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A very bad day in GA

S Harber

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That post is at least 15 years old. I know about that study. The thing is ALL the money that is saved comes out of the crew's pocket in the form of overtime, and most crew will not want to give up overtime money to work more days. I know it's crazy but that's how most people think.

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Yeah, I read this awhile back as well David but I didn't know it was 15 years old. Still valid in my mind and POV. Coincidently I worked with its author decades ago when film making was a lot of fun and we worked less than 12 hours a day. I know most in the biz want overtime but I'd take long time and family time over it anytime it was offered.


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I can see fatigue/safety problems being less in a shorter day..but I can also imagine the avoidance of overtime creating its own inducing pressures.


What keeps coming back to me regarding the train catastrophe is the stylist's account of gathering to group pray for safety. That's for going down in a plane..not when you can simply get out of the way...as a group. I know..easy for me to say...but this is sticking with me.

Looking back, I gripped on a low budget film where DP wanted lights hung under a bridge..no ladder..just a stone wall. I refused but a younger guy did it..with me providing the hand ladder up as he slipped and scrambled to make it happen. Saved my own skin but didn't step up. 

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All I'm going to say about the Hollywood Reporter article is that most of the 'quotes' were made up to bolster the author's hoped for screenplay. Lots of misinformation and fantasy. There was no group prayer by Joyce Gilliard. No wind blowing. Where does all this hysterical bullshit come from?

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To be honest, I thought the report of the prayer circle and such seemed a little far fetched and fictionalized.

I hope you are doing ok, Richard. I can't imagine how you must feel. All I hope is that perhaps with the advancement of social media, that perhaps this tragic event will be held in our minds long enough to make a difference.

An AC I worked with just the other day commented that maybe some sort of permanent message can remain on slates to always remind us to stay safe and alert.

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That is a stock photo and no way represents the train trestle bridge in question. I know, because I was there.

Note: After research, I am correcting my statement. I have found the credited photographer's Flickr page and in fact that is the trestle in question. Here without permission from Mike McCall is another angle, taken in 2012. 




However, it's time you all stop swallowing the crap you are digesting from Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Social Media and everybody who was not there on that day. 


If you truly respect those that were on that bridge, got injured and the soul of Sarah Jones, then wait for the authorities to release their findings. That includes OSHA, NTSB, the Wayne County Coroner and the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, as well as all the heavy hitter legal firms that are lining up to counter sue each other.


There will be answers to who, what and why. Let that process go forward, then you can react with facts in hand, instead of unsubstantiated rumors, quotes and scenarios made up of whole cloth and finger pointing.

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William Hurt -THR: " "I said, 'Sixty seconds is not enough time to get us off this bridge.' There was a communal pause. No one backed me up," Hurt wrote... "Then, we ..... Just went ahead. I took off my shoes, got on the heavy, metal hospital bed and began preparing," the actor, who was cast as Gregg Allman in the biopic of the musician, stated in the email. "We didn't have sixty seconds. We had less than thirty." ... A reconstruction of the accident by The Hollywood Reporter quoted Joyce Gilliard, a hairstylist working on Midnight Rider, with a similarly expressed concern about only having a minute to get clear of the tracks in case of a train. "Everybody on the crew was tripping over that," Gilliard recounted in the story. "A minute? Are you serious?" "



SAG-AFTRA has a safety hotline, available to all members, the great, and the small... and even calls from crew are welcome!

perhaps this number should be in your phone: Emergency Hotline Number (for after hours safety issues): (323) 954 -1600.

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Sarah Jones' family has officially hired the attorney who hads been investigating the incident for them, and the lawsuits are about to fly...

I would imagine our friend Richard Lightstone, who was involved has also retained representation, and is following proper legal advice to not discuss the events...(he certainly had signed a standard NDA for the film shoot)

but the New York Times has entered the fray with the question: "  Can, or should, independent movie productions, ranging from no-budget student films to star vehicles underwritten by state subsidies, be more closely policed for on-set safety? "


Edited by studiomprd
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a thorough article in the paper of record:



and Hollywood of course has full blown ADD meaning memory is erased every day:


.... John Landis, the director of the anthology film’s prologue and the segment affected by the accident, and four co-workers were tried for manslaughter. They were acquitted, but the trial shook the film industry, and might have curtailed the authority of swashbuckling directors, who found themselves more closely watched by safety monitors.



