Halyna Hutchins' Death Was Tragic and Avoidable

Credit: Deadline
Let this tragedy change the industry. Otherwise, what are we doing?

As we reported last week, there was a tragic shooting death on the set of the movie Rust. The ramifications of this are both professional and personal. There will be lawsuits to come and hopefully industry-wide change. But right now, details are still coming in. And people are taking matters into their own hands. A petition to ban real guns on film on change.org now has 25,000 signatures and counting.

The project was launched by filmmaker Bandar Albuliwi, and the page states, “We need to make sure that this avoidable tragedy never happens again. There is no excuse for something like this to happen in the 21st century. Real guns are no longer needed on film production sets. This isn’t the early 90’s, when Brandon Lee was killed in the same manner. Change needs to happen before additional talented lives are lost. Please sign this petition and demand for Alec Baldwin to use his power and influence in the Hollywood film industry to make change and ban real guns on film sets.”

This, along with an AFI Scholarship Fund, are great steps into making something good from this tragedy. But as we learn more and more about the Rust shoot, it's hard not to get infuriated that this happened at all. 

Serge Svetnoy, the gaffer on Rust, wrote a long Facebook post where he blamed the incident on the negligence of the film’s armorer and producers. According to Svetnoy:

“To save a dime sometimes, you hire people who are not fully qualified for the complicated and dangerous job, and you risk the lives of the other people who are close and your lives as well. I understand that you always fight for the budget, but you cannot allow this to happen. … It is true that the professionals can cost a little more and sometimes can be a little bit more demanding, but it is worth it. No saved penny is worth the LIFE of the person!”

It took the weekend to piece together what happened.

During a rehearsal, the assistant director took a gun from a cart outside the place where they were shooting. They told Baldwin that it was a "cold gun," meaning unloaded. Baldwin was using the gun in a scene where he was to aim it at the camera. There was a conflicting shadow with the shot, so the camera was set at a new angle. Baldwin was rehearsing when the firearm went off. Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was struck by the bullet and transported, via helicopter, to the University of New Mexico Hospital where she was pronounced dead by medical personnel.

On Friday, Baldwin said in a statement, “My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”

Hutchins was born in Ukraine, lived in Los Angeles, and graduated from the American Film Institute in 2015. She was credited on the production of 49 film, TV, and video titles during her career, according to IMDb, across various roles. She eventually settled in as a rising star in the cinematography world. 

To honor her memory, Hollywood needs to change.

No live guns should be used on set. Let computers add in the muzzle flashes. Lives are at stake. We also need to take a long and hard look at how people cut corners on set.

We know union members left the Rust set and then were replaced by people with less experience. We know that there were other accidental gun discharges on this set before the one that killed Hutchins, according to what sources told the Los Angeles Times.

These are all moments where things should have stopped and been reevaluated, but they were not. We can't change what happened, but Hollywood has to change the future.      

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