Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Sunday, October 31, 2021


No photo this time, just a link to the latest (and rather thorough) LA Times piece on what went down on the set of Rust in New Mexico. The headline is technically correct, but in my not-so-humble-opinion, needlessly unsubtle: 

The Day Alec Baldwin Shot Halnya Hutchins and Joel Souza

Sure, that's what actually happened, but the headline could easily have been worded "The Tragedy on the Set of Rust" -- but like sex, sensationalism is what sells in the modern news media, and such is the world in which we live. We're all the poorer for that.

I subscribe to the LA Times, so was able to read it. I don't know if it's protected behind a paywall, but if so -- and if you want to but can't read it for that reason -- send me an email at the link on the blog (just under the gloves photo, on the right) and I'll send it to you in an attachment.  I write in Apple's "Pages" format, so if you're on MS Word or some other word processing program, let me know and I'll copy-and-paste the piece into the body of the return e-mail.  In that case, the photos might get lost in the jump through cyber-space, but they don't add much to the impact of the article anyway.  

Yes, I could just print it here, but that would violate the LA Times copyright, and I'm not going to cross that line -- not because they'd sue me (the LA Times has no idea this blog exists), but simply because newspapers are under assault all over our country these days, and I'm not going to further undermine the print media unless it's unavoidable. 

This is a tragic story that will haunt that crew -- some of them more than others -- forever.  I suspect more details and a clearer picture of that awful day will eventually emerge, but none of that will bring comfort to the family and friends of Halyna Hutchins. Like too many people, I know what it's like to lose a family member to needless, senseless violence, and it's something you don't ever get over. You find a way to work around it and go on with life, but it's always there lurking in the back of your mind.  

It's those people -- her family and friends -- that I'm thinking about tonight.


This weeks The Business (from KCRW) features an armorer discussing safety procedures that should be -- and usually are --  observed on set whenever guns are part of the action.  He wasn't on the set of Rust, but talks about the pressures that can arise and interfere with following established safety protocols. He doesn't point fingers, but raises several pertinent questions that have yet to be answered -- and he explains what happened on the set of The Crow the night Brandon Lee was killed, something I've never been clear about.  It's worth your twenty minutes. 


dougR said...

Thanks for the post, Michael. I may have missed some crucial dispatches from the press, but to my untrained sense it looks like there was a pretty much complete breakdown In set safety and professional etiquette. I'm curious about who it is who sets the behavioral tone on a set. I'm assuming it's the 1st AD, but I haven't been on enough sets day in and day out to know. I'm also curious about whether a lethal bullet can be mistaken for a dummy with presumably no primer and no powder charge, presumably used to fill up the revolver cylinders so the gun looks "loaded" to the camera. I'm sure this will all come out publicly at some point. Obviously there are a couple of people primarily responsible, but exactly what the pressures were to function in "a lick and a promise" mode, and where they came from, will be important to know.

By the way, did you see the pictures of Hannah Gutierrez's house? That her landlady is trying to kick her OUT of? Saddest thing I ever saw. Plenty of tragedy to go around in this whole awful catastrophe.

Michael Taylor said...

DougR --

The 1st AD runs the set, so I suppose the behavioral tone is established by him/her. If an AD runs a tight, efficient ship and makes sure all the relevant protocols are followed (whether for safety or when nudity/sex scenes are being filmed), then nothing bad is likely to happen. It always helps when the 1st AD has a sense of humor and knows when to use it. I worked with some really good ADs, a lot of average ADs, and a few really bad ADs over the years, and the good ones were worth their weight in gold.

Still, if the lead actor is a major star with an obnoxious "I'm the big boss here" personality, that can undermine the best efforts of a good AD, and turn things sour on set.

Thanks for tuning it.

Michael Taylor said...

I should add that a director can heavily influence the tone on set. I've worked on jobs with grim, tight-lipped tyrants who never smiled or laughed -- they ruled by fear -- and others who where very easy-going on set. The latter made for much more pleasant workdays all around -- their loose, lets-have-a-good-time-while-getting-the-job-done vibe permeated every department.

Although there was a huge difference in the mood on-set between those two extremes, I can't say I noticed that it affected on-set safety. The main thing is to have true professionals in certain crucial job positions, and that they not be rushed by a short shooting schedule. That seems to be one area where the "Rust" production failed in a big way.

dougR said...

Thanks, Michael. Makes sense. I wonder if the UPM is going to end up on the hook for some of this too--IF crucial safety positions went unfilled, and crucial safety procedures were waved aside due to UPM dismissiveness. We shall see, I guess...?

Michael Taylor said...

dougR --

I wouldn't be surprised - as the person who presumably hired the crew, the UPM seems to be the logical fall-guy. Still, I have to come back to that ridiculous 21 day shooting schedule for a movie in which guns apparently played a big role. Observing the proper firearm safety protocols takes time, which was in very short supply thanks to that schedule. From all I've heard thus far, that production was an accident waiting to happen.