Making Film Safe: How a Cinematographer’s Death Sparked a Movement

Grace Morrison, Entertainment Editor

Halyna Hutchins was a Ukraine-born, Los Angeles-based cinematographer who specialized in lighting and impressionistic storytelling. She was recognized as one of The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Rising Stars in 2019. When the accident happened, she was working on the set of a new western movie, Rust. Alec Baldwin accidentally shot Hutchins with a prop gun (loaded with real bullets). The fault does not fall on Baldwin, as actors and actresses are not responsible for props. David Halls was in charge of on-set safety as assistant director, and he admitted in an interview that he did not check the gun properly. The set was already under pressure, due to the camera crew quitting the day before. A new crew was brought in the day Hutchins passed. No one knew the three props guns used on set contained real bullets. However, this was not Halls’s first misfiring incident. It happen before on a previous set, which resulted in him losing the job. The incident is currently under investigation with no answers yet.

Hutchins’s death sparked a call for safer working conditions from people in the film industry. Women In Film LA said in an Instagram post, “We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of cinematographer and WIF member Halyna Hutchins. Safety and wellbeing should be the top priority of any production. We hope all who were impacted by this traumatic incident are provided resources to care for and support their mental health.” People from all throughout the film industry, from editors to famous actors and actresses to aspiring film students shared similar posts. Crews have been asking for better work conditions for a long time, but their efforts were recently highlighted when 23 unions and over 60,000 workers created a strike for better wages. These issues mainly concern film crew and background characters, but famous actors and actresses are using their influence to raise awareness for the cause. They are protesting 12-hour workdays, making below $8 per hour, and rough working conditions. Hutchins’s death prompted film crew employees worldwide to share their stories of suffering, and they will continue to press for change.