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Investigation into circumstances of shooting on Alec Baldwin film set brings up questions of safety

Halyna Hutchins
Posted at 7:56 PM, Oct 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-22 23:21:13-04

Law enforcement in New Mexico continue to investigate a deadly shooting on the set of Alec Baldwin’s new movie, “Rust.”

The Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department said the actor and producer fired a prop firearm that killed the film’s director of photography and sent the director to the hospital with injuries.

Baldwin released a statement on Twitter a day after discharging the prop firearm:

“It was a huge shock,” said Johnny Wu, a Cleveland filmmaker for more than 20 years.

Wu said movie sets can be chaotic and that there are safety protocols in place for situations like these.

“Sometimes if you take good care and you have very good safety protocols involved on the set, this would not happen. But unfortunately, sometimes accidents can happen no matter how good,” Wu said.

Wu, who just finished an independent feature film called "Wu Lin The Society," shot last fall during the pandemic, said in addition to safety protocols concerning weapons, there’s another safety issue coming to light on some movie sets: overworked crews.

PHOTO: An image from the movie Wu Lin The Society.

“With everybody working 12 hours to 15 hours, even 16, 17 hours, 18 hours a day for six days in a row, something may happen, and this is maybe one of the cases,” Wu said.

Experts on prop weapons used on movie sets said these weapons are not toys.

"To be clear, anything that's called a prop weapon, talking about shooting, is, in fact, a real gun,” said Marcus Cooley, a prop master and production designer.

Joseph Fischer, a prop master on movie sets, explained how blanks can cause injuries.

“Even though there is no actual physical projectile mounted on the front of that weapon, on the cartridge there is projectiles that do come out, the powder, the gas, and those can cause physical injury within 25 to 50 feet, depending on the load,” Fischer said.

Although Wu did not know Halyna Hutchins personally, he said he was very sad to hear of her death.

“I have heard that she is one of the upcoming talented filmmakers in the industry, and we have a lot of people looking forward to get to know her work,” Wu said. “That, sadly, is not going to happen now.”

The district attorney overseeing this situation wrote in a statement, quote: "We do not know if charges will be filed. We will look into all facts and evidence of the case with great discretion.”

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