Halyna Hutchins: Cinematographer planned to strike over dangerous working conditions days before fatal shooting

·3-min read
Halyna Hutchins: Cinematographer planned to strike over dangerous working conditions days before fatal shooting

The cinematographer shot dead on the set of a movie in New Mexico had been planning to go on strike over poor working conditions days before her death.

Authorities say Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, and wounded director Joel Souza on the set of his new film Rust.

Ms Hutchins posted a photo to her Instagram account on Tuesday with the cast and crew of the movie, including Mr Baldwin, showing her support for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees labour union on Tuesday.

“Standing in #IAsolidarity with our @IATSE crew here in New Mexico on RUST,” the post said, tagging Mr Baldwin’s Instagram account.

Ms Hutchins showed her support for the IATSE union in an Instagram post on Tuesday (Instagram.com/HalynaHutchins)
Ms Hutchins showed her support for the IATSE union in an Instagram post on Tuesday (Instagram.com/HalynaHutchins)

The union, which represents Hollywood crew and artists including cinematographers, editors, and hairstylists, called off a major walkout on Saturday after it struck a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) at the last minute.

The union announced a new three-year contract that addresses IATSE’s calls for better working hours, safer workplace conditions and improved benefits.

“Everything achieved was because you, the members, stood up and gave us the power to change the course of these negotiations,” IATSE’s leadership wrote in a memo to union members Saturday.

According to the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office, the shooting occurred at the Bonanza Creek ranch outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, on the set of a new western Rust.

Ms Hutchins was taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital by helicopter in critical condition, and died soon after.

Mr Souza, 48, was wounded after being shot in the shoulder, crew said. He was discharged from hospital on Friday morning.

Filming has been suspended.

The sheriff’s office added that the investigation remains “open and active” and that “no charges have been filed in regard to the incident” so far.

“Witnesses continue to be interviewed by detectives.”

Alec Baldwin (AFP via Getty Images)
Alec Baldwin (AFP via Getty Images)

In a statement to AFP news agency, a spokesman said Mr Baldwin had voluntarily come in to speak to detectives.

Mr Baldwin was seen “distraught and in tears” as he spoke on the phone outside the sheriff’s office headquarters, the Santa Fe New Mexican wrote.

A spokesman for Mr Baldwin told the BBC the incident involved the misfiring of a prop gun with blanks.

He is best-known for his roles in the Mission Impossible movie franchise, TV show 30 Rock, and for playing Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live.

Mr Baldwin plays the lead role and is a co-producer on the film, a 19th Century Western.

Ms Hutchins is from the Ukraine, and grew up in a military base in the Arctic Circle.

She was named a named a “rising star” by the American Cinematographer magazine in 2019, and was a member of the the International Cinematographers Guild, Local 600.

In a statement to Variety, guild president John Lindley and executive director Rebecca Rhine said: “We received the devastating news this evening, that one of our members, Halyna Hutchins, the Director of Photography on a production called Rust in New Mexico died from injuries sustained on the set.”

CNBC reported the strike would have been the first time in the union’s 128-year history that its 60,000 members walked off sets en masse.

Union members had been seeking better working hours and conditions, and said that that the increase in film and television productions in the past 10 years had led to dangerous situations on set, Variety reported.

Had it gone ahead, the strike would have crippled productions of virtually every film and TV series being shot in the United States, Variety said.

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