Fatal Shooting on Film Set – Alec Baldwin Fires Prop Gun

A recent film production turned fatal when actor and producer Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun killing photography director (cinematographer), Halyna Hutchins, who was only 42 years old, and the film’s director Joel Souza, 48.

Baldwin and the crew were filming the upcoming western film in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The film, “Rust,” was planned for production through November, yet as of now, the film‘s production is halted pending a complete investigation.

After being shot, Hutchins was immediately flown to the University of New Mexico hospital in Albuquerque, where she was then pronounced dead. The tragic circumstances of how the incident occurred are still unclear and a police investigation is ongoing.

Tragedies and On-Set Fatal Shootings are Not New

Film sets can be notoriously dangerous, and there are plenty of accidents that can happen, especially when using prop weapons.

Actors Jon-Erik Hexum and Brandon Lee were both killed by blank rounds fired by prop guns on film sets. 

In 1984, Jon-Erik Hexum was playing with his prop gun between takes on the television show Cover Up, and accidentally shot himself in the head with the blank, which fractured his skull and caused his death. Ten years later, Brandon Lee was killed on the set of the movie The Crow when a blank was fired and the force of the blank hit his abdomen at the same force of a regular bullet. 

Both of these tragedies were caused by prop guns that proved dangerous. Though sometimes thought of as fake guns, prop guns must be handled with the same care as live firearms, even when unloaded.   

What Makes a Prop Gun Deadly?

Prop guns that are used on set are meant to mimic a real firearm. The blanks used in prop guns, when fired, can propel any projectile with the same force as a real bullet. Blanks are specifically designed to mimic real guns, so there will usually be a loud “bang” and a flash of light when the prop ammunition is fired.

Why Are These Weapons Still Being Used? 

With all of the technology that the film industry has to offer today, some industry insiders and observers question the use of prop guns in the first place. 

Industry experts argue that a safer way to handle scenes with a firearm would be to manually edit in the scenes involving a gun or use computer generated graphics. 

While the actual circumstances of how the death of Hutchins unfolded is not clear, it is clear that all weapons on a movie production set should be inspected before and after each scene, and should be safely put away and protected between scenes. 

The IATSE, other labor unions, members of the film industry, actors, and more have tweeted, posted, and  shared their condolences with the Hutchins’ family and friends.  They are also advocating for safer working conditions. 

Improvement of on-set safety is important and necessary to prevent future incidents..

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