‘Rust’ First Assistant Director Dave Halls Is Not A DGA Member, Opting For “Fi-Core” Status, But Took Mandatory Safety Training

EXCLUSIVE: Dave Halls, the first assistant director of Rust, is not a DGA member, even though the film was being produced in New Mexico under a DGA contract.

Halls, who the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department has identified as the person who handed Alec Baldwin the gun that shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the Bonanza Creek Ranch set last week, is what’s commonly known as a “financial core” non-member – or an “agency fee paying non-member” – meaning that he either chose not to join the DGA or had resigned his membership. Joel Souza, who was wounded by the same bullet that killed Hutchins, is a DGA member.

DGA rules require that “If you are an Assistant Director, Unit Production Manager, Associate Director, or Stage Manager, you must take Safety Pass Training.” And though Halls is not a DGA member, safety records show that he has completed both “Mandatory DGA Safety Training” and “Covid-19 Prevention Training.” Halls’ attorney did not return calls for comment.

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Financial core status is rare in the entertainment industry. The U.S. Department of Labor defines agency fee paying non-members as “those who make payments in lieu of dues to the reporting labor organization as a condition of employment under a union security provision in a collective bargaining agreement.” The DOL also notes that “agency fee payers are not considered members of the labor organization.”

Financial core non-members – aka “fi-core,” or agency fee payers – pay only that portion of union dues that goes directly toward covering the costs of collective bargaining, contract enforcement and contract administration, but don’t have to pay that portion of dues spent on lobbying or political activities. Some workers in the entertainment industry have gone “fi-core” so they can work on non-union shoots, but others have done so for political or personal reasons – they either don’t like unions in general or don’t want to pay for their union’s political activities. They can’t vote in union elections or run for union office, but they can work on non-union shows and cross picket lines during strikes without being sanctioned by the union they have quit.

SAG-AFTRA says on its website that those who opt for financial core status “are viewed as scabs or anti-union by SAG-AFTRA members, directors, and writers – most of whom also belong to entertainment unions.”

Halls had previously been fired from the set of another indie film, Freedom’s Path, in 2019 after producers said a crew member was injured when a gun was “unexpectedly discharged.” “Halls was removed from set immediately after the prop gun discharged,” the Rocket Soul Studios producers told Deadline, adding that “Production did not resume filming until Dave was off-site. An incident report was taken and filed at that time.”

The veteran assistant director’s previous credits include The Crow: Salvation, 2003’s The Matrix Reloaded, the upcoming Dolph Lundgren starrer Castle Falls and Blumhouse TV’s anthology series Into the Dark.

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