” amid the protests over conditions on the set, according to a report from the New York Post.
The unidentified employee was reportedly hired to replace someone else amid the on-set chaos.
IATSE is the union that oversees most on-set crew members. The union told its members there was no union prop master on set the night Hutchins was killed by the prop gun fired by Baldwin, according to a report from Deadline.
The prop gun was reportedly retrieved by an assistant director from a rolling cart and was handed to Baldwin, according to a report from the Santa Fe Reporter.
“Cold gun,” the assistant director reportedly shouted. Moments later, Baldwin fired the shot that struck cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in the chest and director Joel Souza in the shoulder. Hutchins later died at an area hospital.
The Santa Fe Reporter cited a search warrant affidavit sworn out by Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Det. Joel Cano.
Indie movie productions are often chaotic in the best of circumstances. with producers frequently dealing with threadbare budgets and compressed shooting schedules.
Law enforcement is still investigating Thursday’s deadly incident, and Baldwin has so far not been charged with any crimes.