LOS ANGELES, Calif. (KGET) — An American Film Institute (AFI) professor who taught Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer who was fatally shot on the set of Alec Baldwin’s Western “Rust” Thursday, said the situation was “such an avoidable tragedy.”
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Stephen Lighthill, chair of the department of cinematography at AFI, said measures should have been taken that would have made such a tragedy impossible.
“I worked in crime drama for many years as a cinematographer and working with armorers and prop people, we never had any accidents of any kind,” Lighthill said. “We all know the protocols that should be followed and if those protocols are followed there are no mishaps.”
“Somebody didn’t do something,” he added.
A search warrant obtained Friday said that an assistant director unknowingly handed a loaded weapon to Baldwin and indicated that it was safe to use.
Lighthill, who is also the president of the American Society of Cinematographers, said there is no reason the fatal shooting should have happened.
“You can easily, in post production, make a prop gun make like it’s firing a noise or a blast; it’s cheap. We do it all the time,” Lighthill said. “So to have a live weapon on set is just completely unnecessary.”
“I don’t want to say there should only be rubber guns on set,” Lighthill added, acknowledging that sometimes for a closeup, the real thing is necessary.
“But really,” he continued. “There should only be rubber guns on set for 90 percent of the time.”
Lighthill said that there are safety laws in place to prevent similar situations. He said everyone in the cinematography union carries a safety passport showing they went through a series of safety lectures and training sessions around the use of anything from scaffolds and ladders to explosions to chemicals.
He added that there needs to be accountability.
“You know it’s malfeasance, basically, right? If I take a drink and go get behind the wheel of a car and I hit somebody and they’re injured or they die, I’ve committed a crime,” Lighthill said.
He emphasized that he’s not accusing anyone of trying to hurt someone else in a premeditative way.
Lighthill first met Hutchins when she began volunteering for productions with AFI before she applied. He then interviewed her for her enrollment.
“One of the things that impressed us was the fact that, as a mother of a 5-year-old boy [at the time], she was willing to go back to school and study,” Lighthill said.
After her graduation, she was recognized by the institute’s magazine as a Rising Star.
“Any loss of life is to be mourned and to be avoided. In Halyna’s case, she was a really, really great person,” Lighthill said. “Very talented and just super motivated.”
“I hope a really thorough investigation takes place and whoever did this pays the penalty,” Lighthill added.