Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer who was fatally shot with a prop gun by Alec Baldwin on a movie set, grew up on a Soviet military base and worked as an investigative reporter in Europe before studying film in Los Angeles and embarking on a promising movie-making career.
Hutchins, 42, was shot Thursday on the set of the Western “Rust.” A spokesperson for Baldwin said there was an accident involving a prop gun. Detectives were investigating.
"There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours,'' Baldwin wrote on his Twitter page Friday morning. "I'm fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family.
"My heart is broken for her husband, their son and all who knew and loved Haylna.''
Her mentor, Stephen Lighthill, the president of The American Society of Cinematographers, said Hutchins stood out among her peers. He said she was on the forefront of positive change -- women behind the camera showing just as much talent and accomplishment as men.
"Helena was just someone who brought to it an ability to take something ordinary and make it extraordinary," he said. "That a mother and a wife could be killed on set is devastating.
"She was someone who really wanted to succeed and she was willing to hear the tough lessons that needed to be learned."
On her Instagram page, Hutchins identified herself as a “restless dreamer” and “adrenaline junkie.” In recent days, she posted several images from the set of “Rust” on the outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico, including an early morning shot of a cloudy desert sky, a video of herself riding horseback during a day off and a photo of the crew gathered to express solidarity with union members. The members of the IATSE union were seeking a new contract and threatened to strike before a settlement was reached last weekend.
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 Europe and graduated from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2015. She is survived by her husband, Matthew Hutchins, with whom she had a son.
“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.”
Her other credits include 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 team mate.”
Director Adam Egypt Mortimer, who worked with her on the 2020 thriller “Archenemy,” said she had a powerful sense of confidence and an inspiring sense of adventure. He remembered a day on the set when an actor had to leave and the rest of the crew had to work around him.
“Halyna was excited,” said Mortimer, who recalled her asking if they would shoot the scenes "European style,” meaning that they would improvise.
Cinematographer Andriy Semenyuk, a fellow Ukrainian who met Hutchins a few years ago through friends, remembered how she welcomed him and brought him to some of her assignments. He called her a mentor with a “magnetizing” personality who stood out for her willingness to help others.
“I think the big deal about her in general, beyond being extremely talented — which is a given — is just her generous and really open personality,” he said. “In the film industry, which is super competitive, it’s not enough to have talent. It’s good to have this human, appealing personality.”
Friends, fans and colleagues are honoring her on social media.
"I am so so sorry. Rest easy. My love and strength to your family," the Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson wrote.
The ``Rust'' production company issued a statement Thursday saying, "The entire cast and crew has been absolutely devastated by today's tragedy, and we send our deepest condolences to Halyna's family and loved ones. We have halted production on the film for an undetermined period of time and are fully cooperating with the Santa Fe Police Department's investigation. We will be providing counseling services to everyone connected to the film as we work to process this awful event.''
NBCLA's Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this report.