Aftermath of Shooting on the Set of “Rust”

Jacob Smith, Culture Reporter

On October 21, 2021, a shooting occurred on the set of the film “Rust.” The gun had been fired by star actor Alec Baldwin, believing it to have been a cold gun. A cold gun is simply a gun used for a movie which does not have live rounds in it. Unfortunately, that was not the case in this instance. A live round had been mistakenly loaded into the gun, which was then fired by Baldwin, killing director of photography Halyna Hutchins, and inuring director Joel Souza. How did this happen? How could it happen? 

We asked a professor of theatre here at Georgia Southern, Ms. Lisa Abbott, what she thought went wrong on set, and how something like this could have happened. “It sounds like, as reports started to come in, that they were being careless,” said Abbott. She described the various procedures taken here at Southern in our theatre department. The weapons used in official university productions have their barrels filled to prevent any projectile from leaving the weapon. The weapons are checked regularly, cleaned regularly, and locked when not in use. The proper authorities are informed prior to any usage of firearms. Students are greatly encouraged against using prop firearms, and even told to use toy guns over prop guns. If all of these precautions are taken on a university production, surely the same would be taken on a hollywood movie with a star actor like Alec Baldwin, right?

It turns out, maybe not. Most of the union crew members had walked off the set prior to the incident. Among their complaints were not being paid on time, hotels not being covered, and safety. They were quickly replaced with nonunion workers. As for their safety concerns, it seems there was some validity to them. Naturally, these claims come with contention. Alec Baldwin shared comments on social media from costume designer Terese Magpale Davis, where she claimed that the narrative about the set being unsafe was untrue, and in fact they had several safety meetings a day. Of course in the wake of the tragic events it is hard to picture the set as an entirely safe place, but be wary that in the aftermath of events such as these, people are quick to blame someone else.  

A question puzzling many in the immediate aftermath of the incident was, why on earth were there live rounds on a movie set? It’s against guidelines to even bring live rounds on set. The armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, claims that they don’t keep live rounds on set and doesn’t believe she loaded any into any of the weapons. However, her lawyers claim the weapons were left unattended from 11 AM to 1 PM, with the possibility of them being sabotaged by a disgruntled worker. The truth of the matter is of course still under investigation.

Reactions to the tragic events of that day have spawned a new conversation. Should movies even use real guns in production? “I think with the fact that we can now use cg to do muzzle flashes I don’t think there’s any reason to have any kind of gun that has the potential of shooting a projectile,” said Abbott. Too often the industry refuses to learn and change until it’s too late. No regulation change, apology, lawsuit, or outcry will bring Halyna Hutchins back. Of course, those things should still happen. It is sad however, that the only times where we seem quick to act is after permanent damage has been done.