Hollywood unions blame studios for lack of progress on gun bill after ‘Rust’

A wooden building surrounded by studio lights and equipment on a dirt surface

The “Rust” film set where cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot and killed and director Joel Souza injured by a gun fired by actor Alec Baldwin.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Two of Hollywood’s biggest unions are blaming the major studios for failing to enact legislation that would regulate guns on movie sets after the October shooting during filming of “Rust.”

The Directors Guild of America and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the latter representing crew members such as gaffers, makeup artists and costumers, said they were disappointed that they couldn’t reach an agreement with the Motion Picture Assn. on legislation that would impose new requirements on training and qualifications for armorers, as well as penalties for those breaching safety protocols.

The unions and the MPA, which lobbies on behalf of studios and streaming companies from Walt Disney to Netflix, last week held talks to hash out wording for a new bill to be passed this year. But the discussions, led by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), ended without consensus.

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“The DGA and IATSE are disappointed and disheartened that this critical legislation which would have required important safety protections for our members and all workers in our industry was not passed into law during this legislative session,” the unions said in a joint statement. “We were unable to get the Studios to support significant, meaningful and practical safety reforms that they currently implement in other parts of the world.”


A representative of the MPA was not immediately available for comment.

After the accidental killing of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on set, legislators called for bills to ban guns, and producers and film stars promised to no longer use live weapons. But so far, little has changed industrywide.

Both sides have said they will continue to pursue negotiations in the hope of potentially bringing new legislation next year.

“We remain committed to reforms that protect our members through negotiations with the studios or legislation in California and other states,” the unions said in their statement. “Those changes require prioritizing safety and allocating resources to make it happen on the ground.”

Last week, the MPA said it too “remained committed to enhanced firearm safety and training programs.”

Although the MPA agreed with unions over the need for training and qualifications for those on set who handle weapons or work near weapons, they differed with unions over the role of a safety supervisor, a person close to talks said.

Sen. Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) had introduced Senate Bill 831, which would have codified guidelines around the use of weapons on sets, including setting penalties for violations by producers. Hollywood’s major unions, including IATSE and the DGA, backed the bill, but not the MPA.

The MPA instead endorsed a more narrowly focused bill, SB 829, introduced by Portantino. That bill focused on the use of firearms on sets and required the presence of a fire code official, while SB 831 required a broader set safety supervisor to be appointed.