Production crew walked off Baldwin movie set before tragic shooting

Production crew walked off Alec Baldwin movie set hours before shooting in row over conditions and were replaced ‘on the fly’ by locals: Workers feared for gun safety after ‘TWO misfires’ days before Baldwin accidentally shot dead cinematographer

  • The production crew on the set of Rust walked out on Thursday morning in a row over hotel rooms and long hours
  • They had wanted to be put up in Sante Fe, near the ranch where the movie was being shot, but instead were staying in Albuquerque, an hour away, and were too tired to drive every night after long shifts 
  • On Thursday, when they arrived to pack up, they found a team of local workers waiting to replace them
  • Halyna Hutchins decided to stay on the set and film with Alec Baldwin and the film producer Joel Souza 
  • She had been advocating on behalf of her team for better working conditions
  • At 1.50pm, Baldwin fired a prop gun with what he thought contained blank rounds
  • The projectile pierced through Hutchins and also struck the movie’s director, who survived 
  • Hutchins was airlifted to the hospital but she was pronounced dead; there are now claims there were two other incidents earlier in the film’s shooting
  • Deadline cites an unnamed source who says a gun fired while someone was holding it in a cabin 
  • Union rules stipulate that no live rounds are ever to be used on a film set – the replacement crew are not believed to be union members 

The crew of Alec Baldwin’s movie set were already concerned about gun safety before he accidentally shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, and they had walked off the set hours before she was killed, after they complained about long hours, shoddy conditions and two other incidents involving the ‘misfire’ of weapons. 

The workers had been complaining about the fact they had to stay overnight in Albuquerque – an hour’s drive from the set – and not Sante Fe because production wouldn’t pay for their hotels, according to sources cited by The Los Angeles Times and multiple social media posts by film and TV insiders. 

When they turned up to set to clear their things on Thursday, they found they’d been replaced by locals. 

It begs the question of who those local workers were, what their training was and to what extent did they check the weapon before handing it to Baldwin, suspected to have possibly been loaded with a live round. 

Deadline also cites an unnamed source who said a gun had gone off ‘in a cabin’ while someone was holding it in a cabin.

‘A gun had two misfires in a closed cabin. They just fired loud pops – a person was just holding it in their hands and it went off,’ they said.   

Rust Production LLC did not respond to repeated requests for comment from on Friday about the incident, but members of the union that represents many of the crew who were involved in the production said they had expressed fears about on-set safety. 

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An inconsolable Alec Baldwin is shown, left, yesterday outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office after accidentally shooting and killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, right. They were among few original workers on set after others walked off earlier in the day in a union row

An aerial view of the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, where the movie was being filmed. Workers had been protesting over the fact production wouldn’t pay for them to stay in hotels and motels in Sante Fe, instead forcing them to drive an hour to Albuquerque   

Production of the film has stopped now in light of the tragedy. The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department is investigating and ‘collecting evidence’, a spokesman said on Friday 

Union members vented on social media before the tragedy about the poor conditions on the set of the film. They talked about having to sleep in their cars at the set rather than make the drive back to Albuquerque because they were too exhausted

It is the same union that had been threatened to galvanize an industry-wide strike in protest over poor working conditions including low pay and laxed safety. IATSE Local 44 – whose members were involved in the Rust production – said in a statement to its members that no union members were on the set on Thursday.   


The Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate what exactly happened on the set that led to the death of Hutchins and the injury of the director, but past accidents involving guns on movie sets present a range of options for what could have led to the tragedy. 

Squib load – something was lodged in the barrel of the gun when Baldwin fired

One possibility is that an object was stuck in the barrel of the prop gun that Baldwin was using. Known as a squib load, it happens when a cartridge isn’t fired from the barrel because the gas isn’t strong enough to push it out. 

In itself, it is not dangerous and can be fixed if the gun is safely cleared but if someone keeps firing rounds from that same gun – live or not – it can be highly dangerous. 

If a second round is fired behind the stuck round, it can cause the weapon to explode, or injure people in the near vicinity. 

A real bullet was accidentally loaded, or part of one was, instead of a blank 

After firing the gun, Baldwin’s immediate reaction was to ask why he’d been handed a ‘hot’ gun – meaning one containing live bullets. 

That is what happened in the 1993 shooting of actor Brandon Bruce Lee on the set of The Crow. 

Those on set thought the gun was loaded with blanks, but an autopsy revealed a .44 caliber bullet was lodged near Lee’s spine. 

