‘Rust’ Shooting Is A Bigger Problem Than You Think
On October 21st, Halyna Hutchins, Cinematographer, died from an egregious mistake on the set of the upcoming (?) film Rust. Since then, the press has tracked who may be at fault. This has led to a cavalcade of leaks about terrible working conditions, unqualified employees, and hypocrisy. I have been tracking this story with great interest, as my film school education has done nothing else for me except give me a slight insight on the why’s and how’s.
If you haven’t followed the story, here’s a quick recap:
While rehearsing a scene, Alec Baldwin shot what he thought was a gun filled with blanks toward the director and filming crew. This, depending on how the shot is composed, is a perfectly normal way to film a scene. Unfortunately, the gun was filled with live rounds at the time, killing Halyna and injuring the director Joel Souza.
Why Did this Happen?
Short answer: capitalism. I’ll explain.
Earlier this fall, television and film crews grew tired of working under grueling conditions. Below the line workers are consistently put into dangerous positions on film sets, with no concern for their wellbeing. I did a couple P.A. gigs after college, and I can tell you the hours are long and most crew jobs just wreak havoc on your body as you have to contort yourself into incredible positions to help achieve the right shot. A lot of the time for minimum wage. So, below the line workers were on course for a first time industry wide strike when production of the film was set to start shooting.
Despite Alec Baldwin voicing public support for the strike, he and the other producers continued to hire non-union scabs to continue their movie. This is where Hanna Gutierrez-Reed comes into the picture. Ms. Gutierrez-Reed is the daughter of acclaimed Hollywood armourer Thell Reed. Hanna herself though, is a failed model and influencer. Her unprofessionalism even made Nicolas Cage storm off the set of a previous film.
On the day of the shoot, and shooting, many crew members had walked off set, partially due to previous gun mishaps and issues with armourer Gutierrez-Reed, including giving a gun to an 11-year-old actor.
So far, no arrests have been made.
This Must Be An Isolated Incident, Right?
Nope. Nepotism in Hollywood is real. Would Kim Kardashian be famous today if her father had been an average, everyday lawyer? Would Ray J have been famous without Brandy? Are you honestly going to tell me that Stephen Baldwin would have gotten any acting jobs if his brother hadn’t been such a huge success early on?
And it’s not just actors. Even during the credits of one of my favorite films, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Val Kilmer openly says, “You want to know who the ‘Best Boy’ is? It’s somebody’s nephew.” That was in 2005. It’s been a long running joke in Hollywood that they have their untalented family members work in minor roles on their sets.
But it’s not just the nepotism. AD Dave Halls had previous complaints of safety on other films. Even the very fact that in over 100 years of the film industry’s existence, the crew workers were on the verge of striking for the first time over conditions on television and movie sets.
Luckily, thanks to all the hard workers in the union banning together, new contracts and regulations are going to be rule in Hollywood. But it won’t be long before more reports of accidents onset due to poor management, hiring non-union workers, or moving productions to areas with less regulations.
Maybe we need a new Hollywood?