On Oct. 21, while rehearsing a scene for the movie “Rust,” actor Alec Baldwin shot a gun handed to him on set, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding film director Joel Souza.
With new information about this ongoing investigation arising each day preceding the incident, the focus has turned to the assistant director (AD) Dave Halls.
While it is easy to target Halls, the shooting is a signal of poor safety measures throughout the whole crew.
One person cannot be identified as the sole suspect in the incident. To accurately understand how this event occurred, investigators must look at the big picture to identify weak spots that led to this.
What we know so far about the event is that Halls handed Baldwin the firearm and said that it was a “cold gun,” meaning that the firearm had no live rounds in it. Baldwin then began rehearsing a scene where he had to cross-draw the revolver and point it towards the camera. It was at this moment that the gun went off and let out live ammunition.
When any weapons, specifically guns, are handled on set, safety is paramount.
The protocol calls for actors to be trained in gun safety while a licensed armorer checks the firearms daily. And there should never be any live ammunition.
The film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, had opened the gun for Halls to inspect. This was one of three guns prepped and supposedly ready for handling.
When describing how guns are checked on set, Halls told investigators that he typically checks the barrel for obstructions. Then, Gutierrez-Reed opens the hatch, spins the drum and “cold gun” is called. This procedure is in place to determine whether there is any live ammunition in the gun.
“Halls advised he should have checked all of [the guns], but didn’t, and couldn’t recall if he spun the drum,” read an affidavit released last week Even if Halls did not check the gun fully, Gutierrez-Reed should have already ensured the gun’s safety.
Normally, the armorer will check the firearms for proper safety, ensuring no live ammunition is present. Then, the AD will double-check and the armorer will hand off the gun to the actor.
This chain of firearm safety was disturbed for an unknown reason when Halls handed the gun off to Baldwin, instead of Gutierrez- Reed.
Many factors could have caused this to happen. The crew was rushed to film after some camera crew members walked off the set for other reasons earlier in the day. This time loss could have led to the crew speeding through safety protocols.
Another factor that cannot be left out is the fact that Gutierrez- Reed is only 24 years old. “Rust” is her second film as a head armorer. This lack of experience is concerning and should be heavily considered when looking at the incident from a larger perspective.
In a podcast interview posted last month, Gutierrez-Reed mentioned that she almost didn't take the job as a head armorer for her recent first movie because she felt as though she wasn’t ready.
A head armorer should be someone who has years of experience on set. While Gutierrez-Reed is dedicated to her job, she is still lacking leadership skills and the confidence in her position that only experience can teach.
While the investigation is still ongoing, it will be hard to truly identify whose fault this event was. The chain of safety measures was broken by multiple people, with no one person at the center of it all.
The investigation should focus on how the safety measures got ignored in the first place. Factors like rushing for time, inexperienced armorers, money issues and other distractions should be highly considered. These are the multiple aspects that can lead crew members to disregard the need for strict safety protocols.