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S Harber

A very bad day in GA

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Lots of online comments here and there, stating that the guy is a career-sleazeball, an incorrigible; he might be, but I never worked with the man, so I don't know. An AD once told me that John Landis repeatedly gave the command, "Lower, Lower !" before it crashed and killed several people. Landis was directing films not two years later.

The story on Twilight Zone is more complicated. The special effects person on the set, Paul Stewart, later admitted at the trial that he used "significantly" more explosives in the final take because Landis had asked for a bigger blast. (Stewart got immunity from the DA for his testimony.) Unfortunately, the blast blew off the copter's tail rotor, causing it to lose control and crash. Landis was partly to blame, but so were everybody involved hiring non-union, underage actors to be on a set late at night without much supervision, and in a place where explosives were being used. Lots of blame there. Landis was tried but acquitted, though the studio had to pay the dead actors' families in a wrongful-death settlement.

I know somebody who was close to the Landis family in the 1980s, and he told me that Landis was "shattered" by the trial and was in very, very bad shape during those months. I'm convinced he was truly and absolutely sorry about what happened, knowing that what my friend saw was not in front of cameras or the press. I think Landis could be a tough, demanding director, but he wasn't wrong in the same way the Georgia crew was wrong in taking unnecessary risks.

What's sad in both cases is that visual effects could have eliminated 100% of the risks in both cases. Shoot the actors without any copters... add the aircraft and explosions in post. Shoot the other actors on a partial bridge set, with no connected train tracks, and composite in the rest of the train tracks later. These are people just not thinking clearly and taking risks when none were necessary. Very bad judgement.

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It should be noted that Jay Sedrich was sentenced to ten years probation in addition to a $10,000 fine. The terms of that probation prohibit him from working as a first or second AD or as a crew supervisor. Teaching college classes in unit management or ADing might not technically be a violation of those terms but seems pretty close to the edge.

Best regards,

Jim

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What's sad in both cases is that visual effects could have eliminated 100% of the risks in both cases. Shoot the actors without any copters... add the aircraft and explosions in post. Shoot the other actors on a partial bridge set, with no connected train tracks, and composite in the rest of the train tracks later. These are people just not thinking clearly and taking risks when none were necessary. Very bad judgement.

I so agree with you Marc. Both tragedies were preventable. Both teams/leadership acted recklessly for what? A shot in a film. While there are significant risks in everything we do, to put people in harms way for no reason is morally corrupt and legally prosecutable and those who do should be held accountable. I know that John Landis professed regret and sorrow every time I've worked with him over the years. Not sure we will ever hear that from the "Midnight Rambler team.

CrewC

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I so agree with you Marc. Both tragedies were preventable. Both teams/leadership acted recklessly for what? A shot in a film. While there are significant risks in everything we do, to put people in harms way for no reason is morally corrupt and legally prosecutable and those who do should be held accountable. I know that John Landis professed regret and sorrow every time I've worked with him over the years. Not sure we will ever hear that from the "Midnight Rambler team.

What's sobering is that I bet every single person here has experiences on shoots where risks were taken and bad judgement happened putting lives at risk... but 99% of us were not hurt or killed. I can think of shoots I was on as a camera operator where we found out after the shoot that a 40'-foot scaffolding I was on wasn't properly braced and was maybe about 10 minutes away from falling over. Or the endless stories of sound mixers stuffed in trunks. Or car stunts gone awry. Or being nearly electrocuted due to inept electricians (which happened to me on a set a few years ago). These close calls are a grim reminder that nobody on a crew should be ever be placed in danger. 

I get the impression from Landis (who has never been interviewed about the aftermath of the Twilight Zone tragedy) that he has sincere sorrow and tremendous regret about what happened on that set. The attitude of the Midnight Rider people sounds combative and in a total state of denial, like they truly don't believe they were responsible. Just baffling.

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Having talked to crew that were on the set of Twilight Zone, it is their opinion (and mine) that Landis needed to rot in jail after what he did.  He bullied the pilot, FX people into doing what they believed wasn't safe.  In my book he's just as scummy as the Midnight Rider lot.

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What's sad in both cases is that visual effects could have eliminated 100% of the risks in both cases. Shoot the actors without any copters... add the aircraft and explosions in post. Shoot the other actors on a partial bridge set, with no connected train tracks, and composite in the rest of the train tracks later. These are people just not thinking clearly and taking risks when none were necessary. Very bad judgement.

I so agree with you Marc. Both tragedies were preventable. Both teams/leadership acted recklessly for what? A shot in a film. While there are significant risks in everything we do, to put people in harms way for no reason is morally corrupt and legally prosecutable and those who do should be held accountable. I know that John Landis professed regret and sorrow every time I've worked with him over the years. Not sure we will ever hear that from the "Midnight Rambler team.

