Baldwin shooting highlights risks of rushed film production
NEW YORK (AP) — The fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin on a movie set has put a microscope on an often-unseen corner of the film industry where critics say the pursuit of profit can lead to unsafe working conditions.
With a budget around $7 million, the Western “Rust” was no micro-budget indie. The previous best-picture winner at the Academy Awards, “Nomadland,” was made for less. But the New Mexico set where Baldwin shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins had inexperienced crew members, apparent safety lapses and a serious labor dispute.
For some in the business, the failures reflect larger issues in a fast-evolving movie industry.
“Production is exploding, corners are being cut even more and budgets are being crunched down even more,” said Mynette Louie, a veteran independent film producer. “Something’s got to give.”
The shooting happened at a busy time: Production is ramping up following the easing of pandemic restrictions. Streaming services are increasing demand for content. And all the while, the industry is wrestling with standards for movie sets.
Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said there was “some complacency” in how weapons were handled on the set. Investigators found 500 rounds of ammunition — a mix of blanks, dummy rounds and suspected live rounds, even though the set’s firearms specialist, armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, said real ammo should never have been present.
Attention has focused on the 24-year-old Gutierrez Reed, who had worked on only one previous feature, and assistant director Dave Halls, who handed the gun to Baldwin. According to a search warrant affidavit, Halls called out “cold gun” to indicate it was safe to use but told detectives he did not check all of the weapon’s chambers.
The lack of proper weapons protocol stunned veteran film...