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Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who worked on a number of indie productions including Archenemy, Blindfire and The Mad Hatter, died Thursday after being injured when a prop gun was discharged by actor Alec Baldwin on the set of Rust. She was 42.
“I’m so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set. She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely committed to art and to film,” Archenemy director Adam Egypt Mortimer wrote on Twitter.
“As is profoundly true in the art of cinematography, words alone cannot capture the loss of one so dear to the AFI community,” the AFI Conservatory, Hutchins’ alma mater, tweeted. “At AFI, we pledge to see that Halyna Hutchins will live on in the spirit of all who strive to see their dreams realized in stories well told.”
Born in Ukraine in 1979, Hutchins grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle. She attended Kyiv National University and graduated with a degree in international journalism. In her first career, she worked as an investigative journalist for British documentary productions in Eastern Europe.
Inspired by cinematographers such as Christopher Doyle and Sergey Urusevskiy, she decided to focus on filmmaking and moved to Los Angeles, working first in various production-assistant jobs and as a grip electric, while also shooting short films. She graduated from the UCLA Professional Program in Producing in 2010.
On the recommendation of Emmy-winning cinematographer Robert Primes, she entered the American Film Institute Conservatory, the institute’s filmmaking MFA program, in 2013 and graduated two years later. Her thesis project Hidden, a collaboration with classmate Farzad Ostovarzadeh, was screened at Camerimage, the European festival dedicated to cinematography.
In 2018, she was one of eight female cinematographers selected for the inaugural 21st Century Fox DP Lab, and a year later she was selected as one of American Cinematographer magazine’s Rising Stars.
With Mortimer, she lensed the indie superhero mystery-thriller film Archenemy, released in 2020 by SpectreVision and Voltage. Starring Joe Manganiello, the film premiered at Beyond Fest 2020 and was in official competition at the Sitges International Film Festival, receiving a nomination for best film.
On Instagram, Manganiello shared that he found out about Hutchins’ death Friday morning and is “in shock,” calling himself “so lucky” to have worked with her on Archenemy.
“She was an absolutely incredible talent and a great person,” he wrote. “She had such an eye and a visual style, she was the kind of cinematographer that you wanted to see succeed because you wanted to see what she could pull off next. She was a fantastic person. There was no amount of pressure she couldn’t handle. She was a great collaborator and an ally to anyone in front of her camera. Everyone who knew her was rooting for her. I can’t believe that this could happen in this day and age.”
He added, “This is a horrible tragedy. My heart goes out to her family and especially to her son. I am so sad today for everyone who knew her and worked with her.”
Just two days ago, she posted a video of herself and other people riding horses on her day off.
Frances Fisher, who was acting in Rust with Baldwin, remembered Hutchins in an Instagram post, writing in part, “I loved watching you work: Your intense focus and your vibrant command of the room.”
Referring to a recent photo Hutchins posted on Instagram, “I asked you to stand next to me…because I wanted to make sure you were front and center, seeing as there are so few non-male directors of photography.”
Fisher said her prayers were with Hutchins’ family and “all who love and miss you.”
In a tweet thread from November, Mortimer paid tribute to her technical skills, writing, “Halyna Hutchins, Archenemy’s DP, has a brilliant mind for light and texture. Her tastes and sensibility of what is cinematic were a huge asset for executing our style — the grimy but beautiful feeling I referred to as Romantic Brutalism.”
Other feature films she worked on include Michael Nell’s police drama Blindfire (2020), Cate Devaney’s horror The Mad Hatter (2021), Adriana González-Vega’s To the New Girl (2020) and Pollyanna McIntosh’s horror film Darlin’ (2019). Her short credits include I Am Normal and Sunday’s Child.
On television, she worked on the BET+ original series A Luv Tale: The Series.
Sidra Smith, who worked with Hutchins on A Luv Tale, called the cinematographer’s death “devastating news…this breaks my heart into pieces.”
“We spoke when she was headed to shoot this film. She was so happy and I was so happy for her. It’s hard out here for women cinematographers and this was a huge opportunity for her,” Smith wrote on Instagram. “She was so young and so talented. Halyna and I spent so much time together. She was so beautifully gracious and words can not express how supportive she was to me. She loved black women, loved Harlem, was such a hard worker. We laughed. This woman was amazing…God bless her beautiful heart and soul. Life is so short. You never know when. This has me so so sad.”
Hutchins’ agency Innovative Artists called her “a ray of light. Always smiling, always hopeful.”
“She decided early on she would take the craft of cinematography by storm and the last couple of years proved she was well on her way,” an Instagram post from Innovative reads. “Her talent was immense, only surpassed by the love she had for her family. All those in her orbit knew what was coming; a star director of photography, who would be a force to be reckoned with.”
Adding that everyone at the agency was “heartbroken,” the Instagram post continued, “We mourn for her family and we hope this tragedy will reveal new lessons for how to better ensure safety for every crew member on set.”
Hutchins is survived by her husband, Matthew, an attorney at Latham & Watkins, and son, Andros.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department said Hutchins and the film’s director, Joel Souza, were shot when the prop gun was discharged by Baldwin. Hutchins was flown by helicopter to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Souza was hospitalized. An investigation is underway.
Oct. 22, 9:41 a.m. This story has been updated with tributes to Hutchins from Manganiello, Smith and Innovative Artists.
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