Police recovered dummy shell casings from the set. 

A dummy, unlike a blank, looks like a live round with a bullet at the tip of the cartridge. 

The difference between live rounds and blanks is the tip of the cartridge where the lethal bullet is contained is not there on a blank. Sometimes they are replaced with cotton or paper. Dummy bullets, unlike blanks, look like ordinary bullets but aren’t meant to contain the metal bullet tip either 

Blast from the blank struck something else on set

One possibility, though it is not likely, is that the blank hit something else, damaged it, and caused that prop or piece of equipment to send pieces flying towards the director and Hutchins. 

Rhys Muldoon who has used guns on set many times and says even blanks are dangerous, speculated at that possibility, telling the BBC: ‘The first thought I had is this is a close up of a gun being fired by the actor, very close to the frame of the camera, that has misfired, hit the DoP, and then something has either come off the French Flag or the black box like a part of the camera and hit the director as well.’ 

But movie experts say even in those cases, there should be more safeguards in place. 

‘If you are in the line of fire… You would have a face mask, you would have goggles, you would stand behind a Perspex screen, and you would minimize the number of people by the camera. 

‘What I don’t understand in this instance is how two people have been injured, one tragically killed, in the same event,’ Steven Hall, who has worked on films such as Fury and The Imitation Game, told BBC.  

One text message that was circulating on social media, shared repeatedly by union members, refers to a ‘walk out’ by staff the day before the tragedy.   

The text message claims that Halyna was one of the few people who decided to stay. She belonged to IATSE Local 600 and had been campaigning for better conditions for her team when she was killed. 

One person who was involved with the production posted on social media that crew had been sleeping in their cars at the movie set because they were too tired to drive the one-hour back to Albuquerque after grueling days. 

The movie does not have a large budget like other productions, and one experienced prop master who was offered the job turned it down because it wasn’t paying enough for her to take the job. 

Zak Knight, a pyrotechnic and special effects engineer who is a member of Local 44, told on Friday that he’d heard from others involved in the production that there was a walk-out. 

‘It’s very possible that the union members said “we’re out”, and they brought in people to fill the positions on the fly. There’s a lot of grey area.’

He added that different gun laws between New Mexico and California may have also contributed to the accident. In California, both a trained armorer and a prop master is required on a film set and those are the standards the union adheres to as well.

‘You will find the best and most well-trained individuals in Los Angeles. You can’t guarantee that as you go across the country,’ he told on Friday.

In the days before the tragedy, IATSE had been threatening a large-scale strike that would have crippled Hollywood production. Among the complaints were overworking staff and poor rates. Baldwin recorded a video of himself encouraging the union members to strike if they felt they needed to, saying studio bosses ‘don’t give a f**k about you’, that the union shared online.

‘There’s a direct correlation between maintaining a safe set and the hours that we work. At a certain time there’s no such thing as a safe set if we’re all exhausted,’ Knight, a special effects artist, said. 

Whatever happened in the moments leading up to her death, Knight said it was caused by a ‘cascade of failures’ by multiple people.

‘We have a hard and fast rule that no live ammunition ever goes into a prop truck or set at any time. We just don’t do it. 

‘If you see bullets on set they are complete dummy rounds and are in no way functional. This goes back to Brandon Lee. There’s protocol. 

‘There should have never been live rounds on a movie set, that’s number one. Number two is every single person on a movie set has a right to inspect a weapon before it’s fired. And number three is, there is no reason to ever put a person in front of a weapon that’s firing.

‘Anytime you see a movie where the barrel is pointed down the camera lens, there should not be an operator behind it. It’s obvious that the considerations of this resulted in that gun being pointed directly at two people.

‘We would have additionally had a barrier between them. 

‘A large number of people failed to do our protocols… every accident is a cascade of events,’ he said. 

One Santa Fe prop master told Daily Mail that had the gun been checked properly before it was handed to Baldwin, the tragedy wouldn’t have occurred. 

‘If they’d done their job checking the weapon this wouldn’t have happened. You show the assistant director the weapon, you show the actor the weapon, you show everybody it’s a safe weapon. There’s a big chain of command that missed an opportunity to save a life.’

Rust Productions LLC has opened an internal investigation into what happened but will not comment on the specifics. 

A Sante Fe County Sheriff Department spokesman said on Friday afternoon: ‘The investigation remains active and open. Witnesses continue to be interviewed and evidence collected.’ 

