Approximately six hours before Alec Baldwin fired the prop gun that killed Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, several members of the camera crew staged a walkout to protest poor and unsafe working conditions. Two people who spoke to Consequence on condition of anonymity said that Rust’s assistant director Dave Halls — the person responsible for managing the production schedule and who police say handed the weapon to Baldwin — had a troubling history of ignoring safety protocols.
News of the walkout first spread via a viral Instagram post on the @ia_members account, which is run anonymously by members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, or IATSE. The post showed a screenshot of a text message from a member of the Rust camera crew, saying, “The entire camera crew walked off that morning,” because of “lack of payment for three weeks, taking our hotels away despite asking for them in our deals, lack of COVID safety, [and on] top of that, poor gun safety!” The text added that producers “brought in 4 non union guys to replace us and tried calling the cops on us.”
The Los Angeles Times has confirmed the walkout and gathered more details about the production’s lack of gun care. A prop gun dangerously misfired twice on Saturday, October 16th, and one more time the week before. One source noted, “there was a serious lack of safety meetings on this set.”
Sources tell Consequence that this is part of a pattern for Halls, a veteran assistant director who has worked on projects including Reno 911, Bones, and The Matrix Reloaded. One person who asked to remain anonymous said that she had twice filed formal safety complaints against Halls. Another person, who asked to be identified as ‘Jay,’ recounted several times that he said Halls ignored safety protocols.
In one instance when, “We did have a gun on set,” Jay said Halls consistently tried to either skip or hurry through the safety run-throughs. “I would want to have these safety meetings. I can show them [actors] that the chamber is empty, the magazine is empty, so they can be comfortable on set. I’m the only person who holds it, or maybe an armorer if you wanted a flashbang effect. The AD is supposed to check it each time, they are supposed to be the last line of defense. He would always roll his eyes. ‘Do we need to do a safety meeting?’ He would do it and he would be flippant. ‘Well guys, we’ve got a gun on set, same as always.'”
Most troubling to Jay, “There was one day the actress was aiming it at her head. He didn’t want to do safety meeting! It took a person from another department demanding the meeting to finally hold it. It shouldn’t be like that. It should be first and foremost safety.”
In another distressing example, Halls wanted to film a scene with pyrotechnics while the person authorized to set it alight was suffering from a medical emergency. “We had to do a fire effect, but you have to do a fire safety card that allows you to work with pyrotechnics. That person was having a medical emergency in the parking lot. [Halls] said, ‘Yes, it’s very tragic, we hope he gets better, can you just light this pyrotechnic?’ Looking at me in props. No, I’m not trained in that. A man is outside in an unknown condition having seizures. Finally, the fire safety officer said, ‘No, absolutely not, we will be waiting until we get a person that’s licensed to do this.'”
Jay added that Halls was responding to outside demands. “He’s feeling a pressure from a schedule that is unachievable. Trying to make people move faster than they should, especially for safety… There’s a joke on set, hurry up and wait. But we should not hurry up. We’re not curing cancer here. People should not be dying.”
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s department is still investigating the shooting, but according to a search warrant obtained by the Associated Press on Friday, Halls was the last person to handle the gun before handing it to Baldwin. According to detectives, the gun was one of three that the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez, had brought to set. Halls took one of guns and brought it to Baldwin, unaware that it was loaded. Hutchins was shot in the chest and director Joel Souza, who was standing behind her, was wounded in the shoulder.
Consequence made repeated attempts to reach Halls, but he has yet to respond.
An email from IATSE Local 44 to its members claimed the gun had been loaded with a “live round,” though law enforcement said this “hasn’t been determined.” None of the people who spoke to Consequence think that Alec Baldwin was responsible for Hutchins’ death.
Today, Baldwin broke his silence on the shooting, writing, “There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins.”