As the investigation into the fatal shooting that shut down production of Alec Baldwin's latest film continues, former colleagues are speaking out against Rust's assistant director, Dave Halls, who is reportedly responsible for handing the actor the prop gun he used to accidentally kill cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injury director Joel Souza.
One pyrotechnicians/prop master who worked with Halls on two similarly low-budget projects in Los Angeles in the spring of 2019 spoke to The Daily Mail anonymously, saying both sets involved the use of firearms: one had a revolver and a Glock, the other had shotguns.
The crew member – who said he had a decade's worth of experience – asked to be identified by the pseudonym "Jay."
Jay told the outlet that Halls did not feel having daily, industry-standard meetings to discuss on-set safety around the guns were all that necessary.
"He was very flippant about my insistence on having a safety meeting about the weapons, on both of the sets," said Jay. "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 explained. "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."
Jay did note that he has seen firsthand the amount of stress assistant directors (ADs) feel to complete the day's work, which oftentimes results in corners being cut.
"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 said. "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."
However, he said most "ultimately understand it needs to be done. But when I worked with [Halls], it was the only time I've had any AD ask me, 'Do we really need to have a safety meeting?'"
According to Jay, there should never be any live ammunition on set, and guns should never be pointed directly at anyone.
Additionally, he said every set that does contain pistols should have an "armorer" present. On the two sets he worked on with Halls, he said their armorer would shine a flashlight down the barrel of the gun to show no blockage or potential projectile.
"When you fire, no projectile is supposed to come out, though it still could be dangerous," Jay explained. "That's where there are rules. You don't aim it at anybody at any time."
He also said that an AD should never touch the gun, as reports claim Halls allegedly handed Baldwin the firearm in question.
"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," said Jay. "The chain of custody for the gun should only be between the armorer, the property person and the actor directly handling it."
He went on to say he believes Halls is "in every way responsible" for the death of Hutchins, pointing to director Souza's account that he heard the AD refer to the pistol as a "cold gun," which indicates that a firearm is not loaded and is safe for use.
"First of all, [Halls] 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," Jay said. "He had no idea if it was a cold gun, so why make that announcement?"
"If it weren't for the actions he took in those few seconds, I believe Halyna would still be alive," he added.
Maggie Goll, a pyrotechnician who worked with Halls on the Hulu series, Into The Dark, told the outlet she complained to the Directors Guild of America about him after he allegedly tried to continue filming amid a crew member's diabetic fit.
According to Goll, the crew member was also a pyrotechnician who was supervising a scene involving a fireplace filled with 100 candles. When he collapsed, Goll said she extinguished the flames and called for an ambulance but that Halls wanted to keep shooting.
Additionally, she said Halls "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."
"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," she went on. "The Prop Master also was extremely vigilant in reclaiming any distributed weapons prior to the talent leaving set."
According to Goll, this prop master "frequently admonished Dave for dismissing the talent without returning props, weapon included, or failing to make safety announcements."
That's when she said she filed multiple complaints with the DGA but that "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,'" she told the outlet. "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?" she added. "It is a horrible feeling."
In a recent interview with NBC News, Goll said Halls initially "seemed like an older, affable first [assistant director] with the usual run of idiosyncrasies, but that facade soon disappeared. He did not maintain a safe working environment. Sets were almost always allowed to become increasingly claustrophobic, no established fire lanes, exits blocked. ... Safety meetings were nonexistent."
A spokesperson for Blumhouse Television, which produced the series along with Hulu, told the outlet, "We used non-firing, dummy firearm props during the production of Pure. No complaints were received via the studio’s anonymous reporting system EthicsPoint/Navex regarding safety concerns."
"Pure" is the title of one of the episodes of Into The Dark.
Regarding complaints about Halls, the spokesperson said, "We cannot comment on personnel matters."
As for Rust Movies Productions, a rep said the company was not made aware of any official complaints about weapons or prop safety on set.
Neither Halls nor 24-year-old armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed – whose allegedly lackadaisical approach to gun safety training has also been questioned by crew members – have commented on the matter.