Hours Before Fatal Shooting on Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust,’ a Half-Dozen Crew Members Quit to Protest Work Conditions

“We will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down,” a rep for Rust Productions says in response

rust alec baldwin
Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the deadly accident on the set of "Rust" occurred; (inset) Alec Baldwin (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images; Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images for National Geographic)

Hours before a shot on the set of the Alec Baldwin film “Rust” killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, a half-dozen camera crew workers walked off set to protest conditions on the film after days of strife over long hours, safety issues and staff housing.

In a series of scathing comments on Facebook, crew member Lane Luper described the working conditions on “Rust” as “absolute dog s—.”

“At the moment I’m fighting to get my crew, on this movie, hotel rooms when we go long or are too tired to drive the hour back from location to Albuquerque,” camera operator Lane Luper wrote. “They either say no or offer a garbage roadside motel that’s used as a homeless shelter. In fact the line producer on the flick complained the motel she booked charges her 10 bucks more per night than the homeless. They haven’t even paid the crew a proper check.”

Luper, a union member, was speaking on a thread in which Baldwin posted a video about a new IATSE contract.

Lane Luper Screenshot

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, a half-dozen crew members walked off the set on Friday over working conditions. The report cited three individuals who said that several non-union crew members were brought in to replace them. Among the complaints were accusations that the crew was required to commute from far away rather than have a hotel paid for close by in Santa Fe and that crew members had not been paid.

The Times says that Hutchins was also among those to have raised concerns about safety conditions for her team. Prior to the accident that killed Hutchins however, an individual who spoke with the Times also said that there were two misfires on the prop gun on Saturday and one the previous week, and that one person told the Times there were a “serious lack of safety meetings on set.”

The shooting that killed Hutchins ultimately occurred about six hours after the union camera crew left, according to the Times.

“The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company,” a representative for Rust Productions told TheWrap in response to the article. “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. We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time.”

IATSE’s national branch had no additional comment beyond their earlier statement mourning the loss of Hutchins.

A tweet that contained a screengrab of a text message from an industry insider but was later deleted was also making the rounds of the web on Friday. It mentioned a lack of payment for three weeks, a lack of COVID safety and a lack of gun safety and that the entire camera crew had walked off the set for the lack of safety. (You can see a screengrab of the text below.)

Luper further complained about long hours on the set: “The show keeps arguing they don’t have to do anything because contract minimums don’t force them to,” he wrote. “In fact in the low budget agreement a hotel doesn’t need to be provided until 14 WORKED hours. And this shows doing hour lunches. So it requires a 15 hour elapsed day before they will volunteer a hotel. My BA tried to get them to agree to 13 hours elapsed and they agreed to 13 hours worked. So here’s where my crews at with this show and the unions involvement. 12.5 hour days worked, with an hour lunch, 2 hours of driving a day leaving exactly 8 hours of time not at work. Most folks on my show are getting 5 hours of sleep a night.”

According to law enforcement statements, Hutchins was shot around 1:50 p.m. Thursday local time and died of her injuries after she was airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. The shot also injured director Joel Souza, who was released from the hospital on Friday.

Production began earlier this month at Bonanza Creek Movie Ranch, just south of Santa Fe, and production on the film is now suspended.

The investigation into the deadly incident is ongoing, the sheriff’s department said; no charges have been filed.

“According to investigators, it appears that the scene being filmed involved the use of a prop firearm when it was discharged,” the Santa Fe sheriff’s office said in a statement to media earlier on Thursday. “Detectives are investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged.”

Baldwin earlier on Friday said he’s cooperating with law enforcement and said his “heart was broken” over the loss of Hutchins.

“There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours,” Baldwin said in a statement provided to TheWrap and in a pair of tweets Friday. “I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”

More to come…