New Mexico governor could demand tougher movie safety rules


New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday suggested the state could push for stricter security protocols for productions shot in New Mexico.

The governor’s comments come days after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot dead by a propeller pistol fired by actor Alec Baldwin on the set of “Rust” outside of Santa Fe, NM

Industry standard safety protocols, including firearm inspections, were not strictly followed on set, several crew members told the Los Angeles Times on Friday. New Mexico’s film industry, which has been booming since the early 2000s, has grown rapidly in recent years thanks to a generous state-run film incentive program.

“I fully expect that the film and television industry, upon completion of the investigation of this tragic incident and once all the facts are in hand, will come up with comprehensive new safety protocols to ensure that this kind of incident will never happen again, “Lujan Grisham said in a statement shared with The Times.” If this type of new comprehensive approach does not materialize, the state of New Mexico will take immediate action, by all the means at our disposal, to ensure the safety of all personnel on all film and television sets here in our State. ”

Lujan Grisham publicly addressed the issue for the first time during a economic development press conference Tuesday, as reported the Albuquerque Journal. The Journal also reports that Secretary of State for Economic Development Alicia Keyes has spoken to industry officials about possible changes to film set security protocols.

In an interview with The Times on Tuesday, New Mexico Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said he hoped to see the New Mexico film industry and film union come up with a plan to address the issues. security, but that it would also be open to legislative options.

“There are a whole bunch of unanswered questions about what exactly happened there,” Wirth said. “So we need answers to these questions. We have to see what the industry will do in response. And then determine if it makes sense to do something from a legislative standpoint. “

Wirth called film and television production a “critical industry” for the New Mexico economy, which has historically been heavily dependent on oil and gas.

“From my perspective, it’s just imperative that workers participating in films here in New Mexico do so in a safe environment,” he said.

The all-volunteer New Mexico State Legislature meets one session per year. The 30-day 2022 session will begin in January, according to the governor’s office.

The investigation into the fatal shooting on the set of “Rust”, which also injured director Joel Souza, remains ongoing and authorities are still trying to determine what type of projectile killed Hutchins. The New Mexico Office of Occupational Health and Safety is also investigating the incident in coordination with law enforcement.

The Santa Fe County sheriff and district attorney are expected to hold their first press conference on the investigation on Wednesday morning.

A former Sheriff’s Office insider with first-hand knowledge of how murder investigations typically unfold in Santa Fe County said he expected the case to progress slowly.

First, law enforcement must complete their investigation. He expects it to take at least six months, because while no one is ever charged with homicide, the investigation still counts as a murder investigation, which is usually a long process.

After that, he said the district attorney’s office would decide how to handle the case, most likely presenting it to a grand jury.

“This type of investigation takes a long time and then has to get to the DA’s office,” said the former sheriff’s office source. “It would be six to eight months for that, unless the prosecutor wanted to speed up the process and take it off his plate for some reason.”

In the recently released document obtained by The Times on Sunday evening, Souza said the weapon was described to him as a “bladed weapon,” meaning it did not have live ammunition.

But the gun fired, hitting Hutchins in his chest and Souza in his right shoulder, according to an affidavit from the Santa Fe County, NM Sheriff’s Detective used to obtain a search warrant. Hutchins was pronounced dead at an Albuquerque hospital.

In a 911 call obtained by The Times, screenwriter Mamie Mitchell – who was standing near Hutchins and Souza when they were shot – told the operator she couldn’t tell if the gun was loaded with ‘a real bullet.

On Tuesday, lawyer Gloria Allred announced that she would represent Mitchell and that she “would conduct our own investigation into what happened as many questions remain unanswered.”

“Grandma has been interviewed by the sheriff’s department,” Allred said in a statement. “She has information and evidence that she believes will be useful in this investigation.”

The International Theater Employees Alliance, Local 480, which represents “below the line” team members working on film and television productions in New Mexico, also released a statement Tuesday, saying that ‘she was’ devastated by the death of our union sister who is remembered as a leader among her peers, a talented and rising star in her profession as director of photography, and as a wife and mother.

“His death should never have happened,” the statement continued. “Union sets should be safe sets.”

The statement also said that Local 480 was “greatly disturbed by media reports that producers were employing non-union people in trades positions and, worse yet, using them to replace qualified union members protesting against their workers. working conditions ”, calling the prospect“ inexcusable ”. “

Local 480 did not respond to questions from The Times about whether specific people on the team who were rumored to be unorganized were in fact members of their local or on the whether the union had been contacted about issues with “Rust” prior to the shooting.

Times editor Wendy Lee contributed reporting for this story.

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