‘Shaken all of us to the very core’: New Mexico film community mourns Halyna Hutchins

ALBUQUERQUE —

“This moment has shaken all of us to the very core,” IATSE Local 480 President Liz Pecos said, holding a lighted candle in front of the pink-streaked New Mexico sky.

Hundreds of people stood in front of her, holding their own candles aloft as they gathered to mourn cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Many people who crowded Albuquerque Civic Plaza Saturday night were members Pecos’ Local. This group represents crew members working on television and film productions in New Mexico.

A few of the vigil participants had worked with Hutchins on “Rust,” where they were fatally filmed using a prop gun fired from Alec Baldwin.

But the majority were part of a larger crew who live in Albuquerque and Santa Fe and are responsible for New Mexico’s tightknit film industry. These were people who had worked together in the kind of hard hours that has sparked an ongoing debate about labor conditions on set.

” It’s not like Los Angeles or Atlanta, that’s certain. Jonathan Hubbarth, an Albuquerque-based locations manager, said that it is smaller here. He was wearing a New Mexico Unit zip-up hoodie from “Stranger Things”. “You actually know just about everybody, practically.”

As Rebecca Rhine, national executive director of the Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600, and Cinematographers Guild President John Lindley spoke to the crowd, attendees tearfully hugged old friends and colleagues.

For the record:

1: 00 p.m. Oct. 24, 2021

An earlier version of this article misspelled Lane Luper’s name.

Lane Luper, a camera operator who worked with Hutchins on “Rust,” praised her to the crowd as “one of the most talented, kind and collaborative” people he had ever met.

“She’s a wonderful mom and a wonderful wife and just a wonderful soul. He said, his voice strained by grief. “I really hope there are more people like her.” I love this community. And thank you — I know I haven’t texted a lot of you back, but thank you because it means a lot.”

The 42-year-old Ukrainian native had been selected as one of American Cinematographer’s Rising Stars of 2019.

“Tonight is about Halyna,” Rhine said during her speech. “There will be plenty of time to focus on the who, on the what, on the why, in the future.”

Still, the looming questions about the circumstances that led to Hutchins’s death on Thursday, hours after a half-dozen camera crew workers walked off the set to protest working conditions, were difficult to ignore in the crowd. Several crew members told the Los Angeles Times that safety protocols, including gun inspections were not followed on the set.

“We’ve got to take care of ourselves, a lot of times people won’t look out for us,” one man said as he leaned in to hug several friends.

Across the crowd, costumer Kim Trujillo and Ashley Crandall, who works in props, were discussing how the productions both women were working on had made immediate changes on Friday in response to the horrific incident.

Crandall said the TV series she is currently working on had planned to utilize a replica gun with blanks for a scene on Friday but had made the last-minute decision to switch to an airsoft weapon — a discussion that had been shared with the whole crew, according to Crandall.

” “It just made everyone feel so much safer,” she stated, describing the decision as long overdue.

Trujillo, who like Crandall was clad in an International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees shirt, said the production she was working on had announced they would now only be using rubber weapons.

Wynema Chavez Quintana, a costumer, was holding a sign with photos of Hutchins and hand-lettered text saying “She deserved a safe workplace!” and “S.O.S. Safety on sets! !”

Chavez Quintana said she related to Hutchins as a mother.

“She deserves to be home with her children,” Chavez Quintana cried. Chavez Quintana’s 25-year-old son now works on sets too, and she said she sometimes fears for his safety. Despite the sorrow and shock, there was a sense of hope. Many said that they believed or hoped for a change from an unbearable tragedy.

” We were close to striking over our health conditions, but it was too late. Now I believe everyone will be fighting harder for our rights and our bodily safety. Amrit Khalsa is a Santa Fe set-dresser.

Standing with actors Jon Hamm and John Slattery, producer Ross Kahn spoke about the horror of Hutchins’ death.

“We heard that there were problems on that set,” said Kahn, who, along with Hamm and Slattery, was in New Mexico to shoot the film “Maggie Moore(s).” “It’s an avoidable tragedy.”

In a statement to Deadline Saturday, “Rust” director Joel Souza, who was also injured in the shooting, thanked the local film community for the outpouring of support and said he was “gutted by the loss of my friend and colleague, Halyna. She was kind, vibrant, incredibly talented, fought for every inch, and always pushed me to be better.”

Among other safety concerns, several attendees at the vigil spoke of the need to provide crew members with hotel rooms when extensive shooting hours would otherwise demand that workers make the lengthy trip from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, or vice versa, on little sleep.

The cities are located roughly an hour’s drive down Interstate 25 from one another. The decision not to provide previously promised hotel rooms to crew members on “Rust” — many of whom in lived in Albuquerque, roughly 50 miles from the Bonanza Creek Ranch set in Santa Fe County — played a role in Thursday morning’s walkout.

Bonanza Creek Ranch was all but deserted on Saturday afternoon, with a padlocked chain closing off its rusting gate from the wide-open desert road. Two security guards stood guard at the gate with a flag of the United States, while an Australian news crew set up their camera across the street.

Twenty-odd minutes from the ranch in picturesque Santa Fe, talk of the shooting continued to ricochet through the close-knit town early Saturday.

Locals described the New Mexico film industry, which has been on the rise since the early 2000s and grown rapidly in recent years, as a deeply welcome boon to the city’s hospitality-driven economy.

New Mexico has a population of about one-fifth of L.A. County. This makes it one of the most poverty-ridden areas in the country. These factors have led to many residents feeling invested in the current booming film industry.

They feel that the industry is an integral part of their community. Although one may be able to dance with Bill Murray at Cowgirl Barbecue or see Reese Witherspoon on the Plaza, the interactions are very low-key. Santa Feans are proud of their openness to celebrity, which probably adds to the town’s appeal as a filming location. Many were shocked by the tragic incident.

“It is a small community, and we cross paths a lot with a number of people who are directly related,” Laura Rivera, a Santa Fe hairdresser, said while she shared a plate with two of her friends at a Santa Fe cafe.

” “It’s very close to home and it’s scary,” said her friend Sam Staletovich (a Santa Fe telecom worker who served as background and stand-in on many western-themed film shoots).

Staletovich said he had been involved in pyrotechnic and gun scenes, but personal safety had never seemed like a concern because it had been “such a tight process,” even on low-budget films.

“Everything has been checked and double-checked and triple-checked,” he recalled, saying that he struggled to conceive of how the shooting had happened and felt a new sense of worry about future action work.

Local 600 will hold a similar vigil for Hutchins in Burbank on Sunday at 6 p.m. The union launched a GoFundMe effort Friday for her family. Matthew Hutchins, her husband, and a 9 year-old son are still with her.

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