Veteran screen and television actor, Alec Baldwin, was charged with involuntary manslaughter for the 2021 death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during the filming of a movie in New Mexico.
The announcement came as a surprise to many in the entertainment industry as one of their own now stood accused of causing a catastrophic tragedy that already left them disoriented in fear for it could all mean for the safety of cast and crew on future movie sets.
One can only wonder how many triggers are pulled on movie sets each year. But this one time, on this one day in New Mexico, a live cartridge was in the chamber, not a blank.
As a former forensic firearm examiner myself, I know that guns cannot fire unless the trigger is pulled – except in the rarest of circumstances that are difficult for even the most seasoned firearm experts to envision. When Alec Baldwin emphatically denied pulling the trigger, I knew he was either lying or very confused.
Although I urge nobody to try this, you could load a gun like the one Baldwin fired at an unsuspecting Halyna Hutchins, cock the hammer, and throw it off the top of the Empire State Building.
The gun will not fire.
During the early phases of the investigation into Hutchins’ death, I was in the process of writing the manuscript for my book, The New Superior: A Better Way to Be the One in Charge.
Below is an excerpt from my book that seems to have foretold the consequences that might befall Baldwin and his colleagues for what happened.
Here’s what I wrote:
“In satisfying my own curiosity as to why Halyna Hutchins died, all I really needed to know was that members of the crew were playing with the gun that morning. Playing. Sheriff’s deputies later found live ammunition comingled with the blanks that would normally be used on a movie set to create the sound of a gunshot. This would not be unlike cooking dinner for your kids and having a vial of cyanide sitting next to the table salt. The reported facts struck me as clear evidence that the leaders in charge – in this case, the leaders would be the directors, producers, and anyone else responsible for employee conduct on the set – had not created a culture in which firearms and firearm safety were treated with the utmost respect. Once it is known that filming will involve the use of a firearm, it should set into motion a series of checks and processes that ensure the safety of the cast and crew. But even that’s not enough. By the sheer force of will, and through leadership that emphasizes seriousness and vigilance when it comes to firearm safety, the unintentional discharge of a bullet from a loaded gun should be rendered a practical impossibility.“
Alec Baldwin did not kill Halyna Hutchins by pulling the trigger of a gun.
Hutchins died at the hands of a workplace environment that became so poisoned by the reckless disregard of its leaders that its ability to protect people from the inherent dangers of firearms and ammunition became incapacitated.
And, unfortunately, as is the case with poisoned work environments, the toxicity prevents those in a position to stop the worst conceivable tragedy from realizing that it’s about to happen.
The extent to which Alec Baldwin contributed to the poisoning of the aforementioned work environment is hard to estimate. What we do know, however, is that he’s about to play the role of his life – the role of a defendant in a real-life criminal death proceeding where all of the relevant facts will likely be revealed.
As I explain in The New Superior, there’s one thing that poisons a work environment faster than anything else. That one thing is the hierarchical behaviors of a few dominant or narcissistic personalities who see everyone else as inferior and therefore unworthy of care and concern.
This is to say that leaders or other persons of influence who rely excessively on hierarchy as the source of their power are vulnerable. They believe their rank or stature entitles them to degrees of treatment or courtesy that only they deserve; and they see it as a personal indignity to be expected to genuinely care about individuals they perceive as their inferiors.
Movie directors or producers who don’t care about their casts and crews may have neither the patience nor interest to exhaust precious time and energy on things as silly as safety meetings, safety checks, and safety protocols.
Perhaps, if everyone is lucky, this wanton disregard for the well being of others will not result in catastrophe.
But as it turned out on the 21st of October, 2021, on the set of a movie where Alec Baldwin had the rank, stature, and authority to ensure safe working conditions for the cast and crew, Halyna Hutchins wasn’t so lucky.
John M. Collins is an executive trust coach at Critical Victories in Southfield, Michigan. He specializes in supporting clients in authoritative, high-stakes occupations requiring high levels of expertise to earn and retain the trust of the public or other consequential stakeholders. John shares some of his unique philosophies and insights on high-stakes leadership in his 2022 book, THE NEW SUPERIOR – A BETTER WAY TO BE THE ONE IN CHARGE (www.thenewsuperior.com), available in hardcover and audio.
John works with people, teams, and organizations across the United States and oversees. If you are serious about expanding your leadership effectiveness, click below to request a free client strategy call: