The production company behind the movie “Rust” on Monday contested a fine issued by New Mexico state regulators, who cited the production for “plain indifference to the recognized hazards associated with the use of firearms on set” that resulted in the shooting death of the film’s cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins.
The company, Rust Movie Productions, LLC, said in a filing Monday that it “did not ‘willfully’ violate any safety protocol, and in fact enforced all applicable safety protocols.” The producers also denied that the film’s armorer, who was in charge of weapons, had been overburdened with other duties, as her lawyers have claimed.
Last month, the state fined the production company the maximum penalty allowed — $136,793 — asserting that the company had demonstrated indifference to firearm safety hazards. In a report, the Occupational Health & Safety Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department said the production had not properly responded when there were two improper weapons discharges on set involving blank rounds, and that the production did not properly hold safety meetings or distribute safety bulletins.
In a filing to the agency, lawyers for the production company wrote that the discharges had been “properly addressed,” including with safety briefings for the cast and crew, and said that none of the discharges involved violations of firearm safety protocols. Assistant directors for “Rust” were told to hold safety meetings on the days in which firearms would be used, the filing said.
“In fact, a safety meeting was held the morning of the incident,” it said.
On Oct. 21, the actor Alec Baldwin was practicing with an old-fashioned revolver he had been told did not contain live ammunition when the gun discharged a bullet that killed Ms. Hutchins and injured Joel Souza, the movie’s director. Mr. Baldwin has sought protection from financial responsibility in the legal disputes arising from the incident.
In its report, the New Mexico agency also faulted the production for “failing to ensure that the handling of deadly weapons was afforded the time and effort needed to keep the cast and crew safe,” citing claims from the movie’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, that her extra duties as a props assistant sometimes took her away from her job overseeing the firearms on set. The agency also said the production did not give its staff enough time to inspect ammunition to make sure that no live rounds were present.
The production company denied that Ms. Gutierrez-Reed was overburdened, writing that her armorer duties “always took precedence” over her prop duties and that she was given sufficient time to inspect the ammunition, according to their filing.