The assistant director of the western film “Rust” grabbed a prop pistol from a gray cart and handed it to the movie’s star, Alec Baldwin, shouting “cold gun!” — which was supposed to indicate that it did not contain any live rounds, and was safe to handle around the crew huddled by the camera.
But the weapon fired when Mr. Baldwin pulled the trigger a few minutes later, discharging a live projectile that hit the director, Joel Souza, in the shoulder and struck the director of photography, Halyna Hutchins, in the chest, killing her.
The first official account of the killing, which has rocked the entertainment industry and raised questions about workplace safety issues in film productions, was released late Friday in an affidavit filed by the Santa Fe County sheriff’s department seeking to search the rustic wooden building where the shooting happened.
A state magistrate judge granted the request, which includes an examination of the gun for biological evidence as well as a review of cameras, film, memory cards or other video recorders that may provide information in the case. Mr. Baldwin has cooperated with investigators, a spokesman for the department said. No charges have been filed in the shooting.
While the five-page filing provides many basic logistical details of the shooting, it leaves many questions unanswered — namely how a live round ended up in a gun fired by an actor.
The assistant director “did not know live rounds were in the prop gun,” Detective Joel Cano wrote in the affidavit.
The weapon was “set up” on the tray by the movie’s weapons specialist, or armorer, along with a Western-style gun belt used in the scene. Detective Cano did not say what the armorer told investigators who arrived at the Bonanza Creek resort, where the film was shooting.
Ms. Hutchins, who was 42, was sitting in front of Mr. Souza, the director, watching the scene play out when the projectile struck her, the police said.
The armorer “was given the prop gun after it was fired by actor Alec Baldwin” and “then took the spent casing” out of the weapon before handing it over to the police, Detective Cano wrote.
Mr. Baldwin “was wearing Old Western style clothing during the filming,” and changed into his street clothes before turning over his costume to the department’s evidence technician, he wrote.
“These clothes appeared to have blood stains,” Detective Cano added.
Glenn Thrush and
The investigation into Thursday’s shooting is “active and ongoing,” and crucial details remain unknown, the Santa Fe County sheriff’s office said on Friday afternoon.
“Detectives entered the movie set today and continue to interview potential witnesses,” said Juan Rios, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. “Apparently there were quite a few people at the scene of what happened.”
He said that Alec Baldwin, who fired the fatal shot, had gone to the sheriff’s office voluntarily on Thursday to deliver his statement and had been “very cooperative.”
Mr. Rios was not able to identify the type of gun or projectile involved, or to answer the central question of how it ended up killing the film’s director of photography and wounding the director.
“Regarding the projectile, a focus of the investigation is what type it was and how did it get there,” he said.
The details of the shooting are still hazy.
In a 911 call, audio of which was obtained by The Albuquerque Journal, a woman who identified herself as a script supervisor reported that two people had been “accidentally shot by a prop gun.” According to the newspaper, the woman said she didn’t know if the gun had contained a real bullet, adding: “We were rehearsing and it went off and I ran out. We all ran out.”
Mr. Rios said investigators were executing search warrants at Bonanza Creek Ranch, where the shooting took place.
“It’s barely been 24 hours since this happened,” he said. “We should have more information at the beginning of next week.”
Alec Baldwin put out a statement Friday saying he was cooperating with the police in their investigation of the fatal shooting on the set of the film “Rust,” where officials said he had fired a gun used as a prop the day before and killed the movie’s director of photography.
The statement on social media was the first time Mr. Baldwin had spoken publicly about the shooting.
1-— AlecBaldwin(HABF) (@AlecBaldwin) October 22, 2021
There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours. I'm fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and
2- I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.— AlecBaldwin(HABF) (@AlecBaldwin) October 22, 2021
A fatal shooting Thursday on the set of the movie “Rust” killed the film’s cinematographer and wounded the director. Alec Baldwin, one of the starring actors and a producer of the film, fired a weapon used as a prop.
The local police agency is investigating and has made few details public so far.
Here are some things we do not yet know:
What kind of gun was used?
What kind of projectile was in the gun?
Was a scene being filmed, or rehearsed, when the gun was fired?
Who was the armorer or prop master on the set, and what were the safety protocols for using weapons as props? Were the protocols followed?
How was it that two people were struck? Was the weapon discharged more than once?
Joel Souza, the director who was shot Thursday on the set of Alec Baldwin’s film “Rust,” was released from a hospital in New Mexico late Thursday and is expected to make a full recovery, according to a person with knowledge of his condition.
