Before the gun tragedy, Halyna Hutchins was a “restless dreamer” who came to film later in life.

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Ukrainian cinematographer Halyna Hutchins first found films like an escape from the Soviet military base in the Arctic where she grew up. The love of cinema eventually drove her to Hollywood, where she was known as a rising talent in cinematography when she landed a job in the western “Rust”.

Ms Hutchins, 42, was shot and killed while working on the film in New Mexico after actor Alec Baldwin fired from a propeller pistol.

Ms Hutchins shared details of her youth with American Cinematographer magazine in 2019, when the publication named her one of its emerging stars. Ms Hutchins described taking videos while participating in extreme sports such as skydiving. Eventually she landed on her career while working on British film productions. “I was fascinated by storytelling based on real characters,” she told the magazine.

Ms Hutchins, a mother who sometimes posted photos of her husband and child on social media, has become one of the few women to rise in a male-dominated profession. Actors and others in Hollywood noted this achievement in anguished tributes.

“I loved watching you work: your intense focus and dynamic mastery of the play,” “Rust” actress Frances Fisher wrote on Instagram. She said she asked Ms Hutchins to stand next to her in a photo of the cast and crew. “I wanted to make sure you were in the foreground, since there are so few non-male cinematographers.”

The self-proclaimed ‘Child of the Army’ Los Angeles-based cinematographer graduated from AFI Conservatory film school in 2015. The Conservatory canceled film classes on Friday and will begin a scholarship in Ms. Hutchins’ name, said Stephen Lighthill, director of film discipline at the Conservatory.

Ms Hutchins showed special courage and dedication as an older participant in the school’s two-year master’s program, Mr Lighthill said.

“When someone is dating later in life so to speak – and we usually have older students, she was a little older than average, she had a 5 year old son at the time – it takes a lot of determination to start a career, ”said Mr. Lighthill, who is also president of the American Society of Cinematographers.“ He was an extraordinarily determined person and, of course, truly talented. ”

Ms Hutchins, who described herself on her Instagram page as a “restless dreamer” and “adrenaline junkie,” filled her social media feeds with snaps from her filming locations.

Two weeks ago, while on location for “Rust,” Ms. Hutchins posted an image of an orange sky on her Instagram page. “One of the best parts of filming a western is mornings like this!” she wrote.

Ms Hutchins was raised at a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle, “surrounded by reindeer and nuclear submarines,” according to her personal website. A former investigative journalist with British documentary productions, Ms Hutchins held a graduate degree in international journalism from a university in Ukraine, her website says.

His film credits include the films “The Mad Hatter” and “Blindfire,” according to IMDb.

Halyna Hutchins at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.


Photo:

Fred Hayes / Getty Images for SAGindie

Pollyanna McIntosh, who directed the 2019 horror film “Darlin ‘” alongside Ms. Hutchins as cinematographer, painted a picture of a force of nature: a woman determined to be photographed.

She was petite and daring, coping with camera equipment on film sets and comfortable in male-dominated financial circles, where she worked earlier in her career, Ms. McIntosh said in a commentary. interview. “It was like she had lived 500 lives, but it all made sense to her because she had an extraordinary amount of energy,” she said.

Mrs Hutchins once put on a wig and walked barefoot in the snow with false nails, working as a double body for a wild child character in a scene from “Darlin”. ‘does not operate due to rare winter conditions in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Ms. McIntosh said.

“I put her poor little bare feet in the snow and got her feet and legs dirty and we walked together and led the shot,” she said. “She’s exactly the kind of person you want in a movie like this – someone who will make her the best she can be.”

Cinematographers on Friday raised concerns about safety on film sets, especially the use of weapons. Rachel Morrison, the first woman nominated for an Oscar in cinematography, has expressed dismay at Ms Hutchins’ exposure to danger.

“She was out there breaking her child’s ass and there should have been so many layers of protection to prevent that from happening,” Ms. Morrison said in an interview. “Movies don’t like you back. It’s not worth the shot.”

John Bailey, former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and veteran cinematographer, wrote in an email to the Wall Street Journal that cinematographers and camera operators are often the ones who work closer to the special effects, which makes the safety on the set. a matter of concern for union guilds. Film crews are sometimes protected by plastic shields when filming dangerous actions, he wrote.

“I have my own thoughts on how digital production has altered many traditional and historical protocols of daily production on set and created an environment that is sometimes less than safe, especially in situations involving stunts, explosive effects. and guns, ”Bailey wrote. “It is simply too early to know how this terrible accident happened.”

A representative for Mr. Baldwin could not be reached by the Journal for comment. On Friday, the actor expressed his grief on his social networks.

“There are no words to express my shock and sadness over the tragic accident that claimed the life of Halyna Hutchins, a deeply admired wife, mother and colleague,” Baldwin wrote on Twitter. “I am fully cooperating with the police investigation to determine how this tragedy occurred.”

According to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, Alec Baldwin discharged a propeller pistol on the set of the western movie “Rust” on Thursday, killing a crew member and injuring the film’s director. Baldwin said on Friday he is fully cooperating with the police investigation. Photo: Jim Weber / Associated Press

Write to Ellen Gamerman at ellen.gamerman@wsj.com

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