Death on the set of, "Rust," an Alec Baldwin produced western

I wasn’t sure where to drop this but it’s pretty sad news to read. It’s especially so since the apparent shooter of the prop gun WAS Alec Baldwin.

Some details:

Santa Fe County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the Bonanza Creek Ranch movie set of the western “Rust”, October 21, 2021, when an 911 caller reported a shooting on the set.

The sheriff’s office confirms that two individuals were shot on the set of Rust. Halyna Hutchins, 42, director of photography and Joel Souza, 48, director, were shot when a prop firearm was discharged by Alec Baldwin, 68, producer and actor.

Ms. Hutchins was transported, via helicopter, to University of New Mexico Hospital where she was pronounced dead by medical personnel. Mr. Souza was transported by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical center where he is undergoing treatment for his injuries.

This investigation remains open and active. No charges have been filed in regard to this incident. Witnesses continue to be interviewed by detectives.

Another link from CNN:

I just saw this. Some prop guy really screwed up.

Terrible, sad, and I’m sure traumatic for all involved.

@Telefrog had actually posted this over in the P&R WTF thread and I missed it. I’m sure there are a few others that may as well since it’s the P&R forum. At any rate another link from him.

Yeah, there’s gonna be some hard times ahead for the on-set firearms people.

Damn, that’s gonna be a hard one to live with.

Wow, that’s awful. Is this the worst prop mishap since The Crow?

So prop guns are guns?

Most of the time, yes, as far as I’ve read. It’s the ammo that’s the difference.

I’d be interested in @tomchick’s experiences, if he’s ever been on a set with a prop firearm that was fired.

I was on one once. Student film though. All I remember is that the fire marshal(?)/safety guy who was there was not fucking around.

My understanding is that there are guns that are designed such that they can’t load live ammo and they are frequently used in filming. However, blanks are essentially the propellant/primer part of live ammunition without the projectile, so they explode, create a shockwave, hot gasses, etc like a live round, and if something gets stuck in the barrel they can potentially fire it with injurious or lethal force. And if the firing is close range enough, the shockwave etc can cause injury all by itself.

(There are other types of non-live ammo that don’t have propellant, but they also don’t produce the same effects for staging.)

That’s basically how Brandon Lee was killed. The gun didn’t have actual life rounds but was firing blanks, except that there was something in the barrel. Explosive hot gasses are explosive hot gasses and turned that object into a defacto bullet. Shot in the stomach and that was that.

Part of the protocol since then is to not only check the chamber but to also check the barrel.

I’d say the weapons guy fucked up, but this is also sort of like an airline crash. There have to be a chain of events that happen for this to result in a death.

Unless, of course, they were blowing off all safety protocols due to schedule or budget. At which case throw the book at the people responsible.

Well, it was actually a bullet (a dummy .44 round that got stuck in the barrel because it accidentally had primer in it and part-fired earlier). but yes.

If someone with experience were to tell me that security and protocols for prop weapons handling was sometimes more lax on location shoots than on studio grounds, I would not have difficulty believing that.

Director Rian Johnson just retweeted this, which also, yep.

In the military we do a lot of training with blank ammunition. WE have to fit a (bright yellow) blocker on the end of the barrel, which means all the gunk accumulates in the weapon. Great pleasure cleaning those! I much prefer live ammunition for that reason alone.

And the controls, safety around these is always very strict, even though we have used these for years and years.

So I am rather shocked someone managed to get live ammunition to the set, then that it got loaded into the weapon, and then that the weapon, loaded, was passed to Baldwin.

There are many failure points here…:(

It’s my understanding that some people prefer prop guns with blanks so that there’s something for the actors to react to and also a bit of recoil, but muzzle flashes have to be added via VFX in most cases anyway because real muzzle flashes aren’t usually captured well.

I disagree on that point. They very often look terrible. Having actors fake recoil is usually hit or miss as well.

But if movie studios and propmasters can’t be assed to take it seriously, then maybe that’s the only option.

Still we went like 30 years between incidents. That’s a pretty decent track record.

My understanding is that live rounds made it into the gun. Basically the prop guys were making blanks from live rounds and lost track of some live rounds. Maybe I heard it wrong.

At the end of the day either something in the barrel or live rounds, the person in charge of those firearms is responsible for things not happening. I can almost guarantee this is the result of someone getting complacent or not taking it seriously enough.

Edit: We’re both right.

In the film shoot preceding the fatal scene, the prop gun, which is a real revolver, was loaded with improperly-made dummy rounds, cartridges from which the special-effects crew had removed the powder charges so in close-ups the revolver would show normal-looking ammunitions. However, the crew neglected to remove the primers from the cartridges. At some point before the fatal event, one of the rounds had been fired; although there was no powder charges, the energy from the ignited primer was enough to separate the bullet from the casing and push it part-way into the gun barrel, where it got stuck (a condition known as a squib load). For the fatal scene, which called for the revolver to be fired at Lee from a distance of 3.6–4.5 meters (12–15 ft), the dummy cartridges were replaced with blank rounds, which contained a powder charge and the primer, but no solid bullet, allowing the gun to be fired with sound and flash effects without the risk of an actual projectile. However, the gun was not properly checked and cleared before the blank round was fired, and the dummy bullet previously lodged in the barrel was then propelled forward by the blank and shot out the muzzle with almost the same force as if the round were live, striking Lee in the abdomen.

Basically they made the dummy rounds from live rounds, bullet got stuck in chamber bad dummy round got struck, blank was loaded, bullet stuck in barrel became a real bullet again.

All things that should have been caught by the guy in charge of said firearm.

I think you would be stunned to learn how often muzzle flashes are added in post. It’s almost always now, because – as JD just noted – they usually aren’t captured well (nor do you get a muzzle flash with each trigger pull, necessarily.)

If you need something for actors to react to, Sinott mentions using Airsoft replicas.

In the end, I’m looking at his IMDB page credits, and I’m gonna say that he’s probably got the right of it and knows what he’s talking about on this subject.

If it was a camera shot down the gun barrel, I hope from now on they just put a piece of ballistic glass either just in front of or just behind the camera. Seems ridiculous that they don’t do this.