New Mexico has concluded that the Rust film production knew “knew that firearm safety procedures were not being followed on set and demonstrated plain indifference to employee safety,” and issued a citation carrying a roughly $137,000 penalty.
A report released Wednesday by the state Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau said that Rust Movie Productions, LLC was cited for “plain indifference to the recognized hazards associated with the use of firearms on set that resulted in a fatality, severe injury, and unsafe working conditions.” Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins died when Rust producer and star Alec Baldwin pointed a gun at her and it fired while she set up a scene.
Baldwin and the film’s other producers have denied any wrongdoing. A representative for Rust Movie Productions LLC said the producers would appeal.
“While we appreciate OSHA’s time and effort in its investigation, we disagree with its findings and plan to appeal. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Halyna’s family,” said Stefan Friedman, on behalf of Rust Movie Productions.
An attorney for Baldwin said the report exonerated him, because it cites a moment when 1st assistant director Dave Halls “handed the 0.45 caliber Colt revolver, loaded with what he assumed were dummy rounds, to Alec Baldwin.” The report also said Baldwin’s “authority on the set included approving script changes and actor candidates.” You can read the full report here.
“We appreciate that the report exonerates Mr. Baldwin by making clear that he believed the gun held only dummy rounds and that his authority on the production was limited to approving script changes and creative casting,” said Baldwin’s attorney, Luke Nikas. “Mr. Baldwin had no authority over the matters that were the subject of the Bureau’s findings of violations, and we are pleased that the New Mexico authorities have clarified these critical issues. We are confident that the individuals identified in the report will be held accountable for this tragedy.”
Asked if the Environment Department agreed that Baldwin was exonerated, a department spokesman told MovieMaker, “We do not have any comments on any individual’s statements.”
The fine is far from the end of the producers’ problems: Several civil lawsuits have been filed because of the Oct. 21 shooting, including by Hutchins’ family, who contend that the cast and crew engaged in dangerous cost-cutting measures.
New Mexico’s Environmental Department said the $136,793 civil penalty reflected “the highest level of citation and maximum fine allowable by state law in New Mexico.” You can read the full report here.
“While the film industry has clear national guidelines for firearms safety, Rust Movie Productions, LLC failed to follow these guidelines or take other effective measures to protect workers,” the department said in a release Wednesday. “Rust Movie Productions, LLC’s documents indicate that it would follow the Industry Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee’s Safety Bulletin #1, “Recommendations for Safety With Firearms and Use of ‘Blank Ammunition.'” but failed to adhere to these guidelines on set. The guidelines require live ammunition ‘never to be used nor brought onto any studio lot or stage,’ that safety meetings take place every day when firearms are being handled, and that employees “refrain from pointing a firearm at anyone” except after consultation with the Property Master, Armorer or other safety representative, such as the First Assistant Director. By failing to follow these practices, an avoidable loss of life occurred.”
“Our investigation found that this tragic incident never would have happened if Rust Movie Productions, LLC had followed national film industry standards for firearm safety,” said Environment Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “This is a complete failure of the employer to follow recognized national protocols that keep employees safe.”
Main image: New Mexico Environment Cabinet Secretary James Kenney.