Dave Halls, the first assistant director who is being scrutinized for his role in a fatal shooting on the set of the Alec Baldwin western "Rust," is a former Minnesotan who worked on a number of films made locally.

According to entertainment website IMDb, Halls was a crew member on "A Simple Plan," "A Prairie Home Companion" and "North Country." At that point in his career, Halls was assigned to rather minor tasks. For "Fargo," he was a set production assistant. On "Grumpy Old Men," he served as an uncredited assistant location manager.

Anne Healy, one of the state's top location managers, said Halls drove actors from their trailers to the set when they worked together.

She described him Tuesday as "a nice guy, a great father."

Halls didn't get regularly booked as a first assistant director until after he left Minnesota. Healy said that's one of the toughest jobs on a film set.

"They are really in charge of the whole movie. They're the middle of all the spokes on the wheel," she said.

Healy, who last worked with Halls on a Best Buy commercial about five years ago, was diplomatic when asked whether Halls seemed to have what it takes for such a heavy responsibility.

"It's a very different animal," she said. "You either have that ability or you don't. You've got to know what your limits are and what you're good at. I see him as a second assistant director or a second second assistant director."

According to reports, Halls was the one who handed Baldwin a prop firearm that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins last week and injured director Joel Souza on the movie set near Santa Fe, N.M.

A producer told the Associated Press that Halls had been fired from a previous job in 2019 after a gun went off on the set of "Freedom's Path" and wounded a member of the film crew.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Santa Fe County district attorney, Mary Carmack-Altwies, said she was not ruling out criminal charges in the shooting. The investigation was focusing on ballistics to try and determine what kind of round was in the gun, she told the paper.

The film industry, known for its intense workplaces, has become even more of a pressure cooker because of the pandemic, said Twin Cities filmmaker Kenneth Rance, who did not know Halls.

"With COVID, the appetite for more product — more films — is voracious and endless," Rance said. "Now with all these streamers like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, the production schedules are shorter and everything has been sped up."

Even so, there are standard safety protocols that are usually followed.

"The thing I don't understand is why would you have live ammunition around on the set," Rance said. "The gun didn't load itself."

Pat Proft, a Twin Cities-based screenwriter, director and producer whose numerous credits include "The Naked Gun" and "Police Academy" films, has worked with guns on sets. He said that the story doesn't make sense.

"From what I read, [Baldwin] was just practicing and the idea was to shoot the gun towards the camera," and it turned out to be loaded, said Proft, who wrote, directed and produced "Wrongfully Accused," a show with running gun battles.

"We took a lot of precautions — you just have to," he said. "Even if the gun is unloaded, it can still cause hurt."

Healy, the location manager, said safety becomes less of a priority when producers try to cut corners.

"Unfortunately, people get into too much of a hurry and want to do something for $12," she said. "This is what happens if you squeeze everybody. Eventually, something bursts."

neal.justin@startribune.com • 612-673-7431

rohan.preston@startribune.com • 612-673-4390