“This moment has shaken us all to the core,” said IATSE Local 480 President Liz Pecos, holding a lit candle in front of the pink-striped sky of New Mexico.
Hundreds of people stood in front of her, holding their own candles high as they gathered to mourn film photographer Halyna Hutchins.
Many of those who crowded into the Albuquerque Civic Plaza on Saturday night were members of Pecos’ Local, which represents crew members “below the line” working on film and television productions in New Mexico.
Some of the participants in the election vigil had known Hutchins and worked with her on the set of “Rust”, where she was fatally shot of a prop pistol fired by actor Alec Baldwin.
But most were part of the larger family of crew members who largely live in Albuquerque or Santa Fe and run New Mexico’s thriving, cohesive film industry. These were people who had been in the trenches together and worked kind of punitive hours which has helped to initiate an ongoing calculation of working conditions on sets.
“It’s not like Atlanta or Los Angeles, it sure is. It’s a lot smaller here,” said Jonathan Hubbarth, a Albuquerque site coordinator wearing a “Stranger Things” zippered hoodie in New Mexico. practically.”
When Rebecca Rhine, National Executive Director of the Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600, and Cinematographers Guild President John Lindley addressed the audience, the participants hugged old friends and colleagues in tears.
For the minutes:
13:00 24 October 2021
An earlier version of this article misspelled Lane Luper’s name.
Lane Luper, a camera operator who worked with Hutchins on “Rust,” praised her to the audience as “one of the most talented, friendly, and cooperative” people he has ever met.
“She is a wonderful mother and a wonderful wife and just a wonderful soul. And I really hope there are more people like her,” he said, his voice limited by grief. “I love everyone in this society. And thank you – I know I did not send you an SMS, but thank you for that means a lot. ”
The 42-year-old Ukrainian native had been selected as one of American Cinematographers Rising Stars 2019.
“Tonight is about Halyna,” Rhine said during her speech. “There will be plenty of time to focus on who, on what, on why, in the future.”
Still, the threatening questions about the circumstances that led to Hutchin’s death on Thursday, hours after half a dozen camera crews left the filming location to protest working conditions, were hard to ignore in the crowd. Security protocols that are standard in the industry, including weapons inspections, were not strictly followed on the set, several crew members told the Los Angeles Times on Friday.
“We have to take care of ourselves, many times people do not look up to us,” said one man as he bent down to hug several friends.
Across the crowd, customer Kim Trujillo and Ashley Crandall, who work with props, discussed how the productions both women worked on had made immediate changes on Friday in response to the horrific event.
Crandall said the TV series she is currently working on had planned to use a replica gun with blanks for a scene on Friday but had made the last-minute decision to switch to an airsoft weapon – a discussion that had been shared with the entire crew, according to Crandall.
“It just made everyone feel so much safer,” she said, characterizing the precaution as a long time ago.
Trujillo, who, like Crandall, wore a shirt for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, said the production she worked with had announced that they would now only use rubber weapons.
Wynema Chavez Quintana, a customer, held up a sign with photos of Hutchins and handwritten text that read “She Deserved a Safe Workplace!” and “SOS Safety on sets !!”
Chavez Quintana said she related to Hutchins as a mother.
“She deserved to come home to her children,” Chavez Quintana said through tears. Chavez Quintana’s 25-year-old son now also works on sets, and she said she sometimes fears for his safety.
But in the midst of shock and sorrow, there was an undercurrent of hope – many said they hoped or believed that actual change could come from unbearable tragedy.
“We were on the verge of cracking down on our health and it was hard to fend off, and now I think everyone is going to fight a little harder for our rights – for our physical safety,” said Amrit Khalsa, a Santa Fe agency.
Standing with actors Jon Hamm and John Slattery, producer Ross Kahn spoke about the horror of Hutchin’s death.
“We heard there were problems with that set,” said Kahn, who, along with Hamm and Slattery, was in New Mexico to record the movie “Maggie Moore (s).” “It’s a tragedy that can be avoided.”
In a statement to Deadline Saturday, “Rust” director Joel Souza, who was also injured in the shooting, thanked the local film community for the support and said he was “tired of the loss of my friend and colleague Halyna. She was kind, lively, incredibly talented, fighting for every inch” and always pushed me to get better. ”
Among other security issues, several participants in the election vigil talked about the need to provide crew members with hotel rooms when long shooting times would otherwise require workers to make the long journey from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, or vice versa, with some sleep.
The cities are about an hour’s drive down Interstate 25 from each other. The decision not to provide previously promised hotel rooms to crew members at “Rust” – many of whom lived in Albuquerque, about 50 miles from Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe County – played a role in Thursday morning’s strike.
Bonanza Creek Ranch was almost deserted on Saturday afternoon, with a padlocked chain closing off its rusty gate from the wide-open desert road. Inside the gate, two security guards lingered at a wind-blown American flag at the guard cabin while an Australian news team set up their shot across the street.
Twenty minutes from the ranch in picturesque Santa Fe, the conversation about the shooting continued to ricochet through the dense city early on Saturday.
Locals described the film industry in New Mexico, which has been on the rise since the early 2000s and has grown rapidly in recent years, as a deeply welcome blessing to the city’s hospitality-driven economy.
New Mexico, with a population of about one-fifth of LA County’s population, has one of the highest poverty rates in the country – factors that have made many locals feel collectively invested in the success of the currently roaring film industry, whether they work in it or not.
They say that the thriving industry feels like an embedded part of society. Sure, you can dance with Bill Murray at Cowgirl BBQ or spy Reese Witherspoon hanging out at the Plaza, but the interactions are decidedly low-key. Santa Feans are proud of their blasé attitude towards celebrities, which is likely to contribute to the city’s movie attraction. Many said they were shocked by the tragedy.
“It’s a small town, and we cross roads with a lot of people directly connected,” said hairdresser Laura Rivera as she shared a plate of french fries with two friends at a popular cafe in Santa Fe.
“It’s very, very close to home, and it’s very scary,” added her friend Sam Staletovich, a Santa Fe telecom worker who has done stand-in and background work on many Western-themed films in the area.
Staletovich said he had been involved in pyrotechnic and weapons scenes, but personal safety had never seemed like a concern because it had been “such a tight process”, even on low-budget films.
“Everything has been checked and double-checked and triple-checked,” he recalled, saying he struggled to imagine how the shooting had happened and felt a new sense of anxiety about future action work.
Local 600 will hold one similar watch for Hutchins in Burbank on Sunday at 18. The union launched one GoFundMe effort Friday for her family. Hutchins leaves behind her husband, Matthew, and a 9-year-old son.