Baldwin, 63, tweeted on Friday afternoon to say he had spoken with the victim’s husband and that he was fully cooperating with law enforcement. 

‘There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours. 

‘I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. 

‘My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna,’ he said.

He was pictured doubled over in grief on Thursday after speaking to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department. 

The workers were angry that they weren’t being put up in Sante Fe, the town nearest the ranch where they were shooting, and instead were being told to drive every night to Albuquerque after long shifts. Some said they were sleeping in their cars at the set to avoid it 

Baldwin and Hutchins (circled) are pictured together on the set of Rust, in an image that she uploaded to Instagram two days ago saying the crew of the film were supporting a strike by the IATSE union

Hutchins’ husband Matthew told on Friday exclusively: ‘I have spoken with Alec Baldwin. He is being very supportive’  

The Baldwin family’s nanny was pictured packing up their SUV outside the family’s NYC home on Friday but there was no sign of the actor’s wife Hilaria 

Baldwin’s wife Hilaria posted this screenshot of them FaceTiming on Thursday before the tragedy 

Hutchins’ grieving husband Matthew told on Friday morning that he had spoken with the actor. 

‘I have spoken with Alec Baldwin and he is being very supportive,’ he said.  

Baldwin was heard asking people around him why he’d been handed a ‘hot gun’. 

‘In all my years, I’ve never been handed a hot gun,’ he was heard saying. 

Last month, actor Jensen Ackles told a conference in Denver how he’d been able to ‘choose’ his own gun from the female armorer in a haphazard training session.

 ‘They had me pick my gun. They were like, “Alright, what gun would you like?” I was like, “I don’t know”, and the armorer was like, “Do you have gun experience?” I was like, “A little”, she was like, “This is how you load it…check it’s safe. Do you want it hip drawn or cross drawn?” I was like “cross drawn, that sounds fun”.’

‘So she’s like, “I’ll just put some blanks in there and just fire a couple of rounds towards the hill.”

‘I walk out and she’s like, “Just make sure you pull the hammer all the way back and aim at your target”. 

‘I was like alright I got it,’ he said. The female armorer has not been named. 

It’s unclear where Baldwin is now. There was no sign of his wife, Hilaria, outside their New York City apartment on Friday but a nanny was pictured loading up their SUV.

The production employed ’73 New Mexican crew, 22 New Mexico principal actors, and 230 New Mexico background talent’ according to a press release issued earlier this month. 

According to the prop masters’ union email, the ‘Props, Set Decoration, Special Effects and Construction Departments were staffed by New Mexico crew members’ – none of whom belonged to the union.  

Actor Jensen Ackles told last month how he’d received haphazard gun training on the film set. He talked about being able to choose his own gun, and how the unnamed female armorer loaded it with blanks then shot it at a hill before asking him how he’d like to draw the weapon and then letting him shoot. A photo he posted from the set is shown, right 

An image taken on the set of Rust shows cast and crew members receiving a safety briefing before filming stunts. The image was uploaded to Instagram a week ago

In the days before the tragedy, IATSE had been threatening a large-scale strike that would have crippled Hollywood production.

Among the complaints were overworking staff and poor rates. Baldwin recorded a video of himself encouraging the union members to strike if they felt they needed to, saying studio bosses ‘don’t give a f**k about you’, that the union shared online. 

The tragedy is reminiscent of the 1993 accident on the set of The Crow, when Bruce Lee’s son Brandon was shot and killed by a fellow actor. 

The film crew in that accident thought the gun was loaded with dummy bullets and blanks, but an autopsy revealed Lee had a .44 caliber bullet lodged in his spine. Investigators in that shooting also probed the theory that a dummy cartridge got stuck in the barrel before the second was fired – a known hazard in shooting which can cause serious injuries or death when the second round is fired. 

Rhys Muldoon, an Australian actor who has worked extensively in film and TV, also suggested that a blank misfiring close to the camera could have caused Thursday’s accident – telling the BBC that material from the blank round could have struck Hutchins before causing part of the camera to hit Souza.  

‘Kind and loving’ cinematographer killed in Alec Baldwin tragedy: Ukraine-born married mother Halyna Hutchins, 42, was raised on a Soviet military base surrounded by nuclear submarines, trained as a journalist and was tipped as a rising star in Hollywood

Sun streaming from above, cinematographer Halyna Hutchins smiles into the camera as she films herself riding off into the New Mexico desert on horseback.

