A film production company is challenging penalties imposed by New Mexico officials for alleged workplace safety violations on the set of ‘Rust,’ where actor and producer Alec Baldwin fatally shot a cinematographer in October
SANTA FE, NM — A film production company is challenging penalties imposed by New Mexico officials for alleged workplace safety violations on the set of “Rust,” where actor and producer Alec Baldwin was fatally shot a cinematographer in October, according to documents released Wednesday by state regulators.
Rust Movie Productions is challenging the basis of a $137,000 fine imposed on the company by state workplace safety regulators who say production managers on the set of the Western movie failed to follow the industry standard gun safety protocols.
At a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on Oct. 21, 2021, Baldwin was pointing a gun at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins inside a small church while preparing to shoot a scene when she triggered, killing Hutchins and injuring the director, Joel Souza.
Baldwin said in a December interview with ABC News that he was pointing the gun at Hutchins on his instructions when it went off without him pulling the trigger.
“The law properly allows producers to delegate essential functions such as gun safety to experts in this field and does not impose such responsibility on producers whose expertise lies in arranging financing and contracts for the filming logistics,” Rust Movie Productions said in its filing. The company “did not ‘deliberately violate’ any security protocols and in fact enforced all applicable security protocols.”
In April, the New Mexico Office of Occupational Health and Safety levied the maximum fine on Rust Movie Productions and distributed a scathing account of safety violations, including testimonials that officials of the production took little to no action to remedy two misfires on set blanks before the death. filming.
The office also documented gun safety complaints from crew members that went unheeded and said weapons specialists were not authorized to make decisions about additional safety training.
Rust Movie Productions responded in its filing, saying the misfires prior to Hutchins’ fatal shooting did not violate safety protocols and that “appropriate corrective action has been taken, including briefings of cast and the team”.
“In fact, a security meeting was held the morning of the incident,” the company said, apparently referring to the Hutchins shooting. The file does not give further details.
Rust Movie Productions also disputes claims that on-set gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez Reed was overworked, saying she had enough time to properly inspect and protect all firearms and ammunition on set. The production company cites comments from a costume designer who said Reed had “lots of time” to do her job properly.
State investigators say Gutierrez Reed was limited to eight paid days as a gunsmith to oversee weapons and training, and was otherwise assigned to lighter duties as a props assistant. As his time as a gunsmith ran out, Gutierrez Reed tipped off a manager and was pushed away.
The sheriff investigating the fatal shooting of the set described the disorganization and neglected security measures during the making of the low-budget film. Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said he is awaiting forensic analysis of the weapon, projectile, fingerprints and more from the FBI and state medical examiners before handing over the case. matter to prosecutors to decide whether criminal charges will be filed.
The findings and state sanctions against Rust Movie Productions have implications for at least five lawsuits that have been filed over the filming, including a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Hutchins’ family against Baldwin and the other producers in the film.
The lawsuit on behalf of widower Matt Hutchins and his 9-year-old son alleges “callous” disregard for on-set safety complaints.
The state fines would apply to a film with a budget of around $7 million. Baldwin received a salary of $250,000 as actor and producer and may have reinvested some of that money into the production.
Rust Movie Productions says in its filing that all personnel on set were told they had the authority to cease operations at any time until safety issues were resolved, with film stewards on site. to ensure compliance with union safety protocols.