In The Hollywood Reporter, Kim Masters and Gary Baum did a deep dive into the shady side of independent filmmaking. They found that four of the same producers or executive producers on “Rust” worked on a previous film called “The Tiger Rising,” where the crew complained of late or missed payments. Producers also failed to make timely payments to health and pension plans, which resulted in some crew members losing health care.
The producers on “The Tiger Rising” seemed to be looking for tax breaks and tax credits from the state of Georgia, and did not care about the movie itself or the people making it. The film stars Dennis Quaid and Queen Latifah, and is yet to be released. Finishing the film is not actually a condition of receiving certain tax breaks.
In this scenario, it’s not surprising that producers out to make a buck would not prioritize the health and safety of the crew, which can eventually lead to fatal lapses of the sort that occured on the set of “Rust.”
The other question in this is the role of the unions. “The Tiger Rising” was a union production and in communication with SAG-AFTRA, the DGA, IATSE and others. The unions appear to have known about the issues on “The Tiger Rising,” but still allowed the producers to go on and make more films.
The same producers also posted pictures of themselves in their private jets on Instagram, and highlighted the fancy hotel they stayed in for the “Rust” production in Santa Fe. Meanwhile, the morning before cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed, crew members walked off set, in part to protest the poor housing conditions they’d been provided.