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In the wake of prosecutors in New Mexico announcing criminal charges in the 2021 fatal shooting on the set of Rust, California State Sen. Dave Cortese has voiced his intention to reintroduce legislation mandating additional safety protocols on film and television sets.
The senator said in a statement on Monday that he is planning on drafting a new version of a bill he introduced in 2022, which sought to introduce a “set safety supervisor” role and govern the use of firearms and blanks on productions. That bill — and rival proposed legislation that sought to take a different approach to set safety — ultimately died in the Appropriations Committee last year.
“Over the past several months, I’ve been working with stakeholders and leaders in the industry, including many entertainment workers, to push these real reforms forward and to avoid yet another tragedy on set,” Cortese said in a statement on Thursday. “What we’ve learned is this is an issue that needs to be addressed across the industry, rather than incident-by-incident, to bolster safety as a whole and ensure we keep productions safe for everyone.”
While the language of the bill is still in progress with stakeholders and no details have yet been released about its contents, Cortese added in his statement that “measures should be in place to protect those who are handling props from liability,” suggesting another labor-supported bill. He added that the bill would also attempt to prevent safety incidents from occurring in the first place, protecting those “who are injured or killed or traumatized” by such events. Cortese faces a bill introduction deadline of Feb. 17 to finish the proposed legislation’s language.
In 2022, state Sen. Anthony Portantino introduced separate legislation also intended to make film and TV sets safe. Portantino’s proposed legislation also sought to regulate firearms on film and TV sets, requiring a fire code official to be present during the use of firearms and blanks, and tasked the Office of the State Fire Marshal with developing safety courses for crew members.
In a statement on Thursday, Portantino said that he hoped all along that “the guilds and industry work diligently to find common ground to implement important set safety policies.” He added, “I believe all sides want the same result and will generate a good solution. I’m willing to cheerlead that earnest process and see what they negotiate before commenting on an individual bill.”
Portantino’s 2022 legislation was supported by studio and streamer trade group the Motion Picture Association, while Cortese’s bill was backed by multiple industry unions including the Directors Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA, the California IATSE Council and the Hollywood Teamsters. The two bills ultimately stalled in the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Portantino, after Portantino says he tried and failed to get management and labor stakeholders to reach a consensus on a single approach. Portantino said at the time that he was “extremely disappointed when they collectively failed to meet the challenge I laid out.” Cortese, meanwhile, shot off a fiery statement stating Hollywood was a “powerful and ruthless industry.” He added, “First the industry killed Halyna. Then they killed the bill that would’ve made people like her safe.”
In his announcement on Thursday, Cortese again exhorted the industry to get behind his forthcoming bill: “I call upon the motion picture and television industry to immediately cooperate with our legislative efforts to codify safety protocols and ensure set safety supervision,” he said.
New Mexico prosecutors announced on Thursday that they would be filing involuntary manslaughter charges against Rust star and producer Alec Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed in connection with the fatal shooting of cinematographer Hutchins on the set of Rust in 2021. The production’s assistant director Dave Halls has signed a plea agreement on the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon. Contingent upon the approval of a settlement between Hutchins’ family and Rust Movie Productions, the film is currently set to resume production with Hutchin’s husband Matthew serving as executive producer.
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