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On-set medic on Rust reveals she heard a ‘loud shot’ and immediately knew something was wrong

The on-set medic for Alec Baldwin‘s Western film, where a camerawoman was killed on Thursday, immediately realized that there had been a terrible mistake, according to a report.

Cherlyn Schaefer, the on-set medic, said that she was immediately surprised at the noise of the gunshot

Cherlyn Schaefer heard a ‘loud shot’ which surprised her, according to the medic’s report from the immediate aftermath of the shooting, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

She said the noise was unexpected, because the team making the film Rust in the New Mexico desert was not meant to be using special effects at that point. 

‘Are we rehearsing? Because ‘fire in the hole’ wasn’t called,’ Schaefer said, according to the report.

The phrase ‘fire in the hole’ means that special effects are being used for an explosion.

After hearing someone say ‘medic emergency’ following the bang, she ran to a church on the set where the first scene after lunch was being set up. 

Schaefer said she heard people saying that the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, 42, had been shot in the chest.

Baldwin, the film’s star, was rehearsing a scene inside the church in which he points the gun directly at the camera. 

The Bonanza Creek ranch in New Mexico, outside of Santa Fe, is seen during filming of Rust. Baldwin is believed to have shot and killed Hutchins inside this church

The Bonanza Creek ranch in New Mexico, outside of Santa Fe, is seen during filming of Rust. Baldwin is believed to have shot and killed Hutchins inside this church

Production of the film has stopped now in light of the tragedy. The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department is investigating and 'collecting evidence', a spokesman said on Friday

Production of the film has stopped now in light of the tragedy. The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department is investigating and ‘collecting evidence’, a spokesman said on Friday 

The film director, Joel Souza, 48, was standing behind Hutchins and had also been shot, in the shoulder.

Schaefer said in her report that she asked a colleague to apply pressure to that patient’s wound, as someone called 911.

Alec Baldwin, seen in October, was playing the lead role in the film Rust when the accident happened

Alec Baldwin, seen in October, was playing the lead role in the film Rust when the accident happened

Audio of the 911 call, released on Friday, showed the script supervisor, Mamie Mitchell, summoning help.

Mitchell immediately blamed the film’s assistant director.

While the phone operator is inputting the details, Mitchell can be heard telling someone else: ‘OK, this f****** AD that yelled at me at lunch asking about revisions, this motherf*****.

‘Did you see him lean over my desk and yell at me? He’s supposed to check the guns. He’s responsible for what happened.’ 

According to a search warrant filed in a Santa Fe court, the gun was one of three that the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez, had set on a cart outside the wooden structure where a scene was being acted. 

Assistant director Dave Halls grabbed the gun from the cart and brought it inside to Baldwin, unaware that it was loaded with live rounds, a detective wrote in the search warrant application.

It is not known whether Mitchell was referring Halls in the audio. 

It was unclear how many rounds were fired. 

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed in Thursday's accident

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed in Thursday’s accident

Baldwin and Hutchins (circled) are pictured together on the set of Rust, in an image that she uploaded to Instagram two days before the fatal shooting

Baldwin and Hutchins (circled) are pictured together on the set of Rust, in an image that she uploaded to Instagram two days before the fatal shooting

Hutchins, born in Ukraine, was fondly remembered by those who worked with her on the set of Rust

Hutchins, born in Ukraine, was fondly remembered by those who worked with her on the set of Rust

Gutierrez removed a shell casing from the gun after the shooting, and she turned the weapon over to police when they arrived, the court records say. 

Schaefer tended to Hutchins before the emergency medical technicians arrived. 

She found a wound in Hutchins’s back and began applying pressure to it, according to the report, and then found a second wound. 

She began giving Hutchins oxygen through a mask and described checking for her vital signs.

As EMTs arrived, she helped move Hutchins onto a gurney before turning to Souza, who was released from hospital on Friday. 

In a section of the report labeled ‘detailed cause,’ Schaefer wrote that ‘ ‘Something’ was shot from a prop gun.’

As those working on the company are left reeling from Thursday’s events, a worrying picture is emerging of safety protocols on the set.

Armorer Hannah Gutierrez, 24, is the daughter of legendary armorer and firearms consultant Thell Reed, who trained her from a young age

Assistant director Dave Halls grabbed the gun from the cart and brought it inside to Baldwin, unaware that it was loaded with live rounds

A search warrant released Friday said that armorer Hannah Gutierrez (left) laid out three prop guns on a cart outside the filming location, and assistant director Dave Halls (right) grabbed the gun from the cart and brought it inside to Baldwin. It is not known whether Mitchell was referring Halls in the audio

Alec Baldwin is seen on the set of Rust with fake blood earlier Thursday, hours before he shot and killed the film's cinematographer. He shared this photo on Instagram with the caption "Back to in person at the office. Blimey…it’s exhausting." Filming was halted following the fatal incident at the Bonanza Creek Ranch movie set in Santa Fe

Baldwin is seen in costume, covered with fake blood, in an image posted to Instagram 

Ray Liotta, star of Goodfellas and Many Saints of Newark, told The Associated Press that he was shocked by the on-set shooting.

‘They always — that I know of — they check it so you can see,’ he said.

Joel Souza, the director of Rust, is seen in November 2019. He was reportedly shot in the shoulder

Joel Souza, the director of Rust, is seen in November 2019. He was reportedly shot in the shoulder

‘They give it to the person you’re pointing the gun at. 

‘They do it to the producer. 

‘They show whoever is there that it doesn’t work.’ 

Prior to the fatal shooting there were at least two accidental discharges of prop firearms on the set in Santa Fe, New Mexico, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

And Halls, according to people who spoke to Insider, had previously sparked alarm with his directions.

Melissa Low Lyon, the former on-set dresser for Hulu’s horror series Into the Dark, alleged that Halls caused concern in 2019 when he told actor Creed Bratton to perform a stunt where his character was supposed to be shot in the head. 

Bratton told Halls that he was worried about the scene, and uneasy about the actions Halls wanted. Bratton feared that the dummy projectile could still hit him in the eye, but Halls pressed him to continue, Lyon claimed.

‘Creed himself expressed concern because he said ‘it’s not going to get my eye is it,” Lyon told Insider. 

‘And then as soon as it happened, he said ‘I f****** knew it.”

Lyon said she found Halls ‘volatile’ and difficult to work with.

An aerial view of the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, where the movie was being filmed

An aerial view of the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, where the movie was being filmed

An inconsolable Alec Baldwin is shown outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office after accidentally shooting and killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, right

Halyna Hutchins died following the accidental shooting, when Alec Baldwin fired a gun on set

An inconsolable Alec Baldwin is shown, left, on Thursday outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office after accidentally shooting and killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, right

A devastated Baldwin is pictured bent over outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff's office on Thursday after speaking to investigators

A devastated Baldwin is pictured bent over outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office on Thursday after speaking to investigators

‘Dave gets very confrontational in a sense, and just doesn’t want to listen and says, ‘well we’re just going to do it’ and he’ll do things like he did on Rust and just grab it or do it himself,’ Lyon said.  

Halls was previously fired from the production of another film, Freedom’s Path, in 2019 after an accident involving a gun. 

The weapon in that production fired unexpectedly, injuring a sound crew member who recoiled from the blast and had to seek treatment. 

Freedom’s Path is still in production and is expected to be released next year.  

Rock Soul Studios, the company that produced the movie, fired him as a result. 

The company told CNN about the incident on Monday as others in the industry lined up to trash Halls, calling him unprofessional, ‘barbaric’ and negligent. 

On the set of another film, horror Western The Pale Door, released in August 2020, a second assistant director quit in protest at how Halls treated him and other workers.

Halls, the first assistant director, was constantly ‘rushing everyone’ and was ‘rude about it, too,’ said Danny Hulsey.

Hulsey told Insider he did not see any safety violations, but was angered by Halls’ attitude. 

Halls has not commented on either the 2019 incident, the 2020 confrontation, or the Rust shooting.  

Rust had the a low budget for a film, with producers wanting the movie shot at the cost of an average episode of a high-end drama series – about $6-$7 million.

It was also on a tight 21-day filming schedule, according to Deadline.

David Halls is the Assistant Director of Rust, the Western movie Baldwin was acting in and producing when he accidentally killed Hutchins on Thursday and wounded director Joel Souza

David Halls is the Assistant Director of Rust, the Western movie Baldwin was acting in and producing when he accidentally killed Hutchins on Thursday and wounded director Joel Souza

 

The budget lead to constraints, according to some. 

Neal W. Zoromski, a veteran prop master, said that he turned down an offer to join Rust because they would not give him the team he requested.

Zoromski told The Los Angeles Times he initially asked for a department of five technicians, which would be standard in the business. 

He then modified his request to two experienced crew members: an assistant prop master and an armorer, who handles prop guns. 

But he said he was told the movie could only afford one person handling all these duties, so he turned down the job.

‘There were massive red flags,’ he said.

