New Mexico

Mass. Movie Prop Shop Owner Shocked by Fatal Shooting: ‘Could Have Been Avoided'

Thomas Pimentel owns the largest movie supplier of military and law enforcement props in New England, and said what happened on the set of "Rust" illustrates the need for more regulation

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There have been renewed safety calls from industry insiders after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed Thursday when actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on a New Mexico movie set, and two local experts say the fatal incident shows how desperately change is needed.

Working on major films and keeping everyone safe is Thomas Pimentel's job. He says he was shocked when he heard a prop firearm that Baldwin was holding discharged on the set of “Rust.”

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"It could have been avoided and it's a tragedy," he said.

Pimentel owns TNT Limited Productions in Chelmsford, Massachusetts -- the largest movie supplier of military and law enforcement props in New England.

He serves as an armorer on movie sets. Under union rules, studios must have someone like Pimentel in charge of guns shooting blanks. Independent films, like the one Baldwin is working on, don't have to hire union crews.

Pimentel says what happened on the set of "Rust" illustrates the need for more regulation.

"There needs to be more standards, people need to be better trained and there needs to be more oversight," he said.

The last time a film member was killed by a prop gun was in 1993 when actor Brandon Lee was killed on the set of "The Crowe."

The prop firearm was discharged by actor Alec Baldwin while filming “Rush” in Santa Fe, N.M., according to authorities. The film’s director of photography was killed and the director was injured.

John Whoriskey, who scouts film locations in Massachusetts, thinks what happened proves what studio unions were threatening to strike over -- safer working conditions and better hours.

“Your awareness is not fully up when you are awake for that long, some lapses of judgement might have happened,” Whoriskey said. "Nobody should die on a movie set."

Pimentel agrees.

"I think any actor that interacts with firearms on set should go through level training of training," he said. "There needs to be more protocols on set."

Pimentel advocates for air soft guns to be used, as they are safer. But unlike real guns shooting blanks, the flash and sound from a gun have to be put in during post-production.

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