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Old October 31st, 2014, 10:11 PM   #1
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Follow up on the Sarah Jones Story

I just watched the news magazine on ABC called 2020. They did a fairly extensive follow up on the Sarah Jones story which answered some questions and just made me mad as hell all over again.
Sarah Jones as you might recall was the young lady who was working as a camera asst. on an indy movie who died needlessly after being hit by a fast moving freight train.
This follow up proved to me again the absolute incompetence, stupidity and arrogance of the producer/director Randall Miller. It's a shame she lost her life because of this moron. I really hope he gets found guilty and does the max for involuntary manslaughter which unfortunately is only 10 years. IMO he deserves every bit of it.
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Old November 1st, 2014, 01:41 PM   #2
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Re: Follow up on the Sarah Jones Story

This has been an ongoing discussion since it happened among the circle of indie filmmakers I do a lot of work with. It is a tragic story and a very important reminder that it is never worth risking your life "to get the shot". It also shows the importance of having the right people on your project. Many people have no clue about how much thought goes into safety on a big show. I constantly hear of crews doing stupid things like this as well as on streets and highways that it makes me cringe. I'm also an engineer working in the heavy construction industry. The level of safety and monitoring we go through for every project puts most movie productions to shape. For every site we have a health and safety plan. tailgate safety meetings in the mornings and reports every month on any safety and security incidences.

Maybe the movie industry should be held to the same level of responsibility.
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Old November 1st, 2014, 02:19 PM   #3
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Re: Follow up on the Sarah Jones Story

Garrett,
What really ticked me off about this was the fact that there was no one from the train company who had sent him an email which was shown that they did not have permission to shoot on the tracks, they did have permission from the owners of the land that surrounded the tracks and trestle but that doesn't give permission to go on the tracks.
There was NO safety officer of any kind there and according to the moron producer, it wasn't his job to insure that there was a permit to shoot on the tracks or to have a safety officer. This was recorded on video during his questioning prior to or during the civil trial. 3 times he said, "that wasn't my job".
Well, I don't have a lot of experience doing movies but if that stuff isn't his job since he was the writer/director/producer, then what the hell was his job?
Not one member of the crew that went out to the trestle that day knew they were going to shoot a scene but if that is the case, why was the camera gear hauled out there, the star (William Hurt) taken out there, the hair and makeup person out there? SOMEONE had to at least think they were going to shoot there. Regardless, it was the producer who is in charge of the production and HE cost this girl her life and caused 6 others to be hurt. He should be ashamed of himself but of course, it wasn't his job.
BTW, living in the greater Chicago area, I've seen and video'd lots of construction and yeah, they have an on-site safety person and his job is to shut the site down and stop work if the crews don't adhere to the safety procedures. I've seen it done.
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Old November 1st, 2014, 06:21 PM   #4
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Re: Follow up on the Sarah Jones Story

From what I understand it get even worse than them not having a permit. From what I've read, The producer had preliminarily reached out to the owner/operator of the rail line and they had given him preliminary costs and restrictions of what would be allowed and when. Most people don't know it, but except for designated crossings, you are not allowed within the railroad right of way. In order to be able to do anything within their right of way you need what's called an encroachment permit. Typically, if you are going to be within 50' from the center of the tracks you will be required to have what is called a flagman. they are in constant contact with train control who will alert them when trains are coming. The alert will come when they are what seems very far away but for safety reasons it will give anyone on the tracks time clear. The producer would have had to pay for the encroachment permit and the time for the flagger which I'm sure the idiot producer didn't want to do. So he figured, he'd just go do it gorilla. There are so many time I've been on a project and the producers refuse to get proper permits. My advice is, just walk away. If you are questioned by the authorities to produce your permit and you don't have one, they can and often will confiscate your equipment. Not worth it. Losing your life really isn't worth it.

I also choreograph stunts and have been the safety on sets. It's job you have to take seriously. Weapons checks, second safety checks and inspections all slow down productions and cost money. But with the very highly publicized set accidents that had happened on set it's crazy that anyone would have taken such a risk. Like you, I hope they throw the book at him and take him and anyone else that was in a position of decision making down. It seems the only way to keep people from doing stupid things to save money is to take away their freedom and make them pay financially. There doesn't seem to be any sense of responsibility anymore. And that's not just in the movie industry. It goes across all industries. The reason the construction industry has so many safety regulations is because they have historically been willing to sacrifice safety to save a buck. So now, insurance rates are crazy, you are constantly monitored by OSHA, and all safety incidences are investigated up the butt.

Sorry for the rant, but being in an industry where accidents are often permanent or deadly might make me much less tolerant of stupidity. I've seen what the results can be and it really drives me crazy when it could have been prevented.

Yes, it was the producers responsibility to get the proper permits and provide the safety precautions. I don't know if the Director is legally responsible. I would hope he is since he is in a position where he can use his is essentially managing what is going on on set. Executive producers should also be held responsible and be liable financially. At least that is how I would hope it comes out.
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Old November 1st, 2014, 08:51 PM   #5
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Re: Follow up on the Sarah Jones Story

I'm right there with you. I am so PO'd about this because it did not have to happen. I know he or someone from the production company talked to the railroad (CSX) because on the day of the accident he received an email from CSX denying access to the tracks and the trestle. There are so many thing wrong about this tragedy it's hard to count the stupid mistakes he as the producer made.
By the same token, he did the movie CBCG? and did most if not all principle photography in South Carolina. He broke so many rules, procedures and laws there the Director of the Film Board in that particular town lost his job. It seems Mr. Miller felt he was above the law and simply stated to anyone who tried to talk to him about the things he was doing wrong or illegally "Hey I'm making a movie here". What an ass.
If you get the chance go to the ABC news site find the program 2020 and watch the segment. Also ABC news has footage from a camera that was mounted in the cab of the train facing out towards the track and you can see everyone scrambling to get out of the way of a 2 engine, 37 car freight train traveling at 57 miles per hour. These people didn't stand a chance.
Randall Miller and his entire producing staff seem to be the kind of people I'd like to meet and greet with a 40 oz. Louisville slugger. Idiots, morons, jerks and none of them have a right being in the film industry.
I guess you can tell I'm mad about this. :-)
Rant over!
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Old November 2nd, 2014, 04:02 AM   #6
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Re: Follow up on the Sarah Jones Story

You can view it online: Camera Assistant Killed in 'Midnight Rider' Train Accident | Video - ABC News

Shows what can happen if "we're trying to make a movie here" is undertaken without any regard to the real world.
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Old November 2nd, 2014, 10:23 AM   #7
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Re: Follow up on the Sarah Jones Story

Watched the full 20/20 segment. Just from the little that they had there, and I'm sure there are 1000's of pages of investigative reports, there should be enough to convict those idiots. I have had to give a deposition one time, as a safety expert not a witness, in a lawsuit. It was incredibly grueling. Unfortunately as a criminally accused person you don't have to take the stand. But I hope Miller's arrogance get's the best of him and he decides to, and I hope they ream the hell out of him. Lawyers have a way of making people look really stupid when they're questioning them. Just in the footage from the civil suit they showed it made Miller look like an idiot. If those things weren't his responsibility then what the hell does he think his responsibility is?
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