Alec Baldwin shooting: Witnesses say they complained previously about assistant director’s unsafe practices

Assistant Director David Halls’ unsafe habits prompted coworkers to complain as far back as 2019, they say

Sheila Flynn
Sunday 24 October 2021 19:28
Alec Baldwin 'discharged' prop gun that killed Rust cinematographer
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The assistant director who handed Alec Baldwin a loaded prop gun is an industry veteran who’d been the subject of safety complaints for at least two years, according to former on-set coworkers.

Maggie Goll, an IATSE Local 44 prop maker and licensed pyrotechnician, told CNN that she’d worked with Mr Halls in 2019 and found that he failed to both hold safety meetings and consistently follow protocol when it came to announcing the presence of firearms on set.

“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,” Ms Goll said in a statement to CNN.

Explaining protocol, she said the 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 frequently admonished Dave for dismissing the talent without returning props, weapon included, or failing to make safety announcements.”

Mr Halls, according to his resume, got a qualification from Bethany College in Film Production in 1984 and has more than 20 years of experience in film, TV, commercials and videos. It adds that he is licensed to work both union and non-union projects.

Despite all of that experience, however, another film professional – who asked to remain anonymous – backed up Ms Goll’s claims about the assistant director to CNN, “saying that when Halls did hold safety meetings, they were short and he was dismissive, saying the guns used would be the same as the production always uses, and questioning why they’d have to hold the meetings in the first place,” the station reported.

“The crew member also said Halls complained about having a gun ‘cleared’ (inspected by a licensed professional on set, such as an armorer) for a scene where an actress would aim the gun to her own head and pull the trigger,” CNN reported.

“Goll and the other crew member told CNN of another instance where Halls insisted on continuing filming on location while a storm hit, where electrical lights were touching mud, wires were exposed to the rain, and crew members feared for their safety.”

Ms Goll said she’d been under the impression nothing had been done about the concerns she raised. Less than two years later, it was Mr Halls who handed a prop gun on Thursday to actor Alec Baldwin on the New Mexico set of Rust, which Mr Baldwin is both starring in and producing.

Despite assurances from Mr Halls that the gun was “cold” – or not loaded – the weapon discharged when Mr Baldwin fired it, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

New Mexico authorities are investigating the fatal incident. The film’s armourer, 24-year-old Hannah Gutierrez Reed, had only served as head armourer on one previous film which wrapped not long before filming on Rust began.

There had been other accidental discharges in the days before Ms Hutchins’ death and workers had reportedly walked off set in protest just hours before the shooting.

Mr Baldwin has expressed his support for Ms Hutchins’ husband and son and said he is “heart broken” following the incident.

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