CrewC

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As a professional listener, I know what I heard in their voices on their snarky DVD commentaries. Am committed to hounding these people until I can no longer type or they pass or redeem themselves in suitable ways. I'm not sure redemption is possible. Our collective power to refuse them all our good company forever is a good fucking start. Sorry for the cussing but got myself kinda worked up remembering their voices and tone...grrrrrr.

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Ridiculous! Letting him out for "good behavior" or some illness? You've got to be kidding. He's in jail for really, really bad behavior (murder) with a lighter sentence than anyone would expect. "In his motion to modify the sentence, Miller’s attorney, Ed Garland, said, 'Mr. Miller has relived the day of the accident over and over and has taken full responsibility.' Even so, the lawyer claimed that 'many other people share responsibility for the accident.' " Miller is still trying to say that it was somebody else's fault, he wasn't told of the danger or that they were denied a permit, etc., etc. 

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While "murder" may not be the accurate term -- as it usually indicates malice aforethought -- "negligent homicide" definitely applies.

So, he claims to be taking "full responsibility" while simultaneously claiming that others "share responsibility"?  He should be jailed for insincerity alone!  If not that, then for being semiliterate as well as the crime of giving filmmakers a bad name!

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On December 4, 2015 at 4:05:33 PM, John Blankenship said:

While "murder" may not be the accurate term -- as it usually indicates malice aforethought -- "negligent homicide" definitely applies.

So, he claims to be taking "full responsibility" while simultaneously claiming that others "share responsibility"?  He should be jailed for insincerity alone!  If not that, then for being semiliterate as well as the crime of giving filmmakers a bad name!

You're right, John, my anger got the best of me ---  "negligent homicide", the right term to use. Thank you.

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Now there is a change.org asking for Miller's release. 

https://www.change.org/p/jcarter-co-wayne-ga-us-have-mercy-on-randy-his-family-needs-him-send-him-home?recruiter=136861815&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_for_starters_page&utm_term=des-lg-no_src-no_msg&fb_ref=Default


 
 
Petitioning jcarter@co.wayne.ga.us
 

Have mercy on Randy - his family needs him, send him home.

 
PcZUcWGApMIkwxU-800x450-noPad.jpg?144954

Please have mercy on my brother and support sending him home to his family.

His family loves and misses him - My brother Randy Miller has been in the Wayne County Jail (3000 miles away from his wife and children) for over 9 months.  He has missed his children's birthdays,  watching and coaching their sports -  being there to cheer when they win and comfort when they lose,  making them laugh, walking the dog, helping them with their homework, spending a quiet Sunday with his wife. He pleaded guilty because the DA forced him to make a choice no parent should have to make – take a sentence or gamble that both he and his wife would be prosecuted. He is serving a 2 year custodial sentence under an agreement with the Sheriff that he be given a credit on a 2 for 1 basis.  For the reasons below his lawyers have asked for a further reduction, a reduction that might be available to any inmate.  That should be a matter for the court and not one for a public petition. However, a change.org petition has been started by people who don’t know and have never met him against this reasonable request.   Accordingly, to ensure that petition does not go unanswered I have started this petition, a petition for mercy and charity and forgiveness.  My brother is a good man, his family and society are better served by returning him to his family so that he can once again be a productive member of society.  

His health is failing him - Let me tell you a little about my brother’s life in jail in a county jail in one of the poorest counties in the country.  First of all, unlike other heads of companies who have been incarcerated, he is not in a “country club.”  He lives in a cinder-block building surrounded by high fences. He shares a cell with four other inmates most of whom are in jail for drug offenses.  The jail has one outside space the size of a basketball court and no fitness facilities.  Inmates are allowed outside for one hour a day.  He is far from home and gets few visitors. He is subjected to random drug tests and strip searches on a daily basis and the food provided is highly processed and high in sugar and sodium.  Most inmates are young men who are incarcerated for much shorter periods, but his longer sentence means that he is already suffering serious adverse health effects.  In the last few weeks he has inexplicably put on 39 pounds, he has elevated blood pressure, a persistent cough and swollen ankles all of which are harbingers of heart disease. The people who run the jail are fair, hard-working people but they are doing a difficult job with very limited resources. There is no facility in Wayne County for him to get a proper cardio- workup and so long as he is incarcerated, no way for him to change his “lifestyle” to prevent or avoid further health damage. 

He is kind, generous and giving - My brother is a good man, who has always contributed to society and his community, as an employer, by coaching kids sports, by doing charitable work, by being a loving father, brother, son and husband. Because he is a good man, since being incarcerated he has provided more than 1955 hours of charity work for Wayne County.   That means on average 7 hours a day every day including Saturdays and Sundays. He has taught and counselled inmates trying to make a fresh start, worked in the laundry and assisted in the creation of a film project to address the serious, seemingly intractable problem of the revolving door of drugs in Wayne County and across the country.  He didn’t have to do any of these things, but he did them simply to help.  This is nothing new.  He has helped the elderly and underprivileged his whole life, has given many “breaks” to actors  and crew  just starting out, and is always there for family and friends.

Let’s stop the hurt and start the healing - Sarah Jones' death was a terrible tragedy and her family and friends will continue to grieve her.   My family grieves her death too. However, her death was an accident. Randy’s continued incarceration will not change this or help anyone.  Sadly, since this accident, the film industry has done nothing to make sets safer.  Instead of working with him to determine what went wrong after over 25 years of work without a single safety issue, it has treated him like a pariah.  Despite the fact that an accident like this, which was the result of multiple oversights and miscommunications could have happened on and perhaps has happened on many a set. That is not to excuse this terrible tragedy, but again, my brother did not set out that day to put anyone (including himself) in harm’s way. He has paid dearly for his failures as a leader that day, with his incarceration and separation from his beloved family, with the endless legal fees, with settlements, with post-traumatic stress disorder, with the damage to his physical health, with the damage to the career he built for 30 years. It is enough, please let’s start the healing – please join me in asking the Sheriff, John Carter, for mercy.

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I plan to write Assistant District Attorney John Johnson who cut this secret two-for-one deal with Miller and hope others will write him too.

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Update on Midnight Rider.

‘Midnight Rider’: More Info Revealed In “Willful Safety Violation” Court Filing

randall-miller-midnight-rider
 

EXCLUSIVE: New, un-redacted information revealing what specific supervising crew members did (or did not do) on the set of Midnight Rider has been put into a Department of Labor court filing to refute producer Film Allman’s claim that it was not guilty of a “willful safety violation.” The brief asks the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold “in its entirety” the Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission decision that slapped Film Allman with the violation and a fine for its actions on the set of the Gregg Allman biopic that led to the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones.

 

 

Included in its evidence is full email content from CSX to location manager Charlie Baxter and specific actions of director Randall Miller, first AD Hillary Schwartz, and unit production manager Jay Sedrish on the day of the shoot, and who got the Baxter emails saying for the second time that CSX had denied access to the Doctortown train trestle. That, along with a photo of Miller and other crew members next to the hospital bed on the train trestle, were all put into the filing.

Film Allman has not only been fighting OSHA, but Miller and his attorneys are also attempting to blame CSX for liability in civil court as they fight against their own insurer New York Marine, which says it is not responsible for losses due to a criminal act.

Camera assistant Sarah Jones was remembered at this year's Academy Awards ceremony
 

The actions/inactions of the supervising crew was found to have resulted in Jones’ death and serious injuries to other crewmembers when a train plowed through the set that was on live train tracks.

Film Allman, which has twice fought the initial OSHA decision, was set up by filmmaker Miller and his wife, producer Jody Savin, to film Midnight Rider. The company had appealed once before and lost so they appealed again in January.

The OSHA ruling slapped the company with a fine for “one willful and one serious safety violation.” A Secretary of Labor attorney noted that oral arguments don’t need to be heard as all evidence is on paper. Only the willful violation is under review, which carries with it a $70,000 fine. (The serious violation carried with it a $4,900 fine which fell out of contention.)

In arguing to have the willful violation upheld, the Secretary of Labor attorney stated: “Willful violations are marked by an employer’s plain indifference to employee safety,” and “In the Eleventh Circuit, a willful violation is shown by the employer’s ‘intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, OSHA requirements’,” which, they argue, occurred on the set of Midnight Rider.

The Secretary of Labor attorney argues every point of Film Allman’s contention in the brief, stating that not only did the company criminally trespass, but “Film Allman also failed to take virtually every basic safety precaution standard in the film industry.”

Film Allman, one principal of which (Miller) spent time in jail for the crime of criminal trespass and felony involuntary manslaughter, has been questioning whether the administrative law judge who denied its first appeal acted properly on three points as outlined by the Labor Secretary:

Whether the ALJ properly characterized Film Allman’s violation of the OSH Act’s general duty clause as willful, where willful violations are shown by plain indifference to employee safety and Film Allman knowingly trespassed on a train trestle owned by CSX without permission in order to film a movie scene; misled its employees with inaccurate and unverified information about how many trains were expected to pass over the trestle; failed to take basic safety precautions accepted as standard within the film industry; and failed to have any evacuation plan in case of an oncoming train, resulting in the death of one employee.

Whether the ALJ properly imposed the maximum penalty of $70,000 for Film Allman’s willful violation of the OSH Act where she took into account the relevant statutory factors and the gravity of the violation was extremely high.

3. Whether the ALJ correctly held that the Secretary lawfully invoked the informer’s privilege to withhold certain parts of the investigative record that would have disclosed the identity of confidential informers, where the public interest in maintaining informer anonymity is strong and Film Allman failed to demonstrate that it needed the withheld information to prepare its defense.

The following strongly worded brief shuts down all of Film Allman’s points while providing detailed actions of supervising crew leading up to the death of Jones and injury of other crew. Read the entire brief here.

 

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