The fatal shooting at Halyna Hutchins while filming in New Mexico for “Rust,” has caused a lot of anger and grief from the state’s tight-knit filmmaking community.
The shooting incident in which Alec Baldwin, an actor and producer of “Rust,” killed Hutchins, and injured Joel Souza has brought more attention to New Mexico. New Mexico has become a major hub for TV and film productions, with substantial investments from Netflix and Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham spoke to The Times in an interview, saying that she wants Hollywood to stop such a tragedy from happening again in her state, or elsewhere.
Lujan Grisham’s office will hold listening sessions with representatives of the entertainment industry unions, studios and other leaders in the coming weeks to help them better understand how to make changes.
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The state can employ “a number of tools” to make sets safer locally, she said, including by introducing new regulations on firearms and other aspects of production and by leveraging the state’s lucrative tax incentive program, which has drawn filmmakers to the state for years. She said that she wants studios to think about safety across the board and not just a New Mexico issue.
We have many tools at our disposal, both regulatory and statutory,” she stated. It works in New Mexico, but not here [in California],. It doesn’t even work in Georgia and Washington. We should fix this to the highest degree possible and set a call to action.”
It’s not clear what actions the industry might take. Experts say that the business has strong safety protocols for firearms use. These prevent incidents such as the one in the “Rust.” set. Although they are not required to have a license under New Mexico law to use weaponry, professional armorers are employed by productions.
Nonetheless, even guns loaded with blanks can cause injury or death, and productions sometimes cut corners, creating a dangerous environment.
Authorities recovered roughly 500 rounds of ammunition from the “Rust” set, including blanks, dummy rounds and what inspectors suspect were live rounds, or actual bullets, Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said Wednesday. The shooting has raised concerns about the decision to hire an inexperienced armorer. “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, 24, had served as lead armorer on only one film before getting the job on “Rust.”
Gutierrez Reed’s attorneys, in a Thursday statement, said she had “no idea where the live rounds came from.” Having real bullets on set is a major violation of industry protocol. The entire production set became unsafe because of a variety of factors, including a lack safety meetings,” Gutierrez Reed attorneys Jason Bowles & Robert Gorence stated in the statement. Those conditions, they said, were not “the fault of Hannah.”
The law enforcement investigation is ongoing and no charges have been filed.
Officials from New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau, run by the state’s environment department, were initially denied access to the “Rust” set by production security last Friday but were allowed entry this week, state officials said. A representative of Rust Movie Productions (the limited liability company that produced the film) stated that the company was cooperating with authorities.
” Since the beginning of the tragedy, we have fully cooperated with all governmental investigations. We will continue doing so going forward,” said the representative.
Crew members on “Rust” told The Times that, before the shooting, several workers walked off the set in protest of what they said were long hours, long commutes and long waits for paychecks, as well as a lack of safety protocols that resulted in multiple accidental discharges of guns prior to the fatal incident.
Lujan Grishham stated that entertainment industry workers who do not follow safety regulations should face serious consequences.
” Companies that hire thousands of people have a responsibility,” Lujan Grisham stated. Young people want to be in movies just as professional athletes. If you don’t create a better standard for everyone you are creating so much harm. And they have an obligation to do something about it.”
The matter has prompted some, including actor-director Olivia Wilde, to call for a total ban on real weapons being used for productions. The policies of firearms are being reviewed by studios. California state Sen. Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) has said he would introduce legislation that would ban live ammunition and firearms capable of shooting live ammo from film and theatrical productions.
While Lujan Grisham did not call for an immediate ban on firearms being used in film and television productions, she said that she will be questioning industry leaders to see if they are necessary. Experts say that effects such as muzzle flashes are easily added to postproduction.
” I want industry professionals to tell my why you need real weapons,” Lujan Grisham stated. Now, consider the risks. Loss of life. This poor family is beyond my imagination. Why don’t we take it down? These people will be civilly and possibly criminally responsible for these risks. Why would any production moving forward take those risks?”
Lujan Grisham also said she would consider whether New Mexico should require armorers to be licensed in that state. CALLS FOR REFORM after Hutchins’s death are coming as New Mexico’s film and entertainment industry grows, which is a growing source of employment.
Production in the state totaled $623 million in spending in the fiscal year that ended in June, more than double the amount in fiscal 2020 — which was hobbled by the COVID-19 pandemic — and up 19% from 2019. Film and TV production supports some 9,000 jobs in New Mexico, with an average annual wage of $56,000, state officials said.
Major productions filmed in the state include AMC Networks’ “Better Call Saul,” the Netflix film “The Harder They Fall” and the ABC drama “Big Sky.”
Netflix in 2018 announced a deal to buy ABQ Studios in Albuquerque and has pledged to spend $2 billion in the state over 10 years. NBCUniversal has committed to spend $500 million in New Mexico over a decade-long period.