Three crew members who worked alongside “Rust” assistant director David Halls on another movie where a gun “unexpectedly discharged” in 2019 detailed to CNN what they called unsafe conditions before Halls was fired from the project.
The three crew members recalled details of an incident during the filming of “Freedom’s Path” where an 1800’s-style muzzle-loading rifle unexpectedly fired during a scene, resulting in a boom operator suffering inner ear injuries due to the sound of the explosion.
The crew members, who did not wish to be identified for fear of industry reprisal, said they were concerned for the safety of crew and cast members on set even before the gun misfire.
All three said the production did not hold regular safety meetings, contrary to typical industry practice.
“He was a person with enough red flags that his career should have been done with already. Yet he was still out there, putting crew into outrageous situations. It’s tough to think that Halyna could have just as well been one of our crews,” one of them said. “It was just too close for comfort.”
Rocket Soul said in a statement it “cannot comment on any conversations that may or may not have taken place individually between Dave Halls and crew members.” CNN has asked the company about the crew members' statements regarding regular safety meetings.
Halls, as well as Rockhill Studios, another production company for “Freedom’s Path,” did not respond to CNN requests for comment.
According to the three crew members, an armorer was not on set at the time of the 2019 incident, a break from protocol; instead, a background actor in the production was put in charge of handling the firearm for the scene, the crew members said.
In a statement to CNN, Rocket Soul Studios denied that a background actor was hired as an armorer, saying that an armorer was to be on set in every instance a gun was present.
The company said Halls was removed from the set and fired from the production.
“Halls was removed from set immediately after the prop gun discharged. Production did not resume filming until Dave was off site. An incident report was taken and filed at that time,” it said.
“Upon wrapping production for the day, Dave Halls was officially terminated and given the specific reasons for his termination,” The company continued. “Dave was very remorseful for the events, and understood the reasons he was being terminated. A new assistant director as well as a new armorer were hired for the duration of principal photography.”
In the moments before the accidental discharge, one crew member said the gun was announced as a “no fire” or “cold weapon” for the scene. A second crew member said they asked multiple times if the gun was cleared for use in the shot, and did not receive a clear answer.
The two crew members said some rifles used in the making of the movie had been packed with gunpowder but did not contain projectiles. The rifle that misfired was not supposed to be loaded at all, the two crew members said.
The accidental discharge disoriented a boom microphone operator, who suffered injuries to their inner ear and required medical attention after experiencing hearing loss and balance issues, according to the crew members.
When reached by phone Sunday, the boom operator acknowledged the incident but did not comment further on the matter.
The film, “Freedom’s Path” is set to release in 2022, according to the Rocket Soul website.