A plethora of information is emerging on the Baldwin tragedy—and that’s exactly what it is, although frankly I still don’t give two shits about Alec Baldwin’s suffering, and am not likely ever to—and the more that comes out, the worse the whole thing smells.
‘Rust’ crew describes on-set gun safety issues and misfires days before fatal shooting
Hours before actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot a cinematographer on the New Mexico set of “Rust” with a prop gun, a half-dozen camera crew workers walked off the set to protest working conditions.
The camera operators and their assistants were frustrated by the conditions surrounding the low-budget film, including complaints about long hours, long commutes and waiting for their paychecks, according to three people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment.
Safety protocols standard in the industry, including gun inspections, were not strictly followed on the “Rust” set near Santa Fe, the sources said. They said at least one of the camera operators complained last weekend to a production manager about gun safety on the set.
Three crew members who were present at the Bonanza Creek Ranch set on Saturday said they were particularly concerned about two accidental prop gun discharges.
Baldwin’s stunt double accidentally fired two rounds Saturday after being told that the gun was “cold” — lingo for a weapon that doesn’t have any ammunition, including blanks — two crew members who witnessed the episode told the Los Angeles Times.
“There should have been an investigation into what happened,” a crew member said. “There were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. All they wanted to do was rush, rush, rush.”
A colleague was so alarmed by the prop gun misfires that he sent a text message to the unit production manager. “We’ve now had 3 accidental discharges. This is super unsafe,” according to a copy of the message reviewed by The Times.
The tragedy occurred Thursday afternoon during filming of a gunfight that began in a church that is part of the old Western town at the ranch. Baldwin’s character was supposed to back out of the church, according to production notes obtained by The Times. It was the 12th day of a 21-day shoot.
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was huddled around a monitor lining up her next camera shot when she was accidentally killed by the prop gun fired by Baldwin.
The actor was preparing to film a scene in which he pulls a gun out of a holster, according to a source close to the production. Crew members had already shouted “cold gun” on the set. The filmmaking team was lining up its camera angles and had yet to retreat to the video village, an on-set area where the crew gathers to watch filming from a distance via a monitor.
Instead, the B-camera operator was on a dolly with a monitor, checking out the potential shots. Hutchins was also looking at the monitor from over the operator’s shoulder, as was the movie’s director, Joel Souza, who was crouching just behind her.
Baldwin removed the gun from its holster once without incident, but the second time he did so, ammunition flew toward the trio around the monitor. The projectile whizzed by the camera operator but penetrated Hutchins near her shoulder, then continued through to Souza. Hutchins immediately fell to the ground as crew members applied pressure to her wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding.
According to something I read yesterday and can’t seem to find now for whatever reason, the director had called for another take after an already long day, to which Baldwin objected in a joking fashion, pointing the gun at the director and inexplicably pulling the trigger. Maybe so, maybe not so. Anybody who’s spent significant time on film sets—which I have, way more than once, in various roles and situations ranging from what’s known as “talent” to invited guest—knows well enough how grueling the work is, how long the days can be, and how seriously it all wears everybody involved down. Onwards.
Labor trouble had been brewing for days on the dusty set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe.
Shooting began on Oct. 6 and members of the low-budget film said they had been promised the production would pay for their hotel rooms in Santa Fe.
But after filming began, the crews were told they instead would be required to make the 50-mile drive from Albuquerque each day, rather than stay overnight in nearby Santa Fe. That rankled crew members who worried that they might have an accident after spending 12 to 13 hours on the set.
Hutchins had been advocating for safer conditions for her team and was tearful when the camera crew left, said one crew member who was on the set.
As the camera crew — members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees — spent about an hour assembling their gear at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, several nonunion crew members showed up to replace them, two of the knowledgeable people said.
One of the producers ordered the union members to leave the set and threatened to call security to remove them if they didn’t leave voluntarily.
“Corners were being cut — and they brought in nonunion people so they could continue shooting,” the knowledgeable person said.
The shooting occurred about six hours after the union camera crew left.
From the sound of things, and as is usually the case, there’s plenty of blame to go around here; Baldwin is hardly the Lone Ranger on that. So stipulated. Nonetheless, I am still not prepared to go anywhere near as far to sympathize with the prick as Andrea Widburg appears to be:
Part of me pities Baldwin a great deal. He was seen weeping outside the sheriff’s office because, while he is an arrogant, entitled, aggressive, obnoxious git, he’s not a killer. His entire self-image is of someone who defends life (never mind that he’s fanatically pro-abortion). Now, though, he’s taken a life, something that will haunt him forever. That deserves compassion because all of us go through life knowing that one stupid, thoughtless moment (perhaps a moment of inattention when driving) could see each of us take a life, too.