‘After I pressed ‘send’ on that last email, I felt, in the pit of my stomach: ‘That is an accident waiting to happen.’ 

The production company behind the film said that they were unaware of any previous problems. 

‘Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down,’ the company, Rust Movie Productions, said in a statement.

The company has emailed the crew and actors to tell them that production of the film was being halted, but called it ‘a pause rather than an end.’

On Monday, Deadline reported that film and television studios are now reviewing their gun safety policies and exploring possible changes.

ABC’s police drama The Rookie announced they will no longer use real guns. Instead, cast and crew will handle airsoft guns, which are replica guns with reduced power that typically fire plastic pellets. 

Airsoft guns have been used as props in several high-profile television shows and movies, including The Walking Dead, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Killjoys, and 28 Weeks Later. 

Within the industry, many were calling for change. 

Nick Sinnott, an Emmy-winning visual effects supervisor who has worked on Avatar and Star Wars: Episode 1, tweeted: ‘vfx artist here, to everyone saying muzzle flashes added in post are as good as the real deal: yes, of course they are, it’s the easiest thing, what the f***.’

Director Megan Griffiths said: ‘I often get pushback when I demand completely disabled, non-firing weapons on set, but this is why. 

‘Mistakes happen, and when they involve guns, mistakes kill. No gun ever needs to fire on set. 

‘Muzzle flashes are the easiest & cheapest visual effect. Why are we still doing this?’ 

Craig Zobel, director of Mare of Easttown, said: ‘There’s no reason to have guns loaded with blanks or anything on set anymore. 

‘Should just be fully outlawed. There’s computers now. 

‘The gunshots on Mare of Easttown are all digital. You can probably tell, but who cares? It’s an unnecessary risk.’

ALEC BALDWIN ON-SET TRAGEDY: WHAT COULD HAVE GONE WRONG? 

The Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate what exactly happened on the set that led to the death of Hutchins and the injury of the director, but past accidents involving guns on movie sets present a range of options for what could have led to the tragedy. 

Squib load – something was lodged in the barrel of the gun when Baldwin fired

One possibility is that an object was stuck in the barrel of the prop gun that Baldwin was using. Known as a squib load, it happens when a cartridge isn’t fired from the barrel because the gas isn’t strong enough to push it out. 

In itself, it is not dangerous and can be fixed if the gun is safely cleared but if someone keeps firing rounds from that same gun – live or not – it can be highly dangerous. 

If a second round is fired behind the stuck round, it can cause the weapon to explode, or injure people in the near vicinity. 

A real bullet was accidentally loaded, or part of one was, instead of a blank 

After firing the gun, Baldwin’s immediate reaction was to ask why he’d been handed a ‘hot’ gun – meaning one containing live bullets. 

That is what happened in the 1993 shooting of actor Brandon Bruce Lee on the set of The Crow. 

Those on set thought the gun was loaded with blanks, but an autopsy revealed a .44 caliber bullet was lodged near Lee’s spine. 

Police recovered dummy shell casings from the set. 

A dummy, unlike a blank, looks like a live round with a bullet at the tip of the cartridge. 

The difference between live rounds and blanks is the tip of the cartridge where the lethal bullet is contained is not there on a blank. Sometimes they are replaced with cotton or paper. Dummy bullets, unlike blanks, look like ordinary bullets but aren't meant to contain the metal bullet tip either

The difference between live rounds and blanks is the tip of the cartridge where the lethal bullet is contained is not there on a blank. Sometimes they are replaced with cotton or paper. Dummy bullets, unlike blanks, look like ordinary bullets but aren’t meant to contain the metal bullet tip either 

Blast from the blank struck something else on set

One possibility, though it is not likely, is that the blank hit something else, damaged it, and caused that prop or piece of equipment to send pieces flying towards the director and Hutchins. 

Rhys Muldoon who has used guns on set many times and says even blanks are dangerous, speculated at that possibility, telling the BBC: ‘The first thought I had is this is a close up of a gun being fired by the actor, very close to the frame of the camera, that has misfired, hit the DoP, and then something has either come off the French Flag or the black box like a part of the camera and hit the director as well.’ 

But movie experts say even in those cases, there should be more safeguards in place. 

‘If you are in the line of fire… You would have a face mask, you would have goggles, you would stand behind a Perspex screen, and you would minimize the number of people by the camera. 

‘What I don’t understand in this instance is how two people have been injured, one tragically killed, in the same event,’ Steven Hall, who has worked on films such as Fury and The Imitation Game, told BBC.  


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