Halyna Hutchins was remembered as a gifted cinematographer whose life was tragically cut short.
A candlelight vigil, hosted by International Cinematographers Guild 600, was held on Sunday at the Burbank headquarters of IATSE Local 80 in Calif.
Santa Fe County Sheriff’s officials said the cinematographer and “Rust” director Joel Souza were shot with a prop gun Thursday on the rustic film set in the desert on the southern outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Court records released Friday indicated that an assistant director handed actor Alec Baldwin a loaded weapon and told him it was safe to use. Detectives were investigating.
Hutchins, 42, was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she was pronounced dead by medical personnel, the sheriff’s department said.
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Souza, 48, was taken by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical and has since been released.
Production was halted on the film.
Rebecca Rhine, national executive director of Local 600, opened the program in front of hundreds of guests, The Hollywood Reporter shared. According to the outlet, Rhine shared that there will be plenty of time for “who, what, why” but the purpose of the vigil was to celebrate the life of “an extraordinary young woman.”
“We all stand together at this moment in grief and disbelief and what we do with that will define us and define this moment,” said Rhine.
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John Lindley, president of Local 600, said he didn’t know Hutchins, but her friends, family and colleagues all described her as “beloved, respected, talented and loving.”
“She was one of us,” he explained. “She was part of the film family, passionate about the work and eager to succeed. I’ve heard a lot about her bright future but what’s really clear to me is that she had a bright present. She had a husband and a son.”
According to the outlet, Lindley urged attendees to “not let our grief turn to anger,” adding that “no matter what we ever learn about this, it will never make sense.”
Stephen Lighthill, a director of photography who mentored Hutchins at AFI, said industry professionals must address the use of functional guns on sets.
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“What has happened on ‘Rust’ should never happen,” he said. “… There is no place for weapons that can kill on a motion picture set. Rubber guns are totally acceptable now and can be made to look as real as they need to.”
The outlet shared that dozens held candles, dropped off bouquets and hugged one another long after the 30-minute program.
Hutchins grew up on a remote Soviet military base. She worked on documentary films in Eastern Europe before studying film in Los Angeles and embarking on a promising movie-making career.
According to her website, she grew up on the Soviet base in the Arctic Circle and was “surrounded by reindeer and nuclear submarines.” She received a graduate degree in international journalism from Kyiv National University in Ukraine, worked on British documentary productions in Eastern Europe and graduated from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2015.
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“She had an interesting background, and I think that made for a unique perspective on the world,” said one of her AFI teachers, Bill Dill. “She brought a wealth of experience to the movie-making process.”
In a 2019 interview with American Cinematographer, which named her one of the year’s rising stars, she described herself as an “army brat” drawn to movies because “there wasn’t that much to do outside.” She would document herself parachuting and exploring caves, among other adventures, and through her work with British filmmakers, became “fascinated with storytelling based on real characters.”
After moving to the U.S., she took any production-assistant work she could find and explored fashion photography to learn more about the “aesthetics of lighting — how you create the mood, the feeling.” In 2013, she was accepted into a two-year program at the AFI Conservatory. The school’s chair of cinematography, remembered her dedication to the craft.
“She was very thoughtful about the decision, and it was not an easy decision. All film schools are expensive and this was not an exception,” he said. “We were very impressed with her. I remember telling her, ‘You’re not going to have much time for your family in your first year at AFI.’ And she understood that. She was really working hard.”
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Before “Rust,” her credits included the crime drama “Blindfire” and the horror film “Darlin,” whose director, Pollyanna McIntosh, posted on Instagram that she was “the most talented, in the trenches, committed wonderful artist and teammate.”
Director Adam Egypt Mortimer, who worked with her on the 2020 thriller “Archenemy,” said she had a powerful sense of confidence and an inspiring openness to challenges. He remembered a day on the set when an actor had to leave and the rest of the crew had to work around him.
She is survived by her husband, Matthew Hutchins, with whom she had a son.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.