True enough. Also, immaterial. Metaphors and analogies, helpful as they can be at times in establishing perspective and broadening our understanding, break down pretty fast in a case like this—all the more so because “cases like this” are in fact extremely rare, if not totally unique. And when it comes to being unstinting with our compassion Baldwin, by his own words, deeds, and untrammeled arrogance has made himself a damned tough sell in ANY case, this one more than any other. For instance:
I see that @DLoesch wants to “take back the truth.”
And she doesn’t care how many dead bodies she has to step over in that pursuit.
The Second Amendment is not a moral credit card that buys you all the guns you want.
That law needs to be rethought.
— AlecBaldwin(HABF) (@AlecBaldwin) March 5, 2018
That is but one example of many Baldwin lectures reviling the 2A and its supporters personally, by no means the harshest and most obnoxious of them either. The sanctimonious putz has made a fortune shooting people in the movies, yet blankly rejects the very idea of anyone but the film industry having access to them, regardless of how learned, experienced, skilled, or responsible in their use they might be.
Well, screw that noise, and screw Alec Baldwin too. Bill joins Aesop in disagreeing with my assessment, most heartily:
On a set, the actor is no more responsible for checking a firearm – and very likely would not be permitted to do so – than you would be if somebody handed you a toaster and expected you to check it for dangerous electrical faults before making toast.
Let me unpack that a bit. Most actors know exactly zippo about firearms. If you handed them a firearm and told them to make sure there were no live rounds in it, they’d probably ask you were to find the bullets in the piece. Or they’d pull the trigger three or four times to see if anything happened. More than a few actors are dumb as goldfish, and couple that low IQ level with ignorance about firearms is a recipe for disaster.
That’s why firearms on a set are always handled and supervised by an armorer or at least a prop master who is responsible for making sure they are safe.
And those people generally do an unbelievably excellent job. I am aware of only three deaths involving the accidental firing of prop guns in the entire history of the business. Considering how many millions of hours of production time we are talking about, you are far, far, far more likely to be killed by a malfunctioning toaster.
Second, a lot of actors, and especially stars, have “people” who do stuff for them. Lots of stuff. I know one megastar whose PA orders for him in restaurants. She follows him around to do things like that for him.
On set, actors have most things done for them. Their job is to act, not fetch, carry, check stuff, certify gun safety, or whatever. To most actors a gun is just a prop, no different than a toaster or a break-bottle for smashing over heads in a fake fight.
As I said before, there is plenty of blame to go around here, and arguments to be put forth over how and where it should be apportioned. That said, I am neither willing nor able to absolve the person who pointed it at someone and then pulled the fucking trigger of his share of it. Bill’s headline contends that “Alex Baldwin Bears No Responsibility For This Shooting.” Sorry, but I simply can NOT go there; in my opinion, that particular bridge is WAY too far for me. For his part, in a recent follow-up post on the matter Aesop says this:
As the Baldwin kerfluffle has illustrated, the shared malfunction by a host of persons reading and commenting hereabouts, and throughout the greater blogosphere, on this exact subject, is best described as thinking everything is YOUR job.
Well, you’re wrong, it’s not, and now we can all go back to whatever we were doing befo….Oh? What’s that? Explain it to you?…heavy sigh
Look, we’ve already covered first aid for any butthurt, so let’s talk turkey here, no offense, nothing personal, and we’re all grown ups.
You, Jasper, and Billy Bob all going shooting at the abandoned quarry is not Alec Baldwin working on a movie set, not even when it’s his production, on a low-budget p.o.s. being filmed in Bumfuck NM.
The lack of a prodigious number of otherwise intelligent people to discern this lies at the root of your problem.
If Jasper or BillyBob get a mite lax with muzzle discipline, or putting their booger hook on the bang switch, you may elect to call it an early day, or not invite them next time. But no one died and left you their Drill Sergeant smokey bear hat and gave you leave to have a boot camp flashback, and most people figure all this out without having it explained to them with a boot to the junkulus.
But somehow, you can’t make the leap from that, to understanding why in hell it’s not ever Baldwin’s (or any other Swinging Richard’s) job to do weapons checks on a movie set, with 40-140 people around.
It might come as a small surprise to some, but I can agree that it is not, never was, and never will be Baldwin’s job to observe the most basic fundamentals of firearm safety before aiming at someone and then pulling the trigger, based entirely on the assumption (!) that others have done their own job competently and completely. So stipulated; as Jesse Jackson used to bellow while speechifying: COMMON GROUND!
