Halyna Hutchins Stayed on Rust Set After Walkout Because She Felt a 'Responsibility' for Everyone Else's Job
Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer who died in an accidental shooting on the New Mexico set of the forthcoming film Rust, remained on location after a walkout prior to the incident because she "felt the responsibility for everyone else's job there," according to Jonathan McAbee, an actor who knew Hutchins and has spoken to people on the film's set.
While attending a candlelight vigil for the late filmmaker on Saturday evening, McAbee spoke with PEOPLE about Hutchins' dedication to her work and how she was always thinking of others, sometimes before even thinking of herself.
Noting that production of the project at hand "rest[ed] on her shoulders" given her role as cinematographer, McAbee explained, "She's the one responsible for how this [film's] gonna look."
"She put her heart and soul into everything she did, and even after losing her whole crew — who walked off in protest — she stayed because she felt the responsibility for everyone else's job there," he continued. "If she left, production's over and that's what? Another 30 people's jobs, livelihoods?"
"Something needs to be done that bans live firearms on set," McAbee added. "There's no reason why an actor cannot fake a recoil. ... Every time you have a live firearm onset of any type, there's a risk. And if I was on this show, I would have walked off too."
Earlier this week, a message was shared from a member of the Rust camera team on the IA Members Unite's Instagram Story — which was confirmed by multiple sources to PEOPLE — that said there was a walkout after some members of the camera crew wrote resignation letters the night before the incident.
That update came after a production source told PEOPLE that some crew members working on the movie "didn't feel safe" on the set of the Alec Baldwin film.
Hutchins and director Joel Souza, who was injured in the shooting incident, were two of the few crew members who remained on set, according to the message shared among the Rust members and confirmed by PEOPLE.
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A production source previously told PEOPLE that crew members working on the movie were "concerned and angry" that the possible International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees strike — which was averted after the IATSE reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for a new film and TV contract — meant to address harsh working conditions never happened.
"They all made it clear they didn't feel safe and that they had to spend a long time to get to set, so everyone was tired even before they got there," the insider said. "They were concerned and angry that the proposed union strike that was meant to address these issues never happened."
The Los Angeles Times previously reported that a half-dozen camera operators and their assistants walked off the set in protest of tiring working conditions, long hours, and long commutes.
Safety protocols, including gun inspections, were not strictly followed, sources told the outlet. The LA Times also reported that three crew members said they were concerned about previous accidental prop gun discharges. A text message sent by a colleague to the unit production manager read, per the outlet, "We've now had 3 accidental discharges. This is super unsafe."
On Thursday night, IATSE Local 44 Chapter, a union that represents crew workers in Hollywood, sent an email — obtained by Deadline — to members stating there was no union prop master on set the night Hutchins was killed by a prop gun fired by Baldwin, 63.
According to a search warrant affidavit obtained by the Associated Press, New York Times, and Santa Fe Reporter, Baldwin was unknowingly handed a gun loaded with live ammunition during rehearsals. Authorities wrote in the affidavit that assistant director Dave Hall picked up a prop gun from a rolling cart prepared by armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and handed it to Baldwin, the outlets report.
RELATED VIDEO: Alec Baldwin Seen Distraught After Accidental Shooting on Set of Rust Movie, Killing Cinematographer
A spokesperson for the movie's production company, Rust Movie Productions, LLC, told PEOPLE on Friday, "The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company."
"Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down," the spokesperson continued. "We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time."
The Rust film set has since been shut down following Hutchins' death, with production indefinitely paused, according to the production company.
"The entire cast and crew has been absolutely devastated by today's tragedy, and we send our deepest condolences to Halyna's family and loved ones," the company said in a prior statement. "We have halted production on the film for an undetermined period of time and are fully cooperating with the Santa Fe Police Department's investigation."
"We will be providing counseling services to everyone connected to the film as we work to process this awful event," Rust Movie Productions, LLC added.
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