Mr. Souza, 48, was rushed to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center after Mr. Baldwin fired a gun used as a prop, killing the movie’s cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, according to the police.
The person with knowledge of Mr. Souza’s condition, who works with the production company, requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of the case publicly.
“Director Joel Souza told me he’s out of hospital,” Frances Fisher, an actress in the movie, wrote on Twitter early Friday, in response to reports that Mr. Souza might have been seriously injured.
The circumstances of the shooting are under investigation.
Mr. Souza, who lives in the San Francisco area, has been a writer or director on six relatively low-budget independent films over the past decade, most recently directing the 2019 movie “Crown Vic,” which followed the story of Los Angeles Police Department officers as they patrolled the city responding to a range of violent incidents.
In a May 2019 interview, Mr. Souza spoke at length about how closely he had worked with that film’s director of photography, Thomas Scott Stanton, to make on-the-fly adjustments when actors improvised.
“I sort of storyboard everything, I’m obsessive about that,” he said, adding that the two of them often threw out their plans “to fly by the seat of our pants.”
His first directorial credit, according to the movie database site IMDB, came in 2017, on a low-budget crime drama, “Break Night.”
An earlier version of this article misspelled, in one instance, the surname of the film's director. He is Joel Souza, not Sousa.
Shortly before Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot on a film set in the foothills of New Mexico, she smiled at the camera as she recorded herself riding a chestnut horse through the desert brush.
“One of the perks of shooting a western is you get to ride horses on your day off,” Ms. Hutchins wrote in an Instagram post this week.
On Thursday, Ms. Hutchins, 42, was killed when the actor Alec Baldwin discharged a firearm being used as a prop on the set of “Rust,” a western about a teenage boy who goes on the run with his grandfather after the accidental killing of a local rancher. Ms. Hutchins, the film’s director of photography, died after being flown to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. The film’s director, Joel Souza, was also injured in the shooting.
Friends in Ukraine, where Ms. Hutchins is from originally, described her as beautiful and spirited, someone whose talents had propelled her from Ukraine to success in Hollywood but who never forgot her home country. She was proud of her heritage, they said, and returned regularly to visit.
In a post on Twitter on Friday, Mr. Baldwin said, “My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”
Yana Nestoliy, a friend from college, described her as an ambitious, focused woman with intelligent eyes and a sincere smile.
“She could have been among the top Hollywood stars on camera, not behind it,” Ms. Nestoliy said.
In a statement Friday afternoon, Ms. Hutchins’s talent agency, Innovative Artists, called her “a ray of light.”
“She decided early on she would take the craft of cinematography by storm and the last couple of years proved she was well on her way,” the agency said. “Her talent was immense, only surpassed by the love she had for her family. All those in her orbit knew what was coming; a star director of photography, who would be a force to be reckoned with.”
It continued, “We hope this tragedy will reveal new lessons for how to better ensure safety for every crew member on set.”
Ms. Hutchins grew up on a Soviet military base above the Arctic Circle, where, according to her personal website, she was “surrounded by reindeer and nuclear submarines.” She studied economics at the Agrarian University in Ukraine before switching to a journalism program at Kyiv National University. She later attended the American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles.
Andriy Semenyuk, a friend and fellow Ukrainian cinematographer, said in an interview with Detector Media, a media organization in Ukraine, that even as Ms. Hutchins’s career blossomed in Hollywood, she made a point of embracing her Ukrainian background, making an effort to help fellow Ukrainians in California. Mr. Semenyuk called her death a “stupid, shocking loss.”
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said on Friday that the country’s consulate in Los Angeles was trying to contact Ms. Hutchins’s relatives.
Among filmmakers in the United States, Ms. Hutchins was remembered as a skilled cinematographer with an artistic vision who was deeply committed to her work.
Adam Egypt Mortimer, the director of a 2020 superhero action movie, “Archenemy,” on which Ms. Hutchins worked as director of photography, wrote on Twitter that Ms. Hutchins was a “brilliant talent,” pointing to a series of posts he made last year about her work. He had written that Ms. Hutchins’s “tastes and sensibility of what is cinematic were a huge asset for executing our style.”
Julia Jacobs and
Hollywood was in a state of shock on Friday, one day after Alec Baldwin fired a gun being used as a prop on a New Mexico film set, killing a cinematographer and wounding the director. Real firearms are routinely used while cameras are rolling, and injuries of any kind are rare. The reason is that safety protocols for firearms on sets are well established and straight forward.
Weapons must be tightly managed by an armorer, sometimes credited on films as a “weapons master,” who holds various government-issued permits. Some states, for instance, require an entertainment firearms license in addition to standard gun licenses. Cast members should be trained in gun safety in advance. Guns should never be pointed directly at anyone, especially in rehearsals but even during actual filming, since camera trickery can be used to compensate for the angle. If necessary, plexiglass is used to protect the camera operator and surrounding crew members.
And no live ammunition, ever.
“Protocol had to have been broken,” said Daniel Leonard, an associate dean of Chapman University’s film school who specializes in set procedures. “We will have to see what the details are, but the industry has a very specific set of guidelines to follow to prevent something like this from happening.”
What is it like to be on a movie or television set when a gun is fired?
It depends, of course. The indie production of “Rust,” where Alec Baldwin shot a gun being used as a prop, killing the director of photography and wounding the director, was a relatively spare one. Big studio movies like “No Time to Die” or “The Fate of the Furious” involve extensive gun battles, with blank ammunition always supposed to stand in for the real thing.
But the safety protocols should be the same on any production, no matter the size, according to film firearms experts.
A New York Times reporter got a sense of what usually happens on a set right before a scene involving simulated gunfire. It happened in October 2015 on the Baton Rouge, La., set of the remake of “Roots.” Before the cameras rolled, a crew leader stood in the middle of the wooded location, with dozens of performers and crew watching, and gave a safety speech in an urgent, serious tone. The scene they were about to film involved cannons and gunfire from period weapons.
“All right, everybody,” the crew leader said. “We have to discharge the gun. So we’re not playing with toys, guys. If something goes wrong, I’m going to yell cut, and we’re all going to back off calmly.
“The cannons are all faced out. We’ve all been through this training, we’ve rehearsed it over and over, we all get it. But pay attention, this is not a game. I keep saying that, guys. These guns are for real.
“Does anybody here, anybody here, have a question about what we’re doing?”
The crew leader fielded a question about which cannons would fire and which ones would not. He gave instructions about what actors should do when they heard “cut” yelled from the sidelines. (“Just stay where you are. We may need to support it or photograph it or — I don’t know.”) He then asked for questions three more times.
A crew member spoke up: “Does anyone want ear protection? Ear protection, now’s your chance.”
Soon after, cannons boomed, shaking the leaves off 50-foot trees. “Ready, I need fire on that hill!” an actor playing an officer yelled, as cameras rolled to recreate the brutal Civil War battle of Fort Pillow.
Melena Ryzik and
Serious accidents on television and movie sets, like stunt performers suffering injuries during action sequences or actors being killed when props malfunction, have occurred with some regularity over the last several decades. There were at least 194 serious film and television set accidents in the United States from 1990 to 2014, and at least 43 deaths, according to The Associated Press.
One of the most notable was the death of the actor Brandon Lee, 28, who died in March 1993 after being shot at with a gun that was supposed to fire blank cartridges.
The tip of a .44-caliber bullet had become lodged in the gun’s barrel in filming a close-up scene, and dislodged when a blank cartridge was fired. The bullet pierced Mr. Lee’s abdomen, damaging several organs and lodging in his spine.
Mr. Lee, the son of the martial-arts star Bruce Lee, was the star of the film, about a rock musician who is killed by a street gang and then comes back to life with supernatural powers.
An executive producer of the movie said at the time that when a blank is fired, a piece of soft wadding normally comes out of the gun, but in this case, a metallic projectile came out. A police investigation into the shooting returned no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, and no charges were filed.
Shannon Lee, Brandon Lee’s sister, shared her condolences late Thursday after the shooting in New Mexico. “Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza,” she wrote on Twitter.
Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on “Rust”. No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period. 💔— Brandon Bruce Lee (@brandonblee) October 22, 2021
“Rust” is a western set in Kansas in the 1880s, about a 13-year-old boy who goes on the run with his estranged grandfather — a notorious outlaw named Harland Rust, played by Alec Baldwin — after the boy accidentally kills a local rancher. The movie, which was scheduled to be filmed this month and next month in New Mexico, is being directed by Joel Souza and stars Frances Fisher and Mr. Baldwin, who is also listed as one of several producers of the film.
A statement from the New Mexico Film Office on Oct. 6 said Rust Movie Productions would employ 75 crew members, 22 actors and 230 “background talent” from New Mexico. The Santa Fe Film Office told The Santa Fe New Mexican on Oct. 11 that work on the movie had been underway for a few weeks.
