LOS ANGELES (KGET) — Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer who was fatally shot on the set of Alec Baldwin’s new Western “Rust” Thursday, was a former student at the American Film Institute (AFI). Hutchins’s former professor, and chair of the department of cinematography, Stephen Lighthill, said this situation was “such an avoidable tragedy.”
“I worked in crime drama for many years as a cinematographer and working with armorers and cop 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.
Lighthill, who is also the president of the American Society of Cinematographers, said there is no reason this 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 said, acknowledging that sometimes for a closeup, the real thing is necessary.
“But really,” he added. “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 situations like this shooting. 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.
“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, emphasizing that he’s not accusing anyone of trying to hurt someone else in a premeditative way. “I may not have premeditated it but I may end up going to jail,” he added.
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 its 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.