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After Filming ‘Rust’ Industry Veterans Say ‘Money Stops’ With Gunsmiths On Movie Sets

Mike Tristano has overseen firearms on film sets for over 30 years, keeping a close eye on the guns used in the making of “The Purge”, “Harsh Times” and hundreds of other films.

When it comes to guns and ammunition on sets, Tristano said, “the money always stops” with the gunsmith, the licensed professional – sometimes credited as a “fencing master” – in charge of make sure movie guns are safe and secure on the set.

This is why Tristano was taken aback when he learned that Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, 24, the armorer of Alec Baldwin’s ill-fated project “Rust”, said she had “no idea” of the way the live ammunition was mounted on the set, according to his lawyers.

“I think that’s a ridiculous statement,” Tristano said on Friday. “How could you not know what’s on your board in terms of everything related to the weapons you’re supposed to wield?” “

He added: “It’s like a chef who does the catering and thinks to himself: I don’t know where this food comes from.”

New Mexico law enforcement officials are still investigating what exactly led to the fatal shooting of Halyna Hutchins, the director of photography for the film. No charges have been laid and other people working on the film – including the producers and an assistant director – have also come under close scrutiny.

But in the midst of that investigation, gunsmiths and prop masters who spoke to NBC News said that, generally speaking, a gunsmith should have full knowledge of the weapons and ammunition on the set.

“The gunsmith is responsible for all firearms and blank ammunition on the set, and the guns must always be under 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… they’re responsible for all aspects,” Zanoff added. “They are the crew member who is ultimately responsible.”

Gutierrez-Reed “is devastated and completely beside herself with the events that have unfolded,” her lawyer said in a statement.

“Safety is Hannah’s number one priority on the set,” the statement from her lawyers said. “In the end, this set would never have been compromised if the live ammunition had not been introduced. Hannah has no idea where the live rounds are coming from.

The gunsmiths and prop masters who shared their point of view in the interviews can’t speculate what went wrong, and none of them have direct knowledge of the safety conditions on the set of ” Rust “.

But for Kevin Williams, the props store supervisor at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television, the fact remains that a gunsmith must serve as “control and balance for ensure that weapons can be used safely ”.

“At the end of the day,” Williams said, “it’s his responsibility to keep control of these guns and see what happens.”

Court documents linked to a search warrant indicate that Deputy Warden David Halls shouted “stabbing”, indicating there were no live ammunition, as he handed the gun to Baldwin before the shooting.

Halls told authorities he should have checked the weapon more thoroughly after noticing a difference in the ammunition, according to a search warrant affidavit.

He did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday evening.

Tristano, the veteran gunsmith known for his work in horror films, said that on most sets an assistant director – or anyone else, for that matter – would hardly ever pass a gun through. an actor.

“No one touches the guns except the gunsmith, and then of course the actors and actresses. The gun is only given to them by the gunsmith,” Tristano said. “I never allowed an assistant director to hand over a weapon to an actor in more than 30 years in this profession. “

Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence said the guns were locked up at night and during lunch and the gunsmith had requested more 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 said.

“She fought for training, days to maintain guns and time to prepare for gunfire, but was ultimately canceled by production and her department. The whole production has become unsafe due to various factors including the lack of safety meetings. “

But sources within production told NBC News on Friday that it was common for a gunsmith, like Gutierrez-Reed, to have separate responsibilities on a props team.

In Gutierrez-Reed’s case on “Rust,” she only worked two days in props and never had dual props and weapons 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 are in the wrong hands.”

“I think the best part of my job is just showing people who are normally a little panicked about guns like how safe they can be,” she said on the Voices of podcast. the West.

“A lot, for me, it’s just being able to show the world, like, you know guns are great.”

In the podcast, she said her father, filming expert and film industry consultant Thell Reed, started teaching her about firearms and gun safety when she was 16. But she admitted that she was still learning the tricks of the trade.

“I think charging blanks is the scariest thing for me, because I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know anything about it,’” she said.

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