The Assistant Director who handed Alec Baldwin the gun loaded with live ammunition that he used to accidentally kill cinematographer Halyna Hutchins has a reputation for being laxed with safety and was ‘flippant’ towards firearms on previous movie sets, DailyMail.com has been told.
David Halls is the Assistant Director of Rust, the Western movie Baldwin was acting in and producing when he accidentally killed Hutchins on Thursday and wounded director Joel Souza.
Search warrants reveal that Halls, and everyone else on the set, was unaware the gun he handed Baldwin contained live ammunition.
He had declared it a ‘cold’ weapon, meaning it was loaded only with blanks.
As police investigate what exactly happened in the moments leading up to the tragic accident, pyrotechnicians and prop masters who worked with Halls on other projects told DailyMail.com about their concerns about him.
David Halls is the Assistant Director of Rust, the Western movie Baldwin was acting in and producing when he accidentally killed Hutchins on Thursday and wounded director Joel Souza
Baldwin was handed the gun and was told by Halls that it was ‘cold’. He was practicing a cross draw when it went off, fatally wounding Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza
One crew member, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being blacklisted, told DailyMail.com that he’d worked with Halls on two similarly low-budget sets in Los Angeles in spring 2019, one where a revolver and Glock were used, and another involving shotguns.
Each morning they’d have a meeting to discuss the weapons and other safety issues, an industry standard. But he said Halls didn’t think they were needed.
‘He was very flippant about my insistence on having a safety meeting about the weapons, on both of the sets,’ said the crew member, who asked to use the pseudonym “Jay” and has worked on films for 10 years.
‘He would rush through it and say, alright guys, be safe, let’s get to work.’
‘Even though the guns were not loaded, you have to treat it as if it always is,’ he said. “And for me that means doing a safety meeting that may be seen as unnecessary but should absolutely be done so that everyone is on the same page.”
‘He would rush through it and say, alright guys, be safe, let’s get to work’
‘Systemically, so much pressure is put on the first assistant directors to meet a schedule, to ‘make the day,’ meaning to get all the work done that you already have scheduled for the day,’ he continued.
‘When it comes to safety on set, or having to wait for anything, because safety takes time, I have seen 1st ADs get annoyed for having to wait.
‘But they ultimately understand it needs to be done. But when I worked with him, it was the only time I’ve had any AD ask me, “Do we really need to have a safety meeting?”‘
On both sets, no live bullets were used, and no guns were pointed at another person. Camera angles made it appear as if the guns were on target. And before anyone placed their finger on a trigger, an ‘armorer’ or person on set responsible for weapons, would shine a flashlight down the barrel to show no blockage or potential projectile.
‘When you fire, no projectile is supposed to come out, though it still could be dangerous,’ Jay said. ‘That’s where there are rules. You don’t aim it at anybody at any time.’
Halls has removed his Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and has not commented on the shooting
Sources on the set of Rust said the incident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins could be tied to the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed
And in no instance would an assistant director ever touch the gun, he said.
‘His job is to check the guns, visually, check them with the actor and with the steward on set who is the property person or the armorer,’ Jay said.
‘The chain of custody for the gun should only be between the armorer, the property person and the actor directly handling it.’
On the set of Rust, Jay said, first of all there shouldn’t have been any live ammunition on the set.
But he believes Hall is primarily responsible for the tragedy because he reportedly shouted ‘cold gun’ without having visually inspected the weapon to ‘clear the gun.’
‘That’s what makes me feel he is in every way responsible,’ Jay told DailyMail.com.
‘First of all, he was never supposed to handle that prop. Then he declared it a cold gun. It literally takes just a few seconds to check the gun to make sure it’s safe.
‘He had no idea if it was a cold gun, so why make that announcement?
The crew were filming a scene inside this church when the shooting happened on Thursday. Production has now been halted
PRODUCTION EMAIL TO CREW
Our hearts are with all of you, as we all go through this tragic time and mourn the loss of our colleague and dear friend, Halyna Hutchins. We are family and we must stand beside each other as families do in difficult times. We remain in close touch with Halyna’s family and commend the strength they show in the face of unspeakable tragedy. It is beyond an inspiration.
