New Mexico filmmakers demand a change after “Rust” shoots

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TAOS, NM, Nov. 10 (Reuters) – Some workers in the New Mexico film industry are demanding better film training and tighter gun regulations on set after director of photography was shot dead Halyna Hutchins filming the western “Rust”.

Direct spending by New Mexico’s film and television industry has doubled since 2015, as have crew hours on set, according to state data.

A dozen producers, directors, crew members and actors interviewed by Reuters said growth had far outstripped the supply of state-trained crews, putting set safety at risk.

Up to a third of the staff in some departments on big-budget productions may be inexperienced or on their first film, according to a senior crew member and two set managers.

Low-budget productions like “Rust” scramble to find qualified staff as large companies like Netflix and Universal, both with production centers in New Mexico, hire up to 300 crews, two producers said.

The New Mexico Film Office, which markets the state to the film industry, declined to comment. The office of New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham did not respond to a request for comment. After the shooting of “Rust” on October 21, Lujan Grisham called on the film industry to introduce new security protocols.

Before actor Alec Baldwin fired the shot that killed Hutchins in a rehearsal, cameramen left “Rust” to protest what they said were long hours and other unacceptable working conditions, the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office said.

Jason Bowles, an attorney for gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez-Reed who oversaw the weapons of “Rust” cited the protest when he suggested on NBC’s “Today” show that someone had deliberately put a bullet in the gun. Baldwin’s gun had been told it was safe to use, perhaps to highlight the concerns of the crew.

Baldwin, who was a producer on the film, shared a social media post from a crew member who took issue with reports of chaos and a lax attitude to safety on set.

The producers of “Rust” are conducting their own investigation and have said they are not aware of any official complaints regarding the safety of weapons or accessories on set.

According to New Mexico gunsmith Keith Walters, New Mexico does not require any special training or permits for gunsmiths to handle real firearms.

Rebecca Roose, assistant cabinet secretary at the New Mexico Department of the Environment, said her agency that oversees worker health and safety has no control over gunsmiths in terms of qualifications.

Ten years ago, about half a dozen productions were filmed across New Mexico at one point. As of September, they were 50, according to state data, all competing for local crew members.

“I need 60 of them and the good ones all work,” said Brent Morris, who is hiring for a low budget film, and among producers pushing for better coordination of film training between state colleges. , unions and government.

Lawyers for Gutierrez-Reed said she was hired to fill two positions. The producers refused his requests for training, they said.

“There is a problem in New Mexico with filling the list with qualified people,” said Alton Walpole, who has more than 30 years of experience in the industry. “The big problem is not to put profit before safety. “

Filming locations director Rebecca Puck Stair has called on state lawmakers to establish a gun license for gunsmiths. She said state tax rebates for production companies could then be tied to compliance with hiring a licensed gunsmith and other security best practices.

Reporting by Andrew Hay; Editing by Donna Bryson and Grant McCool

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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