With the Alec Baldwin charges, what will happen to the production of ‘Rust’?
After cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot during an October 2021 rehearsal on the New Mexico set of the film “Rust,” production immediately halted.
But in the months since, the producers of “Rust” have stuck by the embattled western film, and had hoped to resume filming, potentially in Southern California, as soon as the beginning of this year.
Matthew Hutchins, the widower of Halyna Hutchins, joined the production in October as an executive producer, as part of a wrongful death lawsuit settlement with Alec Baldwin and the other producers. Hutchins said finishing the film would be a “tribute to Halyna’s final work.”
However, significant roadblocks exist in restarting filming.
More than a year after “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot on the film’s set near Santa Fe, star-producer Alec Baldwin and the movie’s armorer are being charged in her death.
With Thursday’s announcement of felony charges expected to be filed against Baldwin in the accidental firing of a prop gun that killed Hutchins, questions are swirling as to when, if ever, the film will get made.
Here’s what we know about where the production stands and what to expect moving forward.
Where do the film’s producers stand?
When Halyna Hutchins’ family settled a wrongful death lawsuit against Baldwin and other “Rust” film producers in October, part of the deal was that the film would resume production.
With Matthew Hutchins, the cinematographer’s husband, as an executive producer, it was announced the western would pick up again, with all the original principal players on board, in January 2023.
Producers and Hutchins’ family members have been eager for the film production to resume, a person close to the situation told The Times earlier this month — before the charges were revealed.
The charges expected against Alec Baldwin in the shooting of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins demonstrate the challenges of involuntary manslaughter prosecutions.
They see the project as a fitting tribute to Hutchins’ legacy, a way to bring her cinematic vision — capturing the scenic vistas of the New Mexican desert — to the screen. They feel that it is also important in the healing process of Matthew Hutchins and his and Halyna’s son, Andros.
Finishing the movie would not only pay tribute to Hutchins’ work, but also the family may have a financial stake in the film and could profit from its success. The full details of the settlement were not disclosed. Although it is unclear whether the film would be profitable, the filmmakers need to complete the project to qualify for the New Mexico film tax incentive they applied for in mid-2021.
The film’s director, Joel Souza, signaled he was also on board. He was injured by the same bullet that killed Hutchins.
How do the criminal charges complicate production?
New Mexico prosecutors announced Thursday they would charge Baldwin with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors also plan to bring involuntary manslaughter charges against weapons handler Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who loaded the gun.
Interviews with multiple members of the “Rust” crew paint an hour- by-hour picture of a cascade of bad decisions that created a chaotic set on which a lead bullet was put into a prop gun.
Along with the charges, which are expected to be filed later this month, New Mexico’s First Judicial Dist. Atty. Mary Carmack-Altwies, could impose pretrial conditions that would prevent Baldwin from returning to the scene of the alleged crime, handling weapons on set or having contact with witnesses.
Baldwin was a producer and a starring member of the cast. Filming had taken place at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, outside of Santa Fe, N.M.
Melina Spadone, attorney for the “Rust” production, declined to comment on plans to restart filming or on where filming would occur. Previously, Spadone told Variety that producers were not returning to film in New Mexico and were considering filming in California.
A potential roadblock from unions
The other roadblock could be the approval of unions.
Films that employ union directors or actors must be so-called signatories of union contracts such as ones from the Directors Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA.
When the “Rust” production applied to continue shooting the film, the DGA initially withheld approval, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
Last March, the DGA told its members to stop work on a new horror movie backed by one of the producers of “Rust,” Thomasville Pictures, with the union citing safety concerns. The movie was eventually allowed to continue.
After the shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, proposed legislation to ban guns on sets has been scaled back and no changes have been made.
The next month, the union, which represents more than 19,000 members, formed a new committee to recommend and advance various safety measures.
It is not clear if the unions will allow “Rust” to go ahead. Neither the DGA nor SAG-AFTRA had immediate comment.
How about the film’s crew members?
There are signs that the production might also have trouble signing up crews to work on it.
In recent weeks, location managers for “Rust” have been recruiting crew members, to restart filming — in the Los Angeles area, rather than New Mexico — in late February and March.
The production company has faced some online backlash from below-the-line filmmakers who feel resuming the production would be unseemly.
The rules governing how guns are used on film and TV sets are being revised in the wake of the ‘Rust’ shooting.
The Los Angeles Young Workers Group, a group of IATSE Local 600 members (the same union that Hutchins was a member of), shared posts from crew members who said that shooting on the film was planned to begin in Los Angeles in February. Some crew members encouraged others to turn down the call.
The group said its stance was that each member of the local “must decide for themselves what action to take if contacted by the production.”
IATSE Local 600 had no immediate comment on its position regarding the recent “Rust” calls to crew members.
New Mexico DA says Baldwin ‘absolutely had a duty’ to check or have someone else check the prop gun involved in the fatal shooting.
Hours before the fatal Oct. 21, 2021, shooting, half a dozen members of the film’s camera crew walked off set. They cited long hours, long commutes and a lack of nearby lodging, delayed pay and gun safety concerns, including a lack of gun inspections. Production was delayed that day, as producers lined up union and nonunion workers to replace them.
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