The headlines have been everywhere. Actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot a filmmaker on set with a prop gun. This is an occurrence that should never have happened and brings up a meaningful conversation over safety on film sets and in Hollywood.
Halyna Hutchins was the director of photography, working with Baldwin on the set of “Rust.” She was a trailblazing cinematographer. In 2019, Hutchins was named “10 up-and-coming directors of photography who are making their mark” by American Cinematographer.
On Oct. 24, she was killed after a prop gun discharged by Baldwin misfired. She was 42 years old. The director Joel Souza was also wounded by the misfire. It is unsure exactly how such an accident occurred. There are several contradicting witness accounts on how Baldwin’s prop gun became loaded.
Many are placing blame on assistant director David Halls. This is because an associate director’s role is to regulate the set. Therefore, it is believed that it was his responsibility to ensure firearm safety on stage. Gun supervisor Hannah Gutierezze also bears responsibility for the accident. It has been said that she has no idea where the live ammo was introduced. No ill intent was meant, but this failure to inspect and be extra aware of every firearm onset cost a woman her life.
This situation brings to light the conversation on firearm safety in Hollywood. Hollywood’s history of gun-related tragedies is not a short one. Brandon Lee, actor and son of martial-artist Bruce Lee was famously killed after being shot by a gun that was supposed to fire blank cartridges.
These incidents point out a genuinely fatal flaw in the film industry. There are no concrete set of firearm regulations across the Industry. According to the Associated Press, gun safety on film sets is not regulated by the US federal workplace safety agency. Most states also leave the Industry to self-govern.
Studios like Warner Brothers have published safety guidelines, but there are no enforceable rules set in stone that extend across the Industry. Because of this, innocent filmmakers get hurt, and in Hutchins’s case, killed.
In the wake of the recent tragedy on the set of “Rust,” significant studios are reexamining their gun safety policies, and many are calling for a ban on live firearms on stage. Popular showrunners Eric Kripke and Alexi Hawley, from “The Boys” and “The Rookie,” respectively, have both declared that they would only be using CGI and VFX barrel flashes in their productions. California Senator Dave Cortese has pledged to push a bill banning live ammunition on film sets in the state.
These are all important progressions in the Industry. Lives should not be damaged for the sake of authenticity. Viewers are not going to stop going to movies just because they used airsoft prop guns. The technology in the film industry has grown far too advanced for live weapons to be used on set still. There is no good reason for dangerous firearms to be used on stage anymore. Accidents like the death of Hutchins could so easily be avoided. All that is needed is some initiative in the Industry.
Hutchins’s death should not be in vain, and it should inspire film and lawmakers alike better to govern the use of dangerous weapons on film sets. Her life should be honored by protecting the lives of others in Hollywood like her.