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'Rust' director Joel Souza breaks silence after Halyna Hutchins' death on set

Souza remembers Hutchins as an "incredibly talented" cinematographer after surviving the movie set accident, involving a prop gun, that ended his friend's life.
/ Source: NBC News

"Rust" film director Joel Souza, who is recovering after being shot with a prop gun fired by producer and actor Alec Baldwin on Thursday while filming, said he is "gutted by the loss of my friend and colleague" cinematographer Halyna Hutchins who was killed as a result of the same film set accident.

"She was kind, vibrant, incredibly talented, fought for every inch and always pushed me to be better," Souza said in a statement to NBC News.

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.Swen Studios / Reuters

Hutchins was working as the director of photography for “Rust” alongside Souza in Santa Fe, New Mexico when Baldwin discharged a prop firearm on set. Hutchins was flown by helicopter to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, while Souza was taken to the hospital by ambulance, officials said.

"My thoughts are with her family at this most difficult time," Souza said.

Matt Hutchins, Halyna's husband, opened up about the tragedy Friday on his first social media post since his wife's death.

"Halyna inspired us all with her passion and vision, and her legacy is too meaningful to encapsulate in words," he tweeted alongside a photo of his late wife and their son. "Our loss is enormous, and we ask that the media please respect my family’s privacy as we process our grief. We thank everyone for sharing images and stories of her life."

Family, friends and film industry colleagues have also been expressing their condolences and posting tributes to her work on social media for the past few days.

"She decided early on she would take the craft of cinematography by storm and the last couple of years proved she was well on her way. Her talent was immense, only surpassed by the love she had for her family," Halyna's team said in a statement Friday.

"All those in her orbit knew what was coming; a star director of photography, who would be a force to be reckoned with," her team added.

Souza, 48, said he is "humbled and grateful by the outpouring of affection we have received from our filmmaking community, the people of Santa Fe, and the hundreds of strangers who have reached out."

"It will surely aid in my recovery," he added.

Director of photography Halyna Hutchins on the set of "Archenemy" on Dec. 17, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Director of photography Halyna Hutchins on the set of "Archenemy" on Dec. 17, 2019, in Los Angeles.Jack Caswell / AP

Halyna, 42, was originally from Ukraine and grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle. She also worked as an investigative reporter in Europe before moving to Los Angeles to do film, according to her website.

She graduated from the American Film Institute in 2015 and was selected as one of American Cinematographer's Rising Stars of 2019, according to the biography on her website.

Halyna's friends and mentors at the film school helped establish a scholarship fund "to honor her memory and support aspiring female cinematographers," according to her husband Matt.

"Anyone seeking to honor her memory, please direct your giving to this fund," he tweeted.

Matt is a corporate lawyer who joined Latham & Watkins' Los Angeles office as an associate earlier this year. Before that, he was an in-house lawyer at an entertainment company and practiced at Kirkland & Ellis and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He said on Friday that he had spoken with Baldwin, who was being supportive, following the incident.

In his first comments about the prop gun shooting, Baldwin also confirmed he was in touch with the Hutchins family.

"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 tweeted, adding that he has been cooperating with authorities in charge of the ongoing investigation.

So far, no charges have been filed in connection to the incident, the sheriff's office said.

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