Mike Tristano has overseen firearms on film sets for over 30 years, keeping a close eye on weapons used during the filming of “The Purge,” “Hard Times” and hundreds of other movies.
When it comes to guns and ammunition on film sets, Tristano said, “responsibility always ends” with the gunsmith, the licensed professional, sometimes accredited as a “weapons master,” tasked with making sure guns fire of the movies are safe and secure in set.
That’s why Tristano was taken aback when he learned that Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, 24, the gunsmith for Alec Baldwin’s ill-fated project “Rust,” said she had “no idea” how the live ammunition got onto the set, according to her. lawyers.
“I think that’s a ridiculous statement,” Tristano said Friday. “how come you don’t know what’s in your set in terms of anything related to the weapons you’re supposed to wield?”
he added, “that’s like a chef doing the catering and saying: I don’t know where this food came from.”
Law enforcement officials in New Mexico are still investigating what exactly led to the shooting death of Halyna Hutchins, the film’s cinematographer. No charges have been filed, and others working on the film, including the producers and an assistant director, have also come under scrutiny.
But in the midst of that investigation, gunsmiths and prop masters who spoke with nbc news said that, generally speaking, a gunsmith should have a thorough understanding of the weapons and ammunition on set.
“The gunsmith is responsible for all firearms and blank ammunition on set, and guns should always be in that person’s strict chain of custody,” said larry zanoff, a gunsmith who worked on “django Unchained” by Quentin Tarantino. and several marvel movies.
“If there’s a real gunsmith on set…he’s responsible for all aspects,” added zanoff. “It’s the crew members who are ultimately responsible.”
gutierrez-reed “is devastated and completely beside herself by the events that have transpired,” said a statement from her attorney.
“safety is hannah’s number one priority on set,” her attorneys’ statement said. “Ultimately, this set would never have been compromised if live ammunition hadn’t been introduced. hannah has no idea where the live bullets came from.”
The gunsmiths and prop masters who shared their perspective in interviews can’t speculate on what went wrong, and none of them have first-hand knowledge of the safety conditions on the “rust” set.
but for kevin williams, the prop shop supervisor at ucla’s school of drama, film and theater; television, the fact is that a gunsmith should serve as “checks and balances to ensure weapons are safe to shoot.”
“At the end of the day,” Williams said, “it’s your responsibility to maintain control of those weapons and see what’s going on.”
Court documents related to a search warrant say Deputy Director David Halls yelled “cold gun,” indicating he had no real bullets, as he handed the firearm to Baldwin before the shooting.
halls told authorities he should have checked the gun more thoroughly after noticing a difference in the ammunition, according to a search warrant affidavit.
did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday night.
tristano, the veteran gunsmith known for his work in horror films, said that in most settings, an assistant director, or anyone else, would almost never hand an actor a gun.
“nobody touches the guns except the gunsmith and, of course, the actors and actresses. the gun is only delivered by the gunsmith,” said tristano. “I have never allowed an assistant director to hand an actor a gun in over 30 years in this business.”
Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys, Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence, said the guns were locked up overnight and during lunch and that the gunsmith had sought further training on the film.
“hannah was hired for two positions on this film, which made it extremely difficult to focus on her job as a gunsmith,” the statement says.
“She fought for the training, the days to keep the weapons, and the proper time to prepare for the shooting, but ultimately the production and her department turned her down. The entire production set became unsafe due to various factors, including the lack of safety meetings.”
But sources within the production told nbc news on Friday that it’s common practice for a gunsmith, like Gutierrez-Reed, to have separate responsibilities within a prop crew.
In the case of Gutierrez-Reed on “rust,” she worked only two days in props and never had dual prop and weapon responsibilities on the same day, production sources said.
In a podcast interview last month, Gutierrez-Reed said guns “are not really a problem unless they get into the wrong hands.”
“I think the best part of my job is showing people who normally get a little scared around guns how safe they can be,” he said on the voices of the west podcast.
“a lot of it, for me, is just being able to show the world, how, you know, guns are awesome.”
On the podcast, he said his father, Thell Reed, a shooting expert and film industry consultant, began teaching him about guns and gun safety when he was 16, but he acknowledged he was still learning.
“I think loading whitespace is the scariest thing for me, because I was like, ‘oh, I don’t know anything about it,'” he said.