We also want to let you know that Joel Souza is recovering, and we are supporting him however we can knowing just how difficult his journey is.
We want you to know that we continue to cooperate with the Sante Fe County Sheriff’s Department as they conduct their investigation. We commend them for their diligence. Further, as you may know, we are conducting an internal review of safety protocols. As with any ongoing investigation, we are limited in our ability to say anything further publicly or privately, and ask for your patience in that regards.
As the investigation continues, we cannot respond to the comments that have been making their way into the media, on social media and elsewhere. We are sorry to hear that so many of you are receiving unsolicited contacts from the media while all of us need time and space to grieve and heal. You don’t need to engage, but if you do just ask that the journalists to respect your privacy. It should help.
We want to remind you of the support resources we have made available to you to help you through this very difficult time. We encourage you to reach out to the in-person and virtual grief counselors at any time – they are available 24/7.
If you would like to set up an in-person or virtual session, please text the office 505-230-8713 with times that work for you and whether you would prefer in person sessions or virtual, and someone will connect you with the car call correct counsellor.
As we go through this crisis, we have made the decision to wrap the set at least until the investigations are complete.
As such, we are working through when you can pick up your personal items. You should expect an update on the wrap-out schedule tomorrow.
Although our hearts are broken, and it is hard to see beyond the horizon, this is, at the moment, a pause rather than an end. The spirit that brought us all to this special place remains.
–The Rust Production Team
We will be making a donation to the Halyna Hutchins Scholarship Fund established by Halyna’s family. We will be matching any donations by the crew.
You can find more information here: https://www.afi.com/halyna-hutchins-scholarship-fund.
‘If it weren’t for the actions he took in those few seconds, I believe Halyna would still be alive,’ he concluded.
Maggie Goll, a pyrotechnician who worked with Halls in 2019 for a Hulu series Into The Dark, told DailyMail.com that she complained to the Directors Guild of America about him after he tried to push on with filming despite a crew member having a diabetic fit.
The crewmember was also a pyrotechnician who was needed on set to supervise a scene involving a fireplace filled with 100 candles. When he collapsed, Goll said she extinguished everything and called for an ambulance but Halls wanted to keep shooting.
On that same shoot, she says he ‘neglected to hold safety meetings’.
‘Dave neglected to hold safety meetings or make announcements prior to the appearance of a firearm on set on a daily basis.
‘The only reason the crew was made aware of a weapon’s presence was because the Assistant Prop Master demanded Dave acknowledge and announce the situation each day.
A girl pays her respects at a vigil held for Halyna in Burbank, California, on October 23
‘This Asst Prop Master would announce each day when a gun would be required on camera, the disposition of that weapon – whether it was a rubber/plastic replica, a non-firing option, or a “cold” functional but unloaded option, allowing anyone to inspect said weapon prior to bringing it to set and presenting it to the talent.
‘The Prop Master also was extremely vigilant in reclaiming any distributed weapons prior to the talent leaving set.
‘The Prop Master frequently admonished Dave for dismissing the talent without returning props, weapon included, or failing to make safety announcements.’
After the shoot, she says she filed multiple complaints with a safety line and tried to contact the Directors Guild of America but ‘nothing was done’.
‘That was the last I saw of Dave and that AP. That is, until I saw Dave’s name pop up in relation to the accident on the set of “Rust.”
‘I am gutted at not pushing harder for greater accountability and safety.
‘Many of us have messaged each other wondering the same thing: is there something we could have done then that would have prevented the tragedy in New Mexico yesterday?
‘It is a horrible feeling,’ she said.
Halls has not yet spoken about the tragedy. He was working alongside 24-year-old armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, whose slapdash approach to gun safety training has been questioned by other crew members.
Baldwin issued a statement on Twitter on Friday to say he was fully cooperating with the police.
He was in touch with Halyna’s widower, Matthew, before Matthew flew to New Mexico. The pair were photographed together on Sunday.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk