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The producers of Rust are appealing a New Mexico safety agency’s finding that they knew that firearm safety procedures weren’t being followed on set and demonstrated a “plain indifference” to the welfare of cast and crew.
According to a notice of contest filed on Tuesday, Rust Movie Productions argued that the New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau is out of its depth and unequipped to make determinations of safety violations on movie sets.
“The supposed ‘fire extinguisher’ NMED claims should have been inspected and maintained is not a real fire extinguisher – it is a special effects device used to create fake smoke,” states the motion shared with The Hollywood Reporter. “The attempt to extend the application of a fire extinguisher regulation to a special effects device shows their misunderstanding of the film industry.”
In April, OHSB found numerous violations of safety protocols on the set of Rust, including the introduction of live ammunition and a failure to train crew on how to properly handle firearms. It issued the highest level citation and maximum fine allowable by state law of $136,793.
Contesting the findings supporting claims that there were systemic safety issues, Rust Movie Productions emphasized it wasn’t the employer responsible for supervising the film set, much less for overseeing specific protocols such as the maintenance and loading of weapons. “The law properly permits producers to delegate such critical functions as firearm safety to experts in that field and does not place such responsibility on producers whose expertise is in arranging financing and contracting for the logistics of filming,” the filing reads.
Rust Movie Productions says it enforced all safety protocols on set, including addressing three alleged misfire incidents. It claimed, “The first was not a misfire at all and did not involve a firearm – it was a harmless noise from a special effects ‘popper.’ The other two involved discharges of blank rounds. Contrary to NMED’s statements, none of the ‘misfires’ violated firearm safety protocols on the set and appropriate corrective actions were taken, including safety briefings of cast and crew.”
The producers emphasized that all actors handling firearms received sufficient training and that assistant directors were instructed to conduct morning safety meetings on all days firearms were used. There was a meeting on the morning of the fatal shooting in October 2021 that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza, they say.
Rust Movie Productions also challenged accusations that armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was spread too thin. It argued that she had sufficient time to properly inspect and safeguard all firearms and ammunitions and that she was told her duties as armorer “always took precedence over any responsibilities related to props. They pointed to a message from costume designer Terese Davis to property master Sarah Zachary that Gutierrez-Reed “didn’t do her job properly” and that she “had plenty of time to do so because we had extra time that morning while camera was f**king off.”
Davis concluded in the communication, “So she can say what she wants about training time and all that bullshit but it’s not why she killed Halyna.”
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