Colleagues of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, the DP fatally shot on the set of “Rust” in New Mexico last month in an apparent accidental discharge of a prop gun, paid tribute to her vision and skill at the EnergaCamerimage Film Festival, an event dedicated to the art of cinematography, on Sunday.
Hutchins, who was 42 and has been remembered throughout the film industry as a talented artist, died from her injuries after being hit along with director Joel Souza, who is recovering from his injuries.
Actor Alec Baldwin, an actor in “Rust” as well as a producer, fired the prop gun during a scene rehearsal and has told investigators he had no idea the weapon was loaded with a dangerous round. He has since been sued by a crew member over safety issues on set, an issue that has also prompted the ire of George Clooney, who has called the shooting “insane and infuriating.”
Cinematographer Alice Brooks, speaking at the EnergaCamerimage event, commended Hutchins’ work and accomplishments, praising her success in overcoming barriers while competing in a demanding profession and balancing motherhood duties. “She became a cinematographer against all odds,” she said.
Brooks, also a mother, confessed the news of Hutchins death hit her hard. She said she identified with her achievements working in a field traditionally dominated by men.
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Amy Vincent, vice president of the American Society of Cinematographers, also spoke, her voice strained with emotion. “Halyna was a cinematographer filled with joy and passion,” she said, speaking to a group of veteran cinematographers at EnergaCamerimage’s main gala hall, adding that she urged colleagues worldwide to “join the ASC in our commitment to protecting and watching over all artists pursuing their dreams.”
Cinematographers have privately discussed concerns over safety on film sets at the festival – especially in the low-budget indie sector – but industry leaders here have remained cautious about assigning specific blame for Hutchins’ death while police continue to investigate the shooting.
Hutchins’ credits include the superhero action film “Archenemy, Blindfire” and “The Mad Hatter,” and she worked on more than 30 films, short films and TV miniseries.
After the tributes, Hutchins’ 2016 short “Hidden” was screened.
The film, a thoughtful portrait of a Persian boy in America struggling with resentment and guilt over his responsibility for his younger sibling’s safety, competed in the student section at the fest five years ago. Its camerawork, telling compositions and dance-like moves with actors, showed enormous promise, said many DPs, making it clear Hutchins was headed for a long and busy career.
EnergaCamerimage fest director Kazik Suwała, speaking to an audience including Oscar-winner Lawrence Sher, Xavier Pérez Grobet and other cinematographers, said he felt honored to be among them and proud that EnergaCamerimage could host the memorial.
ASC president Stephen Lighthill joined the tribute online with praise for Hutchins, and announced her induction into the ASC as an honorary member. Her name will now appear in the roster of the organization’s publication, American Cinematographer. She joins other motion-picture luminaries that include Thomas Edison, Walt Disney and the Apollo 11 astronauts in receiving the honor.
Lighthill also presented a commemorative membership plaque to Hutchin’s husband Matt at a memorial at the American Film Institute, where she was an alumna. The ASC motto, Loyalty, Progress, Artistry, speaks to the commitment all cinematographers feel to each other, Lighthill said, adding that there will be “movement” for change in the wake of the tragedy.
Hutchins graduated from the AFI Conservatory in 2015 and was selected as one of American Cinematographer’s Rising Stars of 2019 as well as a cinematographer for the 21st Century Fox DP Lab in 2018.
AFI last month announced a memorial scholarship in Hutchins’ name for female cinematographers.
A journalist turned filmmaker, Hutchins was born Halyna Androsovych to a military family in Ukraine, and, according to her website, as she grew up with her father serving in the Soviet navy, she lived on a “military base in the Arctic Circle surrounded by reindeer and nuclear submarines.”
Hutchins attended National Agricultural University and then Kyiv National University, first studying economics before changing to journalism. She graduated with a degree in international journalism and worked on documentary films in Eastern Europe before meeting her husband Matthew, an American, while in Kyiv, and having a son.
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