Six disgruntled union camera workers vacated a New Mexico film set hours before a cinematographer was killed by a blast from a prop gun being handled by actor Alec Baldwin, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday, citing unidentified sources.
It was unclear if the camera crew left voluntarily or were ordered off the set. The Times reported both that the workers ''walked off the set'' and that a ''member of the producer staff ordered the union members to leave."
The paper quoted three anonymous sources as saying the half-dozen camera crew members were upset about conditions on the set of the film ''Rust,'' a production the publication characterized as a ''low-budget'' Western.
The dispute involved working long hours, getting paid and accommodations for the crew. The story said crew members said they had been promised hotel rooms in nearby Santa Fe but then were required to stay 50 miles away, in Albuquerque.
It said the crew showed up for work as usual around 6:30 a.m. at the Bonanza Creek Ranch filming location, began collecting their gear and belongings intending to leave, according to a ''knowledgeable crew member.''
An hour later, while the members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union were still collecting their belongings, nonunion replacements arrived. A production team member instructed the union camera operators to leave, saying that if they didn't, security would remove them.
''Corners were being cut — and they brought in nonunion people so they could continue shooting,'' the Times quoted its anonymous source.
About six hours after the camera operators left, Baldwin, the film's lead actor and a producer of the movie, was reportedly rehearsing a scene outside a church when his prop gun fired, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
The scene revolved around a gunfight that begins inside the church where Baldwin backs out.
Baldwin issued a statement Friday expressing grief and sympathy for Hutchins' family.
''The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company," the film's production company, Rust Movie Productions, said in a statement quoted by the Times.
''Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down.''
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