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'Vibrant' cinematographer remembered as police probe Baldwin shooting

 (Reuters) - The crew was setting up a difficult shot during filming on the New Mexico set of "Rust", and the movie's cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, wasn't quite satisfied.

She turned to Lane Luper, a member of the camera crew, who suggested some adjustments that she found worked perfectly. That kind of collaborative spirit, Luper said at a candlelight vigil on Saturday, was what made Hutchins such a joy to work with.

"Her photography was beautiful, and every day, everybody on the camera team was proud to be there for her, because we were proud of what we were creating – what she was creating," he told the crowd, two days after Hutchins was killed in an accident when actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on set.

Luper said he would have been lucky to work with her again. "And I don't get to. And it sucks," he said, breaking into tears.

While organizers emphasized that the vigil in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was to honor Hutchins' memory, rather than focus on her death, some in the crowd held signs that read "Safety on Set," a reminder that the circumstances surrounding Thursday's shooting remain murky.

Details have emerged suggesting the production was troubled before the accident. Several crew members walked off the set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, south of Santa Fe, just hours before the incident, protesting what they saw as poor working conditions, several media outlets reported.

Last week, Baldwin's stunt double accidentally fired two rounds with a prop firearm after being told it was "cold," an industry term meaning a weapon is not loaded with ammunition, the Los Angeles Times said. At least one employee complained to a production manager about gun safety on set, the newspaper reported, citing unnamed crew members.

The same mistake may have occurred on Thursday, according to court records. An assistant director, Dave Halls, handed Baldwin the prop gun and told him it was a "cold gun", according to an affidavit from the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office.

When Baldwin fired the gun, Hutchins was fatally struck in the chest, according to the sheriff's office.

It is unclear why the gun contained a projectile. The person in charge of weapons onset is known as an armorer. The armorer for "Rust," Hannah Gutierrez, had set up the gun and two others, according to the affidavit.

Halls and Gutierrez could not be reached for comment on Saturday.

Rust Movie Productions said in a statement on Friday it had not been aware of any safety concerns but was investigating the incident.

"Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down," the company said. Baldwin is among the film's producers.

MOURNING HUTCHINS

About 200 mourners attended Saturday's vigil, including set decorators, prop masters, and costume designers. The actors Jon Hamm and John Slattery, who co-starred in the television hit "Mad Men" and are working on a movie in nearby Belen, also joined.


Slattery, who is directing the movie starring Hamm, told Reuters members of his crew were friends with Hutchins, and Hamm said the pair "came to support our community".

A speaker at the vigil also read aloud a statement from Hutchins' husband, Matt.

"Halyna inspired us all with her passion and vision, and her legacy is too meaningful to encapsulate in words," he wrote. "Please take time to remember her, and we will all work together to honor her memory and emulate her determination and her creativity."

Baldwin, 63, best known for his roles in the TV comedy "30 Rock" and his "Saturday Night Live" impersonations of former U.S. President Donald Trump, said on Friday he was shocked and heartbroken at Hutchins' death and was fully cooperating with authorities.

Earlier on Saturday, the director of "Rust," Joel Souza, who was wounded in the shooting, addressed the incident for the first time, saying that he was "gutted" by Hutchins' death.

"She was kind, vibrant, incredibly talented, fought for every inch, and always pushed me to be better," Souza said in a statement. He was hit in the shoulder while standing behind Hutchins, according to police; he was treated at a local hospital and released.

No charges have been filed in the case, and police have said the investigation remains active. Security guards were posted at the road leading to the ranch on Saturday.

The American Film Institute set up a scholarship fund for female cinematographers in Hutchins' honor.

Alec Baldwin was handed what was described as a safe "cold gun" on the set of his movie "Rust", but the prop gun contained live rounds when it was fired, according to details of the police investigation into the fatal shooting released on Friday.

The shot hit cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in the chest, and director Joel Souza who was behind her, in the shoulder, according to a county sheriff's affidavit filed in Santa Fe magistrates court.

Hutchins died of her wounds and Souza was injured but has since been released from a local hospital.

The assistant director who handed Baldwin the prop gun did not know it contained live rounds, the affidavit by Santa Fe Sheriff's Department Detective Joel Cano said.

Baldwin said on Friday he was in shock over the accidental shooting as reports emerged of walk-outs on the "Rust" set earlier in the week over unsafe conditions.

The star of "30 Rock" and "The Hunt for Red October" said he was "fully cooperating" with authorities to determine how the incident occurred on Thursday.

Production on the movie was immediately shut down. The sheriff's department said no charges had been filed and the investigation remained open. Baldwin voluntarily gave a statement about the shooting, the sheriff's department said.

The affidavit was filed on Friday in support of a search warrant for "old Western-style clothing" worn by Baldwin that appeared to have bloodstains, along with firearms, documentation, ammunition, and cameras from the scene.

The search warrant was approved by a Santa Fe judge.

Cano said the incident took place at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, south of Santa Fe, during a rehearsal and it was not clear whether it had been filmed.

He said the prop gun was one of three on a cart outside a building. One of them was taken by the assistant director of the movie who went inside and handed it to Baldwin.

"As the assistant director handed the gun to the actor Alec Baldwin, (he) yelled 'cold gun', indicating the prop gun did not have any live rounds," the affidavit said.

As the investigation proceeded, questions were raised about working conditions on the set of "Rust", a small budget Western movie of which Baldwin was both star and a co-producer.

The Los Angeles Times and Deadline Hollywood cited several members of the crew and others close to the production as saying six or seven camera operators had walked off the "Rust" set hours before the tragedy.

Both outlets also reported that there had been at least one previous misfire with the prop gun.

"We cited everything from lack of payment for three weeks, taking our hotels away despite asking for them in our deals, lack of Covid safety, and on top of that, poor gun safety! Poor on-set safety period!" one camera crew member wrote on a private Facebook page, according to Deadline.

Reuters could not immediately confirm the accounts. Rust Movie Productions did not respond to a request for comment on Friday but said in a statement it was investigating.

"Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down," the company said in its statement.

Baldwin, 63, on Friday, expressed his "shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident" that killed Hutchins. In a message on his social media accounts, he said his "heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna."

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) said in a statement that it was devastated to learn of the death of Hutchins, who was a member of the union.

Hutchins' representatives in a statement said they "hope this tragedy will reveal new lessons for how to better ensure safety for every crew member on set."

Hutchins, 42, who was originally from Ukraine, was named one of American Cinematographers' Rising Stars of 2019. Her last social media post, two days ago, shows her grinning under a wide-brimmed hat as she rides a horse. "One of the perks of shooting a western is you get to ride horses on your day off:)" she captioned the video.

Known for his impersonations of former U.S. President Donald Trump on sketch show "Saturday Night Live," Baldwin has appeared in more than 100 TV and film comedies and dramas, and won Emmy awards for his role as an egotistical TV network executive in the satire "30 Rock".

The accident renewed debate about whether certain types of prop guns should be banned on TV and movie sets.

Brandon Lee, son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, died at age 28 after being fatally wounded in 1993 by a prop gun in an on-set accident while filming "The Crow."

"I don't understand why we would still use blank rounds in a day when you could simulate them," indie film director and producer Ben Rock told Reuters on Friday.