Death Raises Questions About On-Set Safety


MARCH 23, 2014
Richard and Elizabeth Jones, the parents of Sarah Jones, who died during the production of the film “Midnight Rider,” directed by Randall Miller. Credit David McNew/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — It took seconds for a freight train to kill Sarah Jones, a 27-year-old camera assistant who died on the set of an independent film, “Midnight Rider,” in rural Georgia on Feb. 20.

Sorting through the consequences may take years.

As Hollywood weathers the initial shock of a rare fatal accident during a film production — a candlelight walk along Sunset Boulevard was the most visible of several memorial events here and elsewhere — a complicated tangle of county, federal and private investigators is sorting through narrow questions of specific responsibility.

These questions may also address a broader issue: Can, or should, independent movie productions, ranging from no-budget student films to star vehicles underwritten by state subsidies, be more closely policed for on-set safety?

“There was clearly a disregard for some very important protocols,” said Ray Brown, president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 479 in Atlanta. “Who disregarded them, the investigations will tell.”

Colleagues at memorial services have questioned the safety of film sets. Credit David McNew/Getty Images

Mr. Brown said he was inclined at this point to see Ms. Jones’s death as “an isolated, very unfortunate incident” without wider implications. He said film shoots in Georgia, which has subsidized a growing number of productions in recent years, generally adhere to strict safety procedures that would have prevented the accident if they had been observed.

But others say film crews are being pushed too far. “As a result of apparent negligence and an entire disregard for safety and common sense, our daughter is now dead,” Ms. Jones’s parents, Richard and Elizabeth Jones, said in an email statement, underscoring a point that was made by Ms. Jones’s industry colleagues at the various memorials.

“From her unnecessary death,” the Joneses said, “a cry for safer film sets has circled the globe.”

Ultimately, debate about the possible need for more oversight will turn on the answers to basic questions about what went wrong — and those remain far from resolution.

Ms. Jones was killed while helping to prepare a shot that involved placing a bed across the tracks of a CSX railroad line near Doctortown, Ga., about 60 miles southwest of Savannah. After two trains passed, crew members on the film, a biopic about the rock musician Gregg Allman directed by Randall Miller, apparently believed they would have a safe interval to get the shot, for a dream sequence. But a third train appeared, moving at high speed through the set, killing Ms. Jones, injuring others, and nearly adding Mr. Miller to the victims.

The question of whether producers were on the tracks without permission from CSX is under examination, according to people connected with one of the various inquiries, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigations are incomplete. The inquiries, these people said, are also examining whether the railroad should have slowed or stopped the third train after the first two passed the gathered film crew — if it can be shown that railroad employees should have seen a potential for trouble. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident.

Terry Williams, a spokesman for the N.T.S.B., says his agency typically takes as long as a year to complete an investigation and develop recommendations about any proposed changes in transportation-related procedures. Jesse Lawder, an O.S.H.A. representative, says that agency only has the authority to issue citations within six months of a workplace safety violation.

Gary Sease, a spokesman for CSX, said the railroad was cooperating with investigators, but declined to comment further.

In a separate inquiry, the sheriff’s department in Wayne County, Ga., where the accident occurred, is in the middle of an investigation that could conceivably lead to criminal charges, though none had been recommended to prosecutors as of last week.

Matthew Hiltzik, a spokesman for the “Midnight Rider” production, declined to discuss the inquiries, or answer questions about how the film was financed or whether it would be completed; work on the film was suspended after Ms. Jones’s death.

The movie, in which William Hurt portrays Mr. Allman, was set for distribution in the United States by Open Road Films, but at the time of the accident it did not yet have a release date. A spokeswoman for Open Road declined to discuss the film’s future.

Mr. Miller Credit Robin Marchant/Getty Images

The director, Mr. Miller, who is also a producer of “Midnight Rider,” is now represented by Harry D. Dixon Jr., a lawyer based in Savannah who was the United States attorney for the Southern District of Georgia under the Clinton administration. The presence of Mr. Dixon, known widely as Donnie, points to the high stakes in the various inquiries into the accident.

In the last week, those inquiries have included a private investigation by Jeffrey R. Harris of Harris Penn Lowry, a Savannah law firm that was recently retained by the Jones family. Mr. Harris is expected in the next few weeks to file one or more civil complaints in connection with the accident.

Reached on Thursday, Mr. Harris declined to discuss his legal strategy, but he made clear that questions about conduct in the film industry, particularly among smaller independent operations, were not off the table.

“There’s a lot of pressure on these producers and directors to make these films under budget,” Mr. Harris said. “It would have cost them a lot more to have the railroad shut down.”

Ms. Jones’s death has recalled another on-set disaster, a helicopter crash in 1982 that killed the actor Victor Morrow and two child actors, Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen, on the set of “Twilight Zone: The Movie,” a Warner Bros. film.

After the crash, John Landis, the director of the anthology film’s prologue and the segment affected by the accident, and four co-workers were tried for manslaughter. They were acquitted, but the trial shook the film industry, and might have curtailed the authority of swashbuckling directors, who found themselves more closely watched by safety monitors.

“You became more aware of it after that,” said C. O. Erickson, a veteran line producer who spoke last week of the enhanced consciousness of safety that pervaded studio-level filmmaking after that accident.

The biggest Hollywood films, Mr. Erickson pointed out, are overseen by studio safety officers who check and crosscheck potentially hazardous situations, making an accident of the kind that killed Ms. Jones almost unthinkable. But smaller productions, Mr. Erickson said, rely heavily on the professional skills of production managers and, especially, assistant directors, who check details that might escape a harried director.

A frequent safety complaint among film crews working on both studio and independent productions centers on a common practice of demanding long work days of fourteen or more hours. The filmmaker Haskell Wexler described the hazards of long days in his 2006 documentary “Who Needs Sleep?” Among other things, he recounted how lack of sleep led to the driving death of an assistant camera operator in 1997.

Still, a vast expansion of movie and television production in states that use tax incentives to support both independent and studio films does not appear to have resulted in a rash of serious accidents like the one on “Midnight Rider.”

In Georgia, where film permits are overseen by local municipalities, state money helped to subsidize more than 140 movie and television projects in the last year, without a similar mishap, according to state officials.

For many, however, Ms. Jones has become a symbol of the need for safer sets.

A bit of street art spotted on Wilshire Boulevard here last week pointed to her new status as a kind of guardian angel for film crews. It was a yellow and black placard, in the familiar style of road signs that point toward movie locations.

The only words were “Sarah Jones.” The directions — a set of hearts and arrows — pointed straight up.

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Daily Variety: " (Locations Manager Charley ) Baxter was not at the location on the day of the accident, and none of the location unit — Baxter, assistant location manager Stephanie Humphries and location assistant Jonette Page — were called to the set that day, according to the call sheet. Baxter’s account of the events leading up to the shoot will likely reveal whether their absence was significant... Baxter, an industry yeteran, was location manager on the 1999 film “October Sky,” which featured a railroad sequence.  Art Miller, who worked as a railroad consultant on that film, calls Baxter ”a good man” who knows about working with trains. "


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And the latest news is that IA locals 80 & 728 are going to do safety seminars on May 4th:





All are apparently welcome according to this statement:




Safety Rights of Workers & Your Rights Under OSHA Class
Sunday, May 4th at 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
IATSE Local 80 Bldg.
2520 W. Olive Ave., Burbank
OSHA guarantees workers the right to a safe and healthful workplace. However, what you need to know goes deeper than this one line and many people do not understand their rights or the responsibilities of the employer. This seminar will examine Safety in the Workplace and give you a better understanding of your rights and what to do when you feel you are being placed in a hazardous situation. Topics include the employers’ responsibilities, the General Duty Clause, reporting hazards, accidents, and near misses, OSHA investigations, and your rights to: information about injuries and illnesses in your workplace; hazardous chemicals; make complaints or request correction without the fear of retribution; training; file a complain with OSHA; and participate in an OSHA inspection.
This seminar is open to all workers in the entertainment industry, so please spread the word.
Brought to you by IATSE Locals 80 and 728.
And a moment of silence:
On Workers’ Memorial Day, April 28, 2014, we ask all workers, in all IATSE Local Unions to pause and offer a moment of silence at 1:00pm, EDT/10:00 PDT on behalf of those in the entertainment industry, and all workers who have paid the ultimate price in order to support themselves and their families.
No workplace death is justifiable. No task is worth the risk of injury, no matter how small or how great. Safety is not just a word – it is an action that requires diligence, courage, and a commitment to a culture of safe work practices. Safety should always be primary in our minds.
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According to a press release by Allman before the incident, he had said something to the effect of "I have full control of the story and can veto anything I want - They are making a movie about my life, why wouldn't I want to tell it the way I want it?"

I realize I don't have the quote exactly perfect, but I'm curious... Why would he need to "beg" Miller to not proceed with this, if he has the veto power over everything? Seems odd, if he sold away all creative control of his own story.

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If that is the case, then... ICK. 


To my thinking, selling all the rights and decision making to producers like these... Is like letting your insurance company decide about your medical care, and your insurance agent / decision maker is Joe Isuzu. Slimy.

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