Takeaways from NewsNation’s ‘Inside the “Rust” set shooting’

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Alec Baldwin, seen here in New York earlier this month, discharged a “prop firearm” on the set of his film “Rust,” shooting the director and the director of photography. The director of photography was pronounced dead on Thursday. (Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images for National Geographic)

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Investigators are still trying to put the pieces together concerning what happened on the set of the movie “Rust” which took the life of 42-year-old cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. 

The incident occurred on Oct. 21 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, when actor Alec Baldwin fired a gun he thought was unloaded during a dress rehearsal. The bullet struck Hutchins in the chest, killing her, and fragments injured director Joel Souza, who was standing behind her, according to court documents. 

Since the shooting, many narratives have been put forth, from social media accounts and images to interviews with the crew. Many are blaming the tragic incident on improper conduct and unsafe working conditions.

As the investigation continues to unfold, NewsNation took a closer look at events before and after the incident and what we can expect moving forward. Here are 4 takeaways from NewsNation’s “Inside the ‘Rust’ set shooting.”

‘Rust’ staffer reveals more information about Baldwin’s personality on set

An anonymous staffer on the ‘Rust’ set said Baldwin was known to be a hothead. 

“He’s a frustrating person,” the staffer told the television show “People.” “Like, he would do long rehearsals. I remember at one point he was cussing at the younger co-star. I was, like, ‘Oh wow, this guy’s difficult.’”

“He was micromanaging to where, you know, he wants these shots, he’s telling the director what to do. So I feel like the director and the DP were annoyed and frustrated with him on set, as well.”

Investigators on the set found around 500 rounds of ammunition — a mix of blanks, dummy rounds and suspected live rounds — even though the set’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, said real ammo should never have been present.

Baldwin has a long and complicated career

Baldwin’s acting career has spanned over three decades, from early leading roles in “The Hunt for Red October” and cult favorite “Beetlejuice,” to the unforgettable cameo as the brutal sales lord in “Glengarry Glen Ross.”  

He also appeared in TV shows like “30 Rock,” alongside Tina Fey and “Saturday Night Live,” where he impersonated former President Donald Trump.

In 2007, Baldwin first landed in the tabloid headlines for his fiery temper when he left a voicemail for his daughter, Ireland Baldwin, calling her a “rude little pig” because she was missing his phone calls. She was 11 years old at the time. 

The actor has also been called out for directing homophobic slurs at a photographer in 2014. Baldwin addressed the claim in an essay, but his show with MSNBC, “Up Late with Alec Baldwin” was canceled shortly after the incident. 

In 2018, Baldwin was arrested for allegedly punching a man named Wojciech Cieszkowski over a parking spot dispute. Baldwin maintained he never hit Cieszkowski and pleaded guilty to a harassment charge, but civil lawsuits over the incident are still proceeding three years later.

Action scenes involving gunfire and explosions are most done in post production

NewsNation’s Nancy Loo spent some one-on-one time with CGI expert Lawson Deming. Deming works for Barnstorm VFX, one of many production houses that specialize in computer-generated imagery in Hollywood.

Deming said that more than 50% of action sequences in movies involve visual effects like gunfire, explosions and the aftermath.

He also said on a Western like the film ‘Rust,’ it’s pretty easy to make things look real.

“You might utilize a particular plug-in or tool or libraries of elements … muzzle flashes, shell casings, other elements, using them across tens to hundreds of shots.”

He also noted that images and audio can be manipulated and enhanced in several ways. Crowd scenes can be generated along with building backgrounds.

“We always want to do as good a job as possible because it’s what helps make people believe in the movies,” Deming said.

Deming said film sets are becoming safer as technology continues to advance. The accident is spurring change on some sets. Producers for the TV series “The Rookie” have banned real guns from their sets, and Dwayne Johnson told Variety his production company will stop using them, too.

There’s a strong possibility that someone may be charged

After the death of Hutchins, many people are wondering: Will someone be charged in connection with her death? Attorney Mark Geragos believes so. He told NewsNation’s Marni Hughes it’s only a matter of time.

“Somebody is going to get charged with a criminal offense in this case,” said Geragos.

Geragos, who’s represented Michael Jackson, Scott Peterson and Collin Kaepernick, said that one of the possible charges could be involuntary manslaughter. He said the charge would imply, “They acted with negligence so extreme that we’re going to punish them, but it didn’t rise to the level of intentional.” But figuring out who “they” are will be complicated.  

Assistant director David Halls and film armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed have both claimed to have checked the gun to make sure it was loaded with “dummies” before Baldwin fired the fatal shot.

According to court documents, Gutierrez Reed had brought three weapons to the set on a rolling cart.

People who worked with Halls on previous movies have aired doubts about his safety record since the “Rust” shooting. Halls had been fired from a 2019 production after a gun went off on a set and wounded a member of the film crew, a producer on the project said.

Attorneys for Gutierrez Reed have floated a theory that shooting could have been sabotage, but Geragos said the theory could do as much to incriminate Gutierrez Reed as exonerate her, since they are admitting she loaded the gun.

Baldwin was not only an actor in the film, he was also a producer, which means he could be legally be held responsible for the accidental death. Since the shooting, Baldwin has apologized publicly on Twitter, describing the killing as a “tragic accident.” 

Baldwin also spoke with a Backgrid crew in Vermont the weekend of Oct. 23, when he said the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office asked him not to speak publicly about the shooting.

Filming for “Rust” was set to continue into early November before the shooting occurred. The police investigation into the shooting is ongoing and no charges have been filed so far.

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