The production company behind Rust tries to distance itself from key figures who claim to be responsible for the deadly shooting that killed and injured two crew members.
Against the findings of a New Mexico security agency, Rust Movie Productions argued Tuesday that it is not to blame for the on-set shooting, as it was not an employer for the production and relied on independent contractors, namely gun master Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, to supervise. weapon safety. The producer claimed that it was the only employee to have “single responsibility for all duties related to the use of firearms and ammunition”, including responsibilities related to “ensuring that RMP’s express prohibition of the presence of live ammunition was strictly adhered to, and to ensure that only blanks were used. used when the script requested it, and that only dummy rounds were used.
The filing comes as a decision by the Santa Fe County District Attorney’s office on whether or not to file criminal charges for the accidental shooting that killed cameraman Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza, and is expected to be released in October. delivered, according to a source close to the investigation.
In April, the Occupational Health and Safety Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department issued the highest subpoena and maximum fine by state law of $136,793 for numerous violations of safety protocols on the set of Rust. It found that the production company showed “clear indifference” to the well-being of cast and crew, pointing to the introduction of live ammunition and failure to train the crew on how to properly handle firearms.
Rust Movie Productions appealed the decision, which led to the filing of an administrative complaint after failed settlement talks to resolve the citation. In its response, the company emphasized that its responsibilities were limited to financing and contracting crew and talent to make the film.
“The crews contracted by RMP were independent contractors,” according to the producer’s request. “Where applicable, the head of each independent contractor was responsible for the individuals within his or her department (e.g., special effects, stunts, or zookeepers).”
The purchase of dummy and blank rounds was the responsibility of real estate master Sarah Zachary and Gutierrez-Reed, according to the production company. It said it relied on Gutierrez-Reed to perform and oversee all functions associated with the use of firearms, including but not limited to providing security training, obtaining and using blank and dummy rounds, weapons selection and overseeing the Property Master, Mrs. [Zachary].”
In the moments before the incident, Gutierrez-Reed loaded a revolver for Alec Baldwin with what she believed to be fake cartridges, walked into the church where the scene was to be shot, and handed the gun to assistant director Dave Halls. Gutierrez-Reed told investigators she was under the impression she would be recalled to conduct a security check for Baldwin’s firearm. She has maintained in legal proceedings that she was released from liability for the shooting after handing the gun to Halls.
But the production company argued that Gutierrez-Reed is at fault as an independent contractor for failing to ensure the use of dummy rounds. It argued against the idea that Gutierrez-Reed’s duties “were somehow transferred to other individuals (such as Mr. Halls) just by handing them the firearm.”
Other findings from the agency’s report were that Gutierrez-Reed was spread too thinly. In accordance with industry recognized safety practices, the gun master is required to be present when firearms are being handled and should have the authority to determine if a person needs additional safety training. However, Gutierrez-Reed had to fill the role of props assistant when firearms were not actively used, the report said. She was told by line producer Gabrielle Pickle that she would be allowed eight paid days as a gun master and the rest of her time would be spent as a props assistant.
Rust Movie Productions denied that Gutierrez-Reed was ever instructed to focus less on her gunsmithing duties. It also refuted allegations that two previous firearms incidents had not been investigated, that personnel responsible for firearms safety did not have sufficient time to inspect ammunition and that first camera assistant Lane Luper resigned due to unresolved security concerns.
The New Mexico Security Bureau and Jason Bowles, an attorney representing Gutierrez-Reed, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Friday, Rust script supervisor Mamie Mitchell dropped some claims in her lawsuit against the film’s producers. She said she will withdraw the lawsuits for assault, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress, leaving a sole claim for negligence. Mitchell is looking for the Rust producer to the position that it was not an employer of production, which opens damages for negligence in civil court. Under New Mexico labor law, employees who file a negligence claim against their employer are limited to the employee’s compensation.
The standard as to whether Gutierrez-Reed qualifies as an independent contractor varies in civil courts and security agency proceedings.