Heartbreak hit Hollywood on Thursday, Oct. 21 when a scene rehearsal for the film Rust turned fatal. A gun used for the shot by actor Alec Baldwin had been unintentionally discharged, resulting in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and the injury of director Joel Souza.
Although it was an accident, procedures that could have prevented this mishap weren’t followed and safety concerns were often ignored. Leading up to the incident had been two prior misfires with a prop gun that hadn’t resulted in injury. This, along with other health and labor concerns, had the union affiliated camera crew walking off the set. Instead of following up with safety concerns, the producers pushed on, without union regulations, to stay on top of their short schedule and tight budget.
According to an article by Vulture, the antique gun had been loaded with a live round, a fact unknown to those directly involved in the accident. The gun was supposed to have been prepared by the armorer and checked by the assistant director before being handed off to the actor. This process had been rushed as armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed presumed the gun to be safe and AD Dave Halls had announced the gun as “cold” without fully checking.
Safety on set is an important topic for the film department at UT.
“In the era of modern technology there should be no reason for live rounds to even be on set in the first place,” said Aaron Walker, chair of the film, animation, and new media department.“When you do that on a set you’re opening up opportunities of risk very dramatically which means you don’t value your colleagues’ lives.”
The source of the live rounds are still under investigation, but they have been speculated to have been potentially misused for target practice in a press conference with the Santa Fe Police Department according to an article by The Guardian
The issue of firearm safety practices is another area of concern when filming. Movie sets don’t always follow traditional rules of firearm safety nor do they always have properly trained actors to wield them. This particular set had a cameraman, the director, and the cinematographer all behind the camera that was meant to be in Baldwin’s line of fire.
“You never point a firearm, fake, real, loaded or unloaded, at something you do not intend to kill or destroy,” said Garret Ballinger, senior film and media arts major. “Even a fake gun should be treated as a real, lethal weapon at all times.”
There are editing tricks and realistic props that can be used in the place of actual guns and bullets on set, although many believe using movie magic takes away from the believability of the actor’s performance.
“I think there is often a risk that comes with creating dangerous art,” said Ashley Campbell, musical theatre and international studies double major. “If things are controlled, regulated, and secure, there is a minimized risk and we can still continue to create art safely and effectively.”