This was the last Instagram post shared by the married mother-of-one before she was accidentally killed by actor Alec Baldwin when he fired a prop gun while filming a scene for an upcoming Western on a ranch near Santa Fe.

Born in Ukraine and raised on a Soviet military base ‘surrounded by reindeer and nuclear submarines’, Halyna, 42, had trained as a journalist and spent time in Europe working on British documentaries before making the move to Los Angeles, where she had established her career – and started a family. 

Born in Ukraine and raised on a Soviet military base ‘surrounded by reindeer and submarines’, Halyna had recently wrapped on a project in Ireland and was tipped for a bright future in Hollywood when her life was so tragically cut short. Pictured, in 2018

Her social media profiles also paint a clear image of a free-spirited, much-loved friend, many of whom have been paying tribute. Pictured, a touching post by close friend Stephanie

Remembered by friends as a ‘kind’ and ‘loving soul’, Halyna lived in Venice Beach, California, with her husband Matthew, a lawyer, and their son Andros, known affectionately as her ‘little man’ and thought to be around nine years old. 

‘Halyna loved him so much and enjoyed watching him grow into the handsome boy he is today,’ one friend wrote in a moving Instagram tribute. ‘I know she is looking after him and Matt in this horribly scary time.’

Social media photos capture a playfulness and sense of adventure, with Halloween costume parties, road trips with friends and days out exploring all lit up by Halyna’s smile. 

She was also highly regarded by her peers and had been tipped as a ‘rising star’ by other cinematographers. ‘She was somebody who was absolutely dedicated to art and integrity,’ director, colleague and friend Adam Mortimer told GMB this morning. ‘I can tell already she was going to be a genius.’ 

Halya (right) on a visit back to Kiev in December 2018. She was raised on a military base in the country and later attended the National University of Kyiv, studying International Journalism

Remembered by friends as a ‘kind’ and ‘loving soul’, Halyna lived in Venice Beach, California , with her husband Matthew, a lawyer, and their son Andros, pictured in an old Facebook photo

Baldwin, 62, was filming a scene for new film Rust when the gun went off around 1.50pm, fatally wounding Hutchins and leaving writer-director Joel Souza, 48, injured. The incident took place at at Bonanza Creek Ranch.

Hutchins was rushed to the University of New Mexico Hospital in an air ambulance but was pronounced dead a short time after. 

Souza was taken by ambulance to the Christus St Vincent Regional Medical Center. He has since been released although his exact condition is unclear.

Will Stewart, Daily Mail’s Moscow correspondent, told how Halyna had worked for him in the mid-2000s. 

‘This is devastating and incomprehensible news about the death of Halyna Hutchins. She worked for my news agency from Kyiv for several years in the mid-2000s after graduating from a local university in International Journalism.

‘Halyna was involved in many stories for British newspapers and magazines, but she showed a special talent for documentaries, perhaps her first taste of film in which she went on to be so successful in America.

‘At this time while she was with us, in 2006, she was Associate Producer on a documentary for Discovery Channel on Ukrainian icon Leonid Stadnyk called World’s Tallest Man, made by British company Wild Pictures.

‘She was instrumental in Mr Stadnyk feeling at ease taking part in the documentary which focused on the problems of being exceptionally tall.

‘The film, made by leading British director Richard Denton, with former BBC Head of Documentaries Paul Hamann as executive producer, would not have happened without her.

‘Mr Stadnyk, a shy man, trusted Halyna after refusing many other film offers, and thanked her afterwards.

‘Pictures ahead of the film shows him towering over Halyna at his home in the village of Podoliantsy.

‘She later went to the US with her husband Matt and accomplished great things through her huge talent and creativity but also her relentless determination to study and learn.

‘She once told my Russian colleagues that she felt she was a perpetual student in America, but her efforts paid off and she achieved the success she thoroughly deserved.

‘It is tragic that she died in such a cruel and inexplicable way while doing the job she so loved.

‘Our thoughts and prayers are with Matt and their son, and Halyna’s family in Ukraine.’

Richard Denton, producer behind Shakespeare Uncovered and many films in the former USSR, said today: “Halyna was the most wonderful, vital, lively and positive person to work with.

‘She was friendly and enormously helpful. She handled everything from translating interviews to making Leonid’s horse move in the right direction.

‘She was completely unpretentious and incredibly professional.’

Her death was ‘senseless and stupid.’

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