Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins tried in vain to keep a disgruntled camera crew from walking off the New Mexico set of “Rust” — but they did, just hours before she was shot dead with a loaded gun fired by actor Alec Baldwin.
Hutchins had treated the crew to a sushi dinner and agreed to forego the pricy rental of movie equipment to free up money for the camera operators to get local hotel accommodations, the Los Angeles Times said in a report.
Many of the crew members lived at least an hour from the set — a daunting drive after 12-hour shoots, with one staffer telling the Times he had even been forced to sleep in his car.
“It always felt like the budget was more important than crew members,” camera first assistant Lane Luper told the outlet. “Everything was about the schedule and the budget.”
Aware of the growing rift, Hutchins treated Luper and other crew members to a sushi dinner on Oct. 15, during which she promised to forgo a day’s rental for a technocrane, an expensive piece of equipment used to take aerial shots.
But crew members said problems lingered, and production staff members even poked fun at the disgruntled camera crew, printing up T-shirts mocking them.
“Error 404: Housing Not Found,” one shirt read, with another reading “ABQ is an hour away,” a reference to Albuquerque, where a number of the crew members lived.
Several staffers said they emailed producers saying they would quit, but were ignored.
Early on the morning of Oct. 21, they showed up early, grabbed their personal items and walked off the set — to be replaced by younger and non-union camera operators.
Hutchins was “confused,” the Times said, believing the issue had been resolved.
“We felt bad leaving because of Halyna,” one crew member said. “I was torn. We all really liked her.”
Luper said he parted with Hutchins by giving her a huge bear hug.
“I feel like I’m losing my best friends,” Hutchins told him.
Later that day, Baldwin was rehearsing a scene inside a wooden church when he was inadvertently given a “hot gun,” firing off a shot that killed Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza, shutting down production and an ongoing police investigation.