“We just miss our friend,” says JLee MacKenzie, USC cinematic arts graduate student and friend of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
Tragedy struck the film industry when news broke that Hutchins was fatally shot by actor and producer, Alec Baldwin, with a prop gun on the set of his upcoming film “Rust.” Director Joel Souza was also one of the victims of the accident and has been recovering from his injuries.
The incident has sparked widespread controversy across Hollywood on account of the lack of safety protocol and caution during film production. Baldwin, who was unaware of the weapon’s ammunition, has not had any charges leveled against him.
In a press conference by Santa Fe County, Deputy Sheriff Adan Mendoza and District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies confirmed that Hutchins was shot by a “live round.” The case is currently under investigation, with Carmack-Altwies stating that unless a crime or probable cause is found, there will not be an arrest.
In light of this recent event, the USC School of Cinematic Arts sent out a message to its students urging the importance of on-set safety. USC film students share feelings of concern and worriment as they aspire to enter the entertainment industry.
“I never really expected the film to be as dangerous as it is,” said Jackson Daneluk, a cinematic arts, film and television production graduate student. “I’m a little apprehensive to go into it because of that.”
Since the incident, students have expressed concern despite not intending to work on the production side of the industry.
“It has made me more concerned for the people... I’m planning on being a writer, so I’m not planning on being a crew member, but it does add more concern that if this doesn’t change there could be more incidents like this,” said Spencer Daly, a second year cinema and media studies major.
In spite of their potential fears, students believe that the School of Cinematic Arts and its faculty have taken appropriate and strict measures to teach their students about production safety.
“Our first semester, we’re not allowed to use weapons in our films. And definitely no prop guns. It’s really, really, really hard to be allowed to use them in the first place,” says Daneluk.
MacKenzie, who has prior experience working in Hollywood, echoed Daneluk’s sentiments.
“USC takes production safety to an extreme. And I don’t say that in a bad way. I say that like USC, overemphasizes production safety, even more so than you see in the industry when you get out of here. "
MacKenzie met Hutchins through a mutual friend and bonded with her through their shared love of hikes, stating that she introduced him to various hiking spots in LA. He revealed that he had plans to work with Hutchins on a project after the finishing of Rust, but will now never get the chance to do so. The film grad expressed deep anger and sorrow towards the incident, arguing that someone should be held accountable for the irresponsibility on set.
“When this happened to Helena, who was a personal friend, it was kind of unimaginable how this many lapses of safety could happen for this to even be an incident... Nobody working with me is ever going to be able to bring a life gun on set.” says Mackenzie.
To MacKenzie, Hutchins was not only a friend, but a beacon of light with many aspiring filmmakers who looked up to her. The incident was not only a loss to those close to the cinematographer, but a loss to the filmmaking community, he concludes.