Union Workers Quit on Morning of Fatal Shooting
Baldwin was working with non-union scabs on day of New Mexico Shooting
On Friday morning, the world was shocked to hear about the tragic death of Halyna Hutchins at the hands of Alec Baldwin. It has emerged that the actor fired a prop gun that he believed was not loaded, fatally shooting cinematographer Hutchins and injuring Director Joel Souza. Since the incident became headline news, new reports have emerged about safety issues on the set and the use of scabs in the hours before the fatal shooting after union members walked off.
According to search warrants obtained by the LA Times, the incident occurred when Baldwin was practicing drawing his revolver and pointing it at the camera. Souza said that the gun was described to him as a cold gun, meaning that it didn’t have live ammunition in it. However, this was not the case and as Baldwin practiced his draw, he accidentally fired off a fatal shot directly at Hutchins and Souza.
According to police statements from camera operator Reid Russell and Souza, armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed set up the three guns being used in the scene. She then, as part of the COVID safety protocols, left them on a cart outside of the set. The guns were then picked up by assistant director Dave Halls and given to Baldwin. Halls reportedly yelled “cold gun” the signal that a gun was being used without live ammo. After preparing for the scene, the crew broke for lunch, but it is unclear if they checked the weapons before they began filming again for live ammo or potentially dangerous blanks. As Baldwin was explaining how he was going to draw his gun and where his arm would be positioned, it discharged, Russell said.
“Joel said as far as he knows, no one gets checked for live ammunition on their person prior and after the scenes are being filmed,” the affidavit said. “The only thing checked are the firearms to avoid live ammunition being in them. Joel stated there should never be live rounds whatsoever, near or around the scene.”
This was not the first screw-up on the film. According to sources on the site, gun misfires were a common problem on the set. Although production on the movie began in early October, this was already the fourth misfire of a gun. “Corners were being cut — and they brought in nonunion people so they could continue shooting,” a source told the San Diego Times Union-Tribune.
Just hours before the shooting, IATSE crews on the film walked off the set citing a lack of pay and inadequate lodging. Sources told the San Diego Times-Union that when they signed onto the film, they were told the production company would provide hotel rooms in Santa Fe where the filming was being done. Instead, they were sent to cheap motels in Albuquerque. In a video posted on Facebook from the union, a member who said they were on the movie, highlighted the deplorable conditions saying:
“At the moment I’m fighting to get my crew, on this movie, hotel rooms when we go long or are too tired to drive the hour back from location to albuquerque. They either say no or offer a garbage roadside motel that’s used as a homeless shelter. In fact the line producer on the flick complained the motel she booked charges her 10 bucks more per night than the homeless. They haven’t even paid the crew a proper check.”
On Thursday morning the frustration with the job hit a boiling point as six members of the union crew reportedly showed up at 6:30 AM and began collecting their equipment and personal stuff from the Bonanza Ranch where the filming was taking place. After about an hour the union crew was escorted off the ranch and was replaced by a non-union scab outfit.
CNN is also reporting that safety was not taken seriously by the bosses on set. Reports say that Halls was accused of disregarding safety procedures and meetings in regard to the use of pyrotechnics and weapons, routinely blocked fire lanes and instances of inappropriate sexual behavior on set. Previous people who worked for Halls said that this was a systemic problem saying that he would often fail to hold safety meetings or would only hold them at the insistence of the prop master.
Maggie Goll, an IATSE Local 44 prop maker, and licensed pyrotechnician said in a statement to CNN that while working on Hulu's "Into the Dark" Anthology Series in February and May of 2019 Halls would neglect to hold these safety meetings or announce the presence of a firearm on set. "The only reason the crew was made aware of a weapon's presence was because the assistant prop master demanded Dave acknowledge and announce the situation each day," Goll's statement reads. She said the prop master would "announce each day when a gun would be required on camera, the disposition of that weapon -- whether it was a rubber/plastic replica, a non-firing option, or a 'cold' functional, but unloaded option, allowing anyone to inspect said weapon prior to bringing it to set and presenting it to the talent. (...) The Prop Master frequently admonished Dave for dismissing the talent without returning props, weapon included, or failing to make safety announcements."
CNN corroborated this with another unnamed source who also worked with Halls who said he complained that a prop master insisted on having a gun “cleared”, which means it is inspected by licensed professional on set, such as an armorer before an actress put the gun to her head for a scene. They are also reporting that Halls had previously been fired from the film “Freedom’s Path” after a gun was unexpectedly discharged on set causing a significant injury to a sound crew member.
The death of Hutchins has raised new concerns among IATSE members about safety on the job. As UCOMM previously reported, 60,000 IATSE members were considering a strike earlier in the month before a tentative agreement was reached. Members are still voting on whether to approve that agreement. This was largely due to the long and dangerous working conditions that IATSE members were forced to endure. Sources say that since this was a low-budget film, production would not have been affected by an IATSE strike since they were working on a different contract.
Ironically Baldwin, a producer on the film, recently tweeted out a video in support of blue-collar IATSE members saying “I want to say to the people in IATSE, do what you need to do,” Baldwin said about the upcoming vote. “You don’t like that contract? You think the contract could be better? You want to go on strike? Go on strike.” Yet the producer and star of the low budget film continued to work on set even when he knew there were safety issues, and that scab labor was brought in to replace union workers.
Hutchins, a member of IATSE Local 600, was named a "rising star" by American Cinematographer magazine in 2019.