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Rust Movie Productions contests ‘wilfully’ violating safety protocols on set

Rust Movie Productions contests ‘willfully’ violating safety protocols on set (Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office/PA)
Rust Movie Productions contests ‘willfully’ violating safety protocols on set (Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office/PA)

Rust Movie Productions (RMP) has contested the citation by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) that said it “wilfully” violated safety protocols on the set of the western.

The company denied that it was the “employer” responsible for supervising the set or specific procedures including the maintenance and loading of weapons on set.

It comes after a report into the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins found the production company “knew that firearm safety procedures were not being followed on set” and “demonstrated plain indifference to employee safety”.

RMP was fined 136,793 US dollars (£104,810), the maximum allowable by state law in New Mexico, following the six-month investigation into the incident.

Rust incident
Ms Hutchins was killed on the set of the western movie in October last year after a prop gun actor Alec Baldwin was holding was discharged (Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office/PA)

Ms Hutchins was killed on the set of the western movie in October last year after a prop gun actor Alec Baldwin was holding was discharged.

Director Joel Souza was also wounded in the shooting on the Bonanza Creek Ranch set near Santa Fe.

In new filings contesting the citation, lawyers argued that the law permits movie producers to delegate “critical functions” such as firearms safety to “experts in that field” and the responsibility did not lie with producers.

The documents, obtained by the PA news agency, also argued the NMED demonstrated a “misunderstanding” of the film industry.

“RMP was not the ‘employer’ responsible for supervising the film set, much less for supervising specific protocols such as the maintenance and loading of weapons,” the filings stated.

“The law properly permits producers to delegate such critical functions as firearm safety to experts in that field and does not place such responsibility on producers whose expertise is in arranging financing and contracting for the logistics of filming.

“RMP did not ‘wilfully’ violate any safety protocol, and in fact enforced all applicable safety protocols.”

The documents stated that all actors handling firearms received appropriate training and additional safety restrictions had been implemented to protect a child actor on set.

Rust incident
Director Joel Souza was also wounded in the shooting on the Bonanza Creek Ranch set near Santa Fe (Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office/PA)

They added that assistant directors had been instructed to carry out safety meetings on all days when firearms were to be used, and one had been carried out on the morning of the fatal shooting.

Lawyers also argued that, contrary to the NMED findings, the movie’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed had not been “overburdened” by workload but “didn’t do her job properly”.

Lawyers for Gutierrez Reed said the NMED report showed that the armourer was “not provided adequate time or resources to conduct her job effectively, despite her voiced concerns”.

“Critically, OSHA also determined that production failed to call Hannah in to perform her armorer duties and inspect the firearm right before its use in the impromptu scene with Baldwin,” they said in a statement.

“As we have stated before, had anyone from production called Hannah back into the church before the scene to consult with her, this tragedy would have been prevented.”

Baldwin’s lawyers said they were “grateful” to the New Mexico occupational health and safety bureau following the report’s publication, saying that it “exonerates” the actor.

NMED has been contacted for comment.

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