Rust Crew Had Walked Off Set Before Fatal Shooting; Three Other Gun Misfires Reported On Same Film

Hours before yesterday's fatal incident on the set of the indie Western film "Rust," in which producer/star Alec Baldwin discharged a gun that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza, several crew members had walked off the set to protest working conditions — including multiple instances of guns misfiring on the set earlier in the production.

According to a report from The Los Angeles Times, which interviewed three people who were not authorized to publicly comment on the situation, six camera crew workers showed up at 6:30 am on Thursday and spent about an hour gathering their equipment to leave, only to encounter non-union crew members who had shown up to replace them. "A member of the producer staff then ordered the union members to leave the set," the report says. "She said if they didn't leave, the producers would call security to remove them."

But here's the most egregious part of the whole story: there were reportedly two misfires from the gun on Saturday and an additional misfire the week before.

The production company, Rust Movie Productions LLC, released a statement addressing what happened:

"The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company. 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. We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time."

The word "official" in the phrase "official complaints" certainly seems like it's doing a lot of heavy lifting in that statement. But here's the thing: independent film productions are often under immense amounts of constraints and are metaphorically held together by duct tape and the sweat of their crews. That said, there is no excuse for that many gun safety issues on any production. Period.

Gun Safety Wasn't the Only Problem

The report (which paints this whole messy situation in an even more damning light than before) also states that crew members were promised that the production would pay for their hotel rooms in Santa Fe, which is located near the set on Bonanza Creek Ranch. But after filming began on October 6, "the crews were told they instead would be required to make the 50-mile drive from Albuquerque each day, rather than stay overnight in nearby Santa Fe."

That type of decision is at the heart of what IATSE, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, was fighting for in their public battle with the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Crew members are often exhausted after working 12-16 hour days, and making them drive further at the beginning and end of each day cuts into the limited time they have to rest, refuel, and recharge. Productions have been doing stuff like this for years to save money, and it sounds like "Rust" was no exception.

After yesterday's shooting, Souza was discharged from the hospital and Baldwin issued a statement expressing "shock and sadness" over Hutchins' death. The report states that Hutchins "had been advocating for safer conditions for her team" before she was killed. Expect more information to trickle in over the coming days about how this situation went so terribly and tragically wrong.