Halyna Hutchins died doing what she loved on the set of the film “Rust.”
And that love is being returned as colleagues and friends remember the journalist turned cinematographer who died after the film’s star and executive producer Alec Baldwin discharged a prop gun on set in New Mexico last week. Hutchins was 42.
The film’s director Joel Souza, 48, was also injured during the incident.
Hutchins participated in a Blackmagic Collective live stream in April where she talked about her filmmaking.
“I like stories that [are] rooted in reality or real characters, but my favorite part is actually creating the world where the story will exist,” she said.
A native of Ukraine, Hutchins grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle, “surrounded by reindeer and nuclear submarines,” according to her website. She obtained a graduate degree in International Journalism from Kyiv National University.
She worked as an investigative journalist with British documentary productions in Europe, where she did feature documentaries for the BBC and Discovery prior to moving to New York City.
“In New York I really took on photography,” Hutchins said in an interview for “Why Women Are Excelling in Hollywood” posted on YouTube in June. “Fashion photography, I did a lot and just wanted to make art films, actually. Just something really big scale, beautiful, just art house cinema.”
“When I moved to Los Angeles, I tried to figure out what the next step would be,” she said. “Where do you start when you don’t know anybody? Where do you begin?”
That led her to a UCLA extension course on directing “just to get my feet wet,” Hutchins recalled, where she quickly figured out she loved cinematography more than directing.
“I shot like 15 shorts there,” she said. “So, I kept shooting and I thought that’s probably my calling.”
Hutchins worked with a lighting company and then later attended what she called “the best institution for my profession,” the American Film Institute (AFI) Conservatory, where she graduated in 2015.
After her death, actor Jensen Ackles, who worked with Hutchins on “Rust,” posted on Instagram that he had donated to an AFI scholarship fund in her name.
“Earlier last week I felt compelled to tell Halyna just how awesome I thought she was. I told her how incredible I thought her camera shots were and just how exciting it was to watch her and her teamwork,” he wrote. “Truly. She laughed and said thank you and gave me a hug. I’ll forever be thankful we had that moment.”
During the Blackmagic Collective live stream, Hutchins shared what attracted her to different films.
“The base of the characters is the most exciting part for me,” she said. “If I can get on a journey with the characters. Genre doesn’t really matter, it’s just the environment you create around it to convey the character’s journey.”
“If I want to see this movie, I would like to make it,” she said.
When asked during the “Why Women Are Excelling in Hollywood” interview what it was about cinematography that attracted her, Hutchins had a heartfelt answer.
“It’s a passion for sure,” she said. “Once you get the bug, you can’t get out of it.”