Rust: Two Competing Documentaries as Actor Alec Baldwin Heads to rial (Rory Kennedy

Baldwin Heads to Trial: Two Competing ‘Rust’ Documentaries Are Part of Tangled Drama

One film on Baldwin by Rory Kennedy and another on cinematographer Halyna Hutchins by close friend Rachel Mason are in production, drawing attention from New Mexico prosecutors.

Both sets of filmmakers have become part of the still unfolding tragedy of the indie Western set, where Baldwin accidentally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in 2021.

Rachel Mason, director of the 2019 Netflix documentary Circus of Books and a close family friend of Hutchins, has been making a film about the cinematographer since Hutchins’ widower, Matthew Hutchins, recruited her and producer Julee Metz for the task in 2021 amid a flurry of media requests about his wife.

Alec Baldwin
personality and child welfare advocate Paris Hilton arrives to testify at the House Committee on Ways and Means hearing on "Strengthening Child Welfare and Protecting Americas Children" on June 26, 2024 in Washington, DC. Hilton is set to testify in support of the reauthorization of a federal program responsible for children in foster care.

Mason and Metz, who are shooting their film for Liz Garbus and Dan Cogan’s production company, Story Syndicate, have interviewed members of the Rust cast and crew, including director Joel Souza and cinematographer Bianca Cline, who joined the film to replace Hutchins when Rust resumed production in Montana in the spring of 2023. Some of the crew working on Mason’s film attended the American Film Institute with Hutchins and, since her project has the approval of Rust‘s producers, she was allowed on the Montana set. “My motivation is to preserve someone I lost,” Mason said, of her reason for making the documentary about Hutchins.

Rory Kennedy, director of the Oscar-nominated 2014 film Last Days in Vietnam and 2007’s Emmy-winning Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, has been working on a film about Baldwin for more than a year.

Less is known about the origins of Kennedy’s film, but, in a sign of just how small the doc world is, Kennedy has an interesting connection to the company behind the Hutchins film: From 1998 until 2018, Kennedy and Garbus produced nonfiction films and television together at their joint company, Moxie Firecracker. Kennedy is making the Baldwin film with her husband and business partner, Mark Bailey, under their banner, Moxie Films, which has a multiyear agreement with Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment.

The Kennedy movie was source of tension for the Rust cast and crew who convened in Montana in 2023, about 25 of whom had worked on the original New Mexico set.

Baldwin’s attempts to get access for Kennedy’s cameras angered members of the production, who felt he was making the docu in  attempt to exonerate himself, according to two sources who were on the set.

Ultimately Kennedy’s crew was not allowed on the set.

“There’s no way in hell I’m doing that,” Souza told Baldwin of giving Kennedy an interview, according to New York Times.

In October 2023, after New Mexico prosecutors extended a plea offer to Baldwin, special prosecutor Kari Morrissey learned of Kennedy’s film and got annoyed enough to kill the deal, according to an April 2024 court filing. “Undersigned counsel received information that Mr. Baldwin commissioned his own documentary about the death of the woman he killed and was actively pressuring material witnesses in the case against him to submit to interviews for his own documentary,” reads the filing, part of a 316-page prosecution response to Baldwins’ lawyers’ attempt to get his case dismissed. “It was at this point that the plea offer was rescinded,” the filing says.

In April, prosecutors filed a subpoena seeking footage from the film, Kennedy’s interviews with Baldwin and other witnesses contain “critical pieces of information concerning key elements of this criminal prosecution.”
In a motion to quash that subpoena filed in May, Kennedy signed  affidavit that Baldwin “did not commission, solicit, encourage, or otherwise seek out the Baldwin Project.”
Baldwin is not paying for, directing or producing the Moxie Films documentary, nor being paid for it, and that while he may be consulted on factual accuracy, he has no editorial or creative control over the film.
In June, Los Angeles judge ruled that Kennedy is not required to turn over the tapes, agreeing with her attorneys that the interviews are covered by the California Shield Law, which protects journalists from having to provide unpublished material to prosecutors.

Prosecutors have not attempted to subpoena Mason’s footage, and may even be considering her a helpful figure to have in the courtroom. During armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed’s trial in April, Mason and Metz, whose sons attended school with Hutchins’ son, Andros, were the only members of the public in the courtroom who knew Hutchins personally. Mason attended the trial wearing Hutchins’ wide-brimmed hat, one in which the cinematographer was often photographed. When the jury delivered a guilty verdict for Gutierrez-Reed, the Court TV camera panned to Mason for a reaction shot.

Baldwin has a small but interesting connection to both filmmakers. Years before making Rust, the actor, who is on the executive committee of the Hamptons Film Festival and helps curate and promote its SummerDocs selections, interviewed both Mason and Kennedy on stage about their previous films.

While both Mason and Kennedy’s films remain in production, the Rust movie itself has been finished since February. So far producers have been unable to find a distributor for the Western.

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