But as I see it, it most certainly IS the responsibility of any rational adult, working in whatever industry or profession, to take a moment and check for himself anyhow. Mind, this isn’t preparing lunch for the on-set catering tent, or rehearsing a risky stunt before shooting, or even wiring the lights, cameras &c. What we’re talking about here is a gun, people. Guns are extremely dangerous things, period. They are NOT to be played around with or flippantly mishandled, EVER, lest some innocent party be maimed or killed because of your casual negligence. I supposed it’s possible, just barely, that there might be some benighted Rip Van Winkle sort out there somewhere who, after decades of hysterical propagandizing by the gun-grabber Left—of which Alec Baldwin has been a fully-paid-up cheerleader for many years—is not aware of this. But I very much doubt it.
Aesop’s contention seems to me like a pretty good argument for seeing to it, as a matter of black-letter law, that every last projectile weapon operated by means of any explosive chemical propellant be removed from film industry hands forever. No more guns in the movies—full stop, end of story. Which, hey, I’m good with that. Then again, I’m also in favor of a blanket ban on gun ownership for ALL Leftists, so it may be that my position is a somewhat, ummm, radical one, I admit.
Interestingly enough, Baldwin can’t even fob it all off on his being an ignorant dumbass about handling guns properly, as my boldface below strongly suggests.
It’s unclear what was fired from the firearm, as The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating, telling The Daily Beast that as of Friday afternoon, a forensics report hadn’t been completed. A spokesperson for Rust Movie Productions claimed the gun only contained blank rounds, while IATSE Local 44 said a “live single round was accidentally fired.”
Still, Tobey Bays, a prop and set artist by training and the business agent for IATSE Local 44, explained to The Daily Beast that “a live round” doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a bullet in the chamber.
He said Hollywood propmasters will “only put the amount of blanks into the gun that are meant to be shot in the scene… They’re pretty strict, they’ll always yell out, ‘Gun is hot!’ before they hand it over to the actor.”
However, the source who was on set when Baldwin discharged the prop gun on Thursday said the cast and crew were told it was a “cold” firearm during the rehearsal as they were setting up the framing.
And despite Baldwin having recently gone through a firearm-safety training session, the source said safety protocols were all but ignored by both Baldwin and the responsible production members.
Oof. If true, boy might want to consider lawyering up, I’m thinking. For me, it all still comes down to the fundamentals.
“You never let the muzzle of a weapon cover something you don’t intend to destroy,” said Carpenter, whose New Orleans-based firm has worked on the sets of scores of TV and film productions. “All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.”
Former filmmaker and former US National Shooting Team member Peter Lake put the blame on Baldwin.
“The buck stops with Alec Baldwin on every level,” he told The Post. “It looks very bad for him. At least the captain of the Titanic had the good sense to go down with the ship.”
And that, my friends, is IT. No matter who you are; no matter what your job is and/or is not; no matter how many flunkies you have to take care of things for you, YOU DO NOT EVER—EVER—POINT A GUN AT SOMEONE AND PULL THE TRIGGER WITHOUT CHECKING IT OUT FIRST. Via GFZ, a more intelligent and aware actor named Baldwin says it well:
When the propmaster hands you a practical weapon it is your fu**ing duty to re-inspect it in full view of that propmaster and any nearby cast/crew to ensure it is safe in your hands. It does not then need to be re-checked until it changes hands again.
Safety & Redundancy. pic.twitter.com/jjR9ImWUJS
— Adam Baldwin (@AdamBaldwin) October 23, 2021
For my money, Adam is way more talented than Alec too, but feel free to disagree with me on that also, if you absolutely must.
Update! Arthur drives the lesson home. Film-industry types, pay close attention. Take notes, even.
I am kinda obsessive about checking a firearm when I pick it up to make sure it is unloaded. Generally I will check the chamber on a firearm when it is handed to me or I hand it to someone else, even when I literally just checked it a second earlier. It is just a habit I have gotten into as someone who has handled firearms all of my life and in several stages of my professional career been a seller of firearms. Some people think it is a little weird but I don’t care.
So today I was stowing some gear and one of my handguns was in a case. Before I put it into the safe, I reflexively racked the slide even though I knew the gun was empty.
Clink, a round was in the magazine and chambered.
Now because I am not Alec Baldwin, everything was fine. I was treating the gun as loaded, as always, had it pointed in a safe direction, as always, had my finger away from the trigger, as always. But the gun I knew was unloaded had a round in the magazine.
That is why we check every single time. Better to verify a gun you know is unloaded a hundred times than think that a gun is unloaded when it is not. Don’t get sloppy or lazy, not ever.
Bingo. My own uncle, a highly-decorated former Marine MP and lifelong firearms enthusiast, once nearly shot himself in the leg whilst preparing to disassemble one of those “unloaded” guns for cleaning. I repeat: guns are dangerous. They are NOT to be played around with, regardless of how skilled, knowledgeable, or experienced you may be. You play stupid games with them, you will win stupid prizes. That’s all there is to it—for you, for me, for Alec Baldwin, for every single one of us, no exceptions. And no do-overs, either.