New Mexico Governor Warns That State Will Take Steps To Ensure Set Safety If Industry Doesn’t In Wake Of ‘Rust’ Shooting; IATSE Local Criticizes Use Of Non-Union Crew

The Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, NM AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Tuesday that the state is prepared to take action to improve safety on film sets if the industry’s doesn’t.

“My expectation is the industry better step up and identify any number of additional improvements and safeguards,” she said at a news conference, reported by the Albuquerque Journal. “If the industry doesn’t come forward with very specific accountable safeguards, they should expect that we will.”

Her comments come in the wake of the death last Thursday of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was accidentally shot and killed during rehearsals for a scene in the indie Western outside of Santa Fe. Grisham called it a “horrible, unnecessary, preventable tragedy.”

She was joined at the press conference by Alicia Keyes, the state’s Economic Development Secretary, who said she’s been talking to industry leaders about possible changes to the state’s film safety protocols. “There’s just no reason there needs to be a fatality on the workplace anywhere, for any job,” she said.

IATSE Local 480, meanwhile, wrote in a letter to its members today that it was “inexcusable” for the film’s producers to hire non-union workers to replace seven union members of the camera crew who had walked off the job in protest just hours before the fatal shooting. The local represents film and TV workers in the state.

“We have been greatly disturbed by media reports that the producers employed non-union persons in craft positions and, worse, used them to replace skilled union members who were protesting their working conditions,” the local wrote in the letter seen by Variety. “That is inexcusable. We are all awaiting the results of the investigation and are cooperating fully with the relevant authorities.”

The local went on to say that its officers, members and staff “express their deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Local 600 member Halyna Hutchins. We are devastated by the death of our union sister who is remembered as a leader amongst her peers, a talented and rising star in her craft as a director of photography, and as a wife and mother. Her death should never have happened. Union sets should be safe sets. We mourn collectively with our union and film community over this great loss.”

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