When Speculation Gets Ugly 🎥

The tragic and complex situation around the accidental shooting on the Rust set requires investigations and in-depth reporting, not armchair critics. Let the process play out.

(Harald Muller/Unsplash)

The situation around the accidental shooting on the film set of Rust has been hard to watch from a distance, but the discourse around it has been particularly awful. And honestly, that kind of freaks me out a bit.

In some ways, it’s pure chance that it happened on the set of the Alec Baldwin-led western. In others, it feels like, given the circumstances—a tight production budget, labor issues, an inexperienced armorer—it was perhaps an inevitability. But through a combination of the star’s notoriety and the relatively rare nature of the accident (which, sadly, killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was a rising talent in Hollywood), the discourse has been particularly unbearable and difficult to watch around it.

(For one thing, it’s been focused on Baldwin, rather than Hutchins.)


The last time something like this happened was with the unfinished film Midnight Rider, a Gregg Allman biopic, in which the production of the film took a negligent turn when the film’s producers attempted to shoot on a train trestle bridge for which they had not gotten clearance to use.

And that lack of clearance led to tragedy when a train suddenly appeared. Sarah Jones, a camerawoman on the set, was killed after being struck by a train—and numerous other crew members were hurt in their attempts to quickly get off the tracks. Three members of the film’s crew—director Randall Miller, first assistant director Hillary Schwartz, and executive producer Jay Sedrich—were convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Miller, the first director ever convicted for the death of a crew member, has legally been barred from directing or producing a Hollywood movie since 2015 (though Miller, who served a year in jail, did produce a film outside of the U.S. a couple of years ago, which led to concerns he had violated his parole, though he was spared additional jail time).

But before the criminal charges came into play, the producers attempted to continue shooting the film, leading to the subject of the movie, Allman, to have to file legal action to get them to stop, though the suit was eventually settled.


To put all this in the context of Rust, this stuff can get messy, and I trust that we as observers won’t ever really know all the answers. We are likely going to see some dogged attempts to report this, as people figure out what could be done better, where the weak points were, and who, if anyone, deserves responsibility.

This film was likely to be a low-budget thing that you watched on Netflix or Amazon when you had a free moment, and to me as a viewer, it raises the question of how many close calls there might have been previously on low-budget sets. Is that a question that should even be in my mind? Probably not. But it’s still lingering, and it is for advocates of banning guns from sets as well.

But let me just say: It’s really messed up that we’re seeing so many attempts by Baldwin’s political opponents to use this as an opportunity to smear him. To be clear, if Baldwin is negligent as a producer of the film, that is worth discussing, but let an investigation make that decision or reporters uncover those facts, rather than letting the armchair critics with no experience in the film industry make this call.

Baldwin’s politics and demeanor have nothing to do with what happened on the set that day—but the decisions he helped make as a part of the production team might have. That’s an important distinction, and one lost in much of the early coverage.

I encourage everyone who doesn’t work on a film to take a deep breath and let the process play out. What may be a talking point to you may prevent closure for Hutchins’ family and everyone else on set that day.

Time limit given ⏲: 30 minutes

Time left on clock ⏲: alarm goes off

Ernie Smith

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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