The movie tells the story of a teenage boy who is “left to fend for himself and his younger brother following the death of their parents,” the New Mexico Film Office said in the statement. The boy “goes on the run with his long-estranged grandfather after he’s sentenced to hanging for the accidental killing of a local rancher,” according to the statement.
According to Screen Daily, after the boy, Lucas, is convicted, Mr. Baldwin’s character breaks him out of prison, and they are pursued by a U.S. marshal, Wood Helm, and a bounty hunter, Fenton “Preacher” Lang.
The principal cast includes Mr. Baldwin; Travis Fimmel, who plays Fenton Lang; Ms. Fisher; and Brady Noon, who plays Lucas, according to IMDb. Jensen Ackles plays Wood Helm.
Mr. Souza also has director credits for the movies “Crown Vic,” “Break Night,” “Christmas Trade” and “Ghost Squad.”
Mr. Baldwin is credited with conceiving the idea for the movie with Mr. Souza. Speaking about the film in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in June, Mr. Baldwin said the idea had begun with a question about the youngest person ever to be hanged in the American West, and he explained why he was attracted to the project.
“I was just looking for something a little more cinematic with a little less talking,” he said. “There’s great dialogue, but the film is balanced by some really stunning cinematics.”
The cinematographer on the film, Halyna Hutchins, 42, was killed in the shooting on Thursday. Mr. Souza was wounded.
Mr. Baldwin compared “Rust” to the Clint Eastwood movie “Unforgiven.” “That time was filled with some dark realities and some harsh realities,” he said.
Asked in the interview about his gunslinging and horse-riding skills, Mr. Baldwin said: “They’re always at the ready. I’m an actor of the old school. So if you read my résumé — my motorcycle riding, my French, juggling, my horseback riding, my gunplay — is all right at my fingertips at all times.”
According to the website of Highland Film Group, which was handling international sales of the movie, the character played by Mr. Baldwin “has had a bounty on his head for as long as he can remember, and a reputation for being a ruthless outlaw.”
The movie goes on to tell the story of their journey, when Lucas has little choice “but to follow the unpredictable patriarch on a perilous journey to a new life in New Mexico.”
ALBUQUERQUE — When the makers of “Stranger Things” were scouting for locations this year, they zeroed in on one of the most sought-after hubs in the United States for new film production: New Mexico’s high desert.
Never mind that much of the sci-fi thriller’s new season is set in a fictional Indiana town and the former Soviet Union. The sizzling growth of New Mexico’s film industry made it a no-brainer for Netflix to shift significant portions of production to the state from Atlanta.
“Coming out of the pandemic, studios are looking to create again,” said Ivan Wiener, 51, a former assistant to the actor Dennis Hopper who operates a concierge service at the Albuquerque airport for actors and executives from Netflix and other studios. “Albuquerque seems to be the best place to do that right now.”
Alec Baldwin’s fatal shooting of a crew member on the set of a film in Santa Fe County is casting attention on New Mexico’s emergence as a production hub as streaming giants, including Netflix and NBCUniversal, increase investments in the state.
The growth reflects decades of efforts to reduce the reliance of New Mexico, one of the country’s poorest states, on taxes and royalties from oil production, which still account for about a third of its annual budget even as its leaders try to nurture cleaner sources of jobs.
While New Mexico’s filmmaking tradition stretches back to the late 19th century, the decision in 2006 by producers of the crime drama “Breaking Bad” to relocate from California’s Inland Empire helped set off an industry resurgence in the state.
Since then, the competition among streaming giants has fueled a production boom in Albuquerque and other New Mexico locations. Industry leaders cite the state’s large pool of local union crew members and proximity to existing studios in California, along with generous and sometimes politically contentious incentives, as reasons for the growth.
Quarreling about the incentives has become a regular feature in the New Mexico Legislature, with some Republicans likening them to giveaways to Hollywood executives. But New Mexico’s politics — which lean much more to the left than neighboring Arizona’s or Texas’ — have also played a role in the industry’s growth.
For instance, “Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar,” a comedy starring Kristen Wiig and released over the summer, shifted production to Albuquerque from Atlanta in response to a Georgia law that sought to prevent doctors from performing abortions after six weeks.
New Mexico’s governor, by contrast, signed a law this year that strengthened abortion rights in the state, out of concern that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade.