Rust Movie Productions LLC, one of the companies producing Alec Baldwin’s western film Rust, has been issued the maximum possible fine by the state of New Mexico, over the actor’s fatal on-set shooting that ended the life of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza.
New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau announced on Wednesday that the film’s production company will be fined a total $136,793 for failing to perform industry standard safety checks in order to effectively regulate firearm usage on the set of Rust.
In accordance with state law, the fine issued to Rust Movie Productions LLC applies to any film with a budget of about $7 million.
Per the press release from New Mexico’s Environment Department, “While the film industry has clear national guidelines for firearms safety, Rust Movie Productions, LLC failed to follow these guidelines or take other effective measures to protect workers.”
The press released added, “The guidelines require live ammunition ‘never be used nor brought onto any studio lot or stage,’ that safety meetings take place every day when firearms are being handled, and that employees ‘refrain from pointing a firearm at anyone’ except after consultation with the Property Master, Armorer or other safety representative, such as the First Assistant Director. By failing to follow these practices, an avoidable loss of life occurred.”
OHSB Bureau Chief Robert Genoway told the Associated Press, “What we had, based on our investigators’ findings, was a set of obvious hazards to employees regarding the use of firearms and management’s failure to act upon those obvious hazards.”
New Mexico’s Environment Cabinet Secretary James Kenney also stated, “Our investigation found that this tragic incident never would have happened if Rust Movie Productions, LLC had followed national film industry standards for firarm safety.”
He added, “This is a complete failure of the employer to follow recognized national protocols that keep employees safe.”
This new occupational safety report notes that “Alec Baldwin, Actor and Producer, and Joel Souza, Director, negotiated with various producers to help create and fund the Rust project. Alec Baldwin’s authority on the set included approving script changes and actor candidates. Alec Baldwin handled the revolver and fired the round that struck and injured Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza.”
It further notes that “On October 21, 2021, Dave Halls ahnded the 0.45 caliber Colt revolver, loaded with what he assumed were dummy rounds, to Alec Baldwin. Mr. Baldwin aimed the revolver toward Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza and a projectile was fired, striking Ms. Hutchins and Mr. Souza.”
The report goes on to point out that Dave Halls did not perform his duties in maintaining the safety of the shot. It states, “Rust ecognized the hazards associated with firearms and adopted safety bulletins that were designed to control and mitigate these hazards. Rust described these protocols as being enforced by the 1st Assistant Director, who is the Safety Coordinator. Ryan Smith, Producer, also stated during the Closing Conference that all members of cast and crew have stop-work authority.”
“Despite this, no corrective, investigative, or disciplinary action was taken after the first and second firearms misfires by any member of management. Dave Halls, 1st Assistant Director and Safety Coordinator, was physically present and witnessed these misfires, and chose not to take any corrective, investigative, or disciplinary action,” it adds.
It also points to Row Walters, “When the Unit Production Manager, Row Walters, was informed by the Props Master and the 1st Assistant Camera that weapons misfires had occurred, Walters did not initiate any corrective, investigative or disciplinary action in accordance with Rust’s safety procedures.”
The report further notes, “The Employer, Rust Movie Productions, LLC, demonstrated plain indifference to the hazards associated with firearms by routinely failing to practice their own safety protocols, failing to enforce adherence to safety protocols, and failing to ensure that the handling of deadly weapons was afforded the time and effort needed to keep the cast and crew safe.”
“Additionally, the Employer disregarded or otherwise did not follow-up, ask questions, or try to understand what happened when employees notified management about the misfire incidents and not feeling safe on set,” the report continues.
“[Dave Halls] was present on set and took no direct action to address safety concerns. Management was provided multiple opportunities to take corrective actions and chose not to do so. As a result of these failures, Director Joel Souza and Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins were severely injured. Halyna Hutchins succumbed to her injuries on October 21, 2021,” it asserts.
Stefan Friedman, spokesperson for Rust Movie Productions LLC, said in a statement, “While we appreciate OSHA’s time and effort in its investigation, we disagree with its findings and plan to appeal.”
Similarly, Alec Baldwin issued a statement from his attorney that asserts the ongoing safety investigation “exonerates Mr. Baldwin.”
Aside from this investigation, a criminal investigation is still ongoing and there have been several lawsuits filed since the tragic incident in which Baldwin shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in October of last year, including legal complaints against the actor, members of the production team, the film’s armourer supplier, Rust Movie Productions, and Bonanza Creek Ranch where the film was being shot.
The first legal complaint against Baldwin among others was filed by Rust gaffer Serge Svetnoy, who claims, “This incident was caused by the negligent acts and omission of Defendants, and each of them, as well as their agents, principals, and employers.”
“Simply put, there was no reason for a live bullet to be placed in that .45 Colt revolver to be present anywhere on the Rust set, and the presence of a bullet in a revolver posed a lethal threat to everyone in its vicinity,” Svetnoy’s suit declares.
Rust script supervisor Mamie Mitchell followed suit, filing another legal complaint against the actor and others, for assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress, alleging that Baldwin, “intentionally, without just cause or excuse, cocked and fired the loaded gun even though the upcoming scene to be filmed did not call for the cocking and firing of the firearm.”
On behalf of Halyna Hutchins’ husband, Matthew, and the couple’s son Andros, attorney Krystina Martinez filed a lawsuit against Baldwin, alleging that “Defendant Alec Baldwin recklessly shot and killed Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust.”
“Defendant Baldwin and the other Defendants in this case failed to perform industry standard safety checks and follow basic gun safety rules while using real guns to produce the movie Rust, with fatal consequences,” the legal complaint accuses.
The suit also accuses all defendants, including the disgraced actor, of engaging in “negligent, intentional, willful, or reckless misconduct resulting in wrongful death” as well as directly causing a “loss of consortium” – or emotional losses – to Matthew Hutchins, who had been married to Halyna for 16 years at the time of her death.
Rust armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who’s been named as a defendant in Serge Svetnoy, Mamie Mitchell, and the Hutchins family’s respective lawsuits, filed a legal complaint against armourer supplier Seth Kenney and PDQ Arm and Prop, LLC, claiming that “Baldwin did not respond to Hannah’s request on October 15 to schedule cross draw training.”
Conversely, attorney Luke Nikas, on behalf of Alec Baldwin and El Dorado Pictures, Inc., filed a legal complaint claiming that Baldwin is not “legally culpable” of killing Halyna Hutchins. Further, the document asserts that “someone should be held legally culpable for the tragic consequences,” specifying, “That person is not Alec Baldwin.”
Baldwin’s lawsuit also claims that the cinematographer’s death has been “obscured by false allegations—finger pointing by various parties that diverts attention from the most important questions in this case: how did live ammunition get on the set of Rust, who put the live bullet in the gun, and why did the experts who were hired to check the gun fail to detect the bullet?”
Adding insult to injury, in March of this year the actor accused individuals filing legal complaints against him, including the family of Halyna Hutchins, of being after his money.
“What you have is a certain group of people, litigants and whatever, on whatever side, who their attitude is, ‘well the people who likely seem negligent have no money and the people who have money are not negligent,” said the actor at an event at the Boulder International Film Festival.
The disgraced actor added, “But we’re not going to let that stop us from doing what we need to do, in terms of litigation. So we have people that are suing people that they think are deep-pockets litigants. Why sue people if they’re not going to get money?”
What do you make of New Mexico issuing Rust Movie Productions LLC a fine for Alec Baldwin’s fatal on-set shooting? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section down below or on social media.