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The Hollywood Insider Alec Baldwin FX Industry, Halyna Hutchins

Photo: Alec Baldwin

The Hollywood Insider would like to pay our condolences to Halyna Hutchins and her family and friends. Gun safety on film sets is a must. 

Joel Souza, director of the film, ‘Rust,’ was home to the latest industry disaster regarding the use of props and FX on his set. The movie, which was meant to be able the youngest person who’d been hung in the American Wild West, has now been put on pause with Alec Baldwin taking a step back as well.

A week ago, Baldwin was involved in the fatal gun shooting when he was handed a loaded gun that was said to have been “cold.” During the rehearsal, the scene requires Baldwin to point the revolver directly at the camera’s lens, but when the gun suddenly went off, the cinematographer was killed and many others were left injured. 

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Alec Baldwin and Halyna Hutchins: The Fatal Shooting

Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer was killed and her family was left grieving and with questions about how this could have possibly happened on one of the most high profile movie sets with some of the most high profile actors, cast, and crew. 

Souza was also left wondering how his set could have been home to such a tragic accident. The prop gun used is said to be a cold gun in the firearm safety announcements the cast and crew partook in. In addition, armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and Dave Halls, the assistant director would perform their own checks of the weaponry before handing them to the actors, creating a lengthy and thorough approval process. 

Armament Approval Processes On Hollywood Sets 

Souza’s set, as well as many others, performs this precise sequence in order to ensure multiple armorers and crew members have been a part of approving the props. According to an anonymous source, a producer who wishes to remain unnamed during the investigation, said they witnessed both armorers handed the actors guns. 

The process seems foolproof and appeared to have been completed accurately the day of the accident, leaving many to wonder where the discrepancies occurred. Souza, who had been questioned thoroughly after the accident, conceded that perhaps the lack of consistency occurred during their lunch break on Thursday, October 28th. In between takes, the cast was taken with a shuttle elsewhere in order to eat and after returning there was no confirmation that the firearms had undergone another check. 

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Account of Thursday, October 28: The Day Of The Accident

Detailed accounts following this lunchbreak were provided and pieced together by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office as they were able to obtain a search warrant and investigate the setting of the shooting. They were given access to not only the set but anything they wanted to seize like camera memory cards, bone fragments, firearm discharge, and accounts of any disputes between the producers and crew. The account is as follows:

Alec Baldwin was in a church pew, practicing his scene and the “cross-drawing” technique that his character needed to perform. This involved pointing the camera at the lens in order to achieve a unique cinematic angle. This is when Souza noticed that Hutchins had grabbed her midsection and doubled over in horror. 

He hadn’t even processed the bloody injury at his shoulder before he saw Hutchins die from the fatal wound. He’d been beside her to offer commentary on the camera angle but he’d ended up caught in the mysterious and dangerous crossfire of Baldwin’s faulty prop. Hutchins died at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque but Souza was able to be treated for his wounds. 

Hutchins was remembered as a strong and talented woman who was proud to show off her Ukrainian heritage and spirit. 

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Shift to Technology To Preserve Authenticity and More Importantly, Lives

This tragic accident has however prompted many discussions about the way Hollywood has and will continue to use real firearms on the sets of films. Many argue that our current level of technological prowess should be enough of a substitute for real guns, that computer-generated imaging and visual effects are impressive enough. 

An online petition has been circulating and it has over 50k signatures at this point, with many citizens as well as professionals asking their peers to reevaluate the use of real guns on sets. A California state senator that would rather remain unnamed, has expressed introducing new legislation that would forbid sets from using firearms with real ammunition in order to, “prevent this type of senseless violence and loss of life.”

Alexi Hawley, the showrunner of ‘The Rookie,’ a show focused entirely on the ABC police procedural expressed his distaste for the current gun rules and announced to his cast and crew they’d no longer be using live weapons on the show. 

Now, the show will use airsoft guns which are replica toy guns with pellets as well as flashes with CGI to create the effect of a real gun. “Any risk is too much risk,” he said darkly. 

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Other Side of the Coin: Importance of Realistic Weaponry On Set

Unfortunately, many argue that this complete banning of real guns on sets is very unlikely and impractical. They argue that for many productions, especially independent ones with small budgets and even smaller crews, affording this type of technological alternative is near impossible. CGI is not only a costly technique but it takes months to implement accurately and seamlessly. Anna Halbery, a film producer who’s worked on many sci-fi and action sets said, “t’s oftentimes easier and more economical to actually discharge your weapon on set using a blank than it is to add a gun in CGI in post-production.” 

Others are blankly arguing that the level of accuracy and realisticness that real guns provide is irreplaceable. This can create better performances by the actors and keep the energy alive on set. 

There are tons of floating opinions about what the industry should do, with most focusing on finding a solution that doesn’t incite meaningless death like Hutchins’. With technology advancing at a faster pace than ever and the lives of real humans at stake, the solution is clear – the FX and prop community needs to rely more on their practical and technological skills.

 Alec Baldwin has been struggling with internalizing his unfortunate role in this situation and Hutchins’ family has been grieving in private. We send our condolences and thoughts to them during this difficult time and hope for a long-lasting change that will prevent such tragic accidents from occurring again.

By Mireille Karadanaian

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Black Lives Matter, in which he tackles more than just police reform, press freedom and more – click here.

An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “The Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of Black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all Black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard.

Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”

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