Friends Remember Halyna Hutchins, The "Incredible" Cinematographer Killed On Set After Alec Baldwin Shot A Prop Gun
"She had a very amazing combination of a deeply poetic soul, and also a no-nonsense, go fuck yourself kind of attitude."
Disbelief and heartbreak roiled the film industry on Thursday after Halyna Hutchins, a "rising star" cinematographer, was killed when Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on set while filming in New Mexico.
Hutchins, 42, was the director of photography for Rust, a Western that Baldwin is starring in and coproducing. Police said cast and crew were filming a scene involving a prop firearm when it was discharged. Director Joel Souza was also wounded; Souza was released from the hospital on Friday morning, Deadline reported.
No charges have been filed and no arrests were made, police said. According to reporters with the Santa Fe New Mexican, Baldwin was seen distraught and in tears after the incident.
Filming on Rust had just begun in early October, and two days ago, Hutchins, who has a husband and a son, posted a video of herself riding a horse in New Mexico. "One of the perks of shooting a western is you get to ride horses on your day off:)," she wrote.
In a tweet late Friday, her husband, Matt Hutchins, asked for privacy as their family grieved.
"Halyna inspired us all with her passion and vision, and her legacy is too meaningful to encapsulate in words," he wrote. "We thank everyone for sharing images and stories of her life."
Hutchins had a graduate degree in international journalism from Kyiv National University, according to her website, and previously worked as an investigative journalist with documentary productions in Europe. She graduated from the American Film Institute (AFI) Conservatory in 2015 and four years later was recognized as one of American Cinematographer’s Rising Stars.
Her sudden, tragic death was met with an outpouring of grief from across the industry.
"She had a very amazing combination of a deeply poetic soul, and also a no-nonsense, go fuck yourself kind of attitude," Adam Egypt Mortimer, a writer and director, told BuzzFeed News.
The pair met in 2019 at a film festival in Spain. Mortimer said he knew within minutes of talking to Hutchins — without seeing any of her work — that he wanted her to work on his next film.
"Later I looked at her work, and I was like, 'Yup, her work is great as I suspected,'" he said.
Months later, Hutchins came on Mortimer's project Archenemy as director of photography. She was unfazed by whatever challenges the low-budget film ran into, Mortimer said, and even thrived in difficult situations.
"She had this belief that what we're doing is making art, and she was going to transcend what any of the obstacles were and turn that into something that was beautiful and true and artistic," he said. "She was a completely committed artist."
Scott Baker, a Steadicam operator and director who worked with Hutchins on several projects, said he knew two different sides to her. "One was the person who's very happy and had a great sense of humor and laughing and joking," he said, and the other was when she was on set, working.
"When she was a cinematographer, she was focused, she was determined, and she was professional, and would do anything for the shot," Baker said.
Hutchins was among the most talented cinematographers Baker said he'd ever worked with, and he took on projects that "didn't pay very well" in order to work with her.
"I liked working with her because I liked her as a person," Baker said. "But also, I knew that I was going to work on something that that was going to look incredible."
Hutchins also relished the collaborative nature of her work. "Cinematography is not something you do by yourself," she told the American Society of Cinematographers in an interview in 2019. "It's a group [project]. You need to develop your own vision, but the key to a successful film is communication with your director and your team."
Andriy Semenyuk, a US-based Ukrainian documentary filmmaker and friend of Hutchins, recalled his former colleague as an artist dedicated to her craft. He told the Ukrainian news outlet Detector Media that he met Hutchins in Los Angeles four years ago and was impressed at how quickly she rose within the competitive film industry. "She's been moving up the career ladder very quickly over the last few years that I've known her, and it's been cool and I was proud to watch her my countryman," he said,.
Semenyuk said it was hard to find the words to describe her death, calling it "a stupid loss and just a shock."
Baker said in an interview Friday that he was having trouble wrapping his head around what had happened to his friend.
"It's so incredible, in the most terrible way, and it's just kind of hard to believe it's real," he told BuzzFeed News.
Alarm bells went off in Baker's head when he got a news notification on his phone about a "misfire" on the set of Rust the previous day; he knew Hutchins was working on that movie. The article he read, he said, did not initially report any deaths.
"I texted her right away to if she was OK and obviously she didn't get back to me," he said. "And then later the story was updated and said that it was a female DP [director of photography] that had been killed. And then I knew it was her."
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleh Nikolenko confirmed that Hutchins, who was born in Soviet Ukraine, was a Ukrainian citizen. Nikolenko said the Ukrainian consulate in San Francisco is cooperating with US law enforcement in its investigation and providing consular and legal assistance to Hutchins' family.
Hutchins’ younger sister, Svetlana Androsovych, told the Kyiv Post that they were close and kept in touch, even though Androsovych lived in Indonesia and Hutchins in the US.
"I cannot comprehend [her passing]," she said. "I loved her very much; I was very proud of her, and she was my role model."
"Halyna Hutchins was a ray of light," her agency said in a statement. "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."
SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland also said that the union is working with authorities to investigate the incident and "to understand how to prevent such a thing from happening again."
Baker said he did not want to speculate on what happened on set that led to Hutchins' death, but he hoped that there would be changes around guns and other safety issues within the film industry.
"We all get in this industry because we want to create art," he said. "None of us are doing it to put our lives on the line. And none of us should have to."
Chris Miller provided additional reporting.