Three filmmakers are facing charges of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 27-year-old camera assistant from Atlanta. Sarah Jones was killed by a train while working on the set of ,em>Midnight Rider, a Greg Allman biopic.
GPB’s Savannah Bureau Chief Sarah McCammon has been covering the case, and she joined All Things Considered host Rickey Bevington to talk about the charges. Here is the transcript below:
RICKEY BEVINGTON (Host, All Things Considered): So, remind us what happened in February.
SARAH McCAMMON (GPB Savannah Bureau Chief): Well, production was getting started on the film. The plan was to shoot a dream sequence on a train bridge. And there are lots of questions about whether the filmmakers had permission to be on those tracks at all. Investigators say they did not follow the proper procedures and didn’t get the proper permits. But what happened according to multiple accounts, was they were setting up the shoot when a train came through and surprised the crew. There was a scramble to get off the tracks and Sarah Jones, the camera assistant, was killed. Several other crew members were injured.
RICKEY BEVINGTON: What are the charges now and who’s being indicted?
SARAH McCAMMON: A grand jury in Wayne County, Georgia where it happened has returned an indictment against the director Randall Miller, producers Jody Savin, and Jay Sedrish. They charges they face are involuntary manslaughter, and criminal trespass. Now that involuntary manslaughter charge carries a potential penalty of 10 years in prison. The attorneys so far are declining to comment.
RICKEY BEVINGTON: This happened near Savannah. How is this affecting the film industry on the coast and across the state?
SARAH McCAMMON: There’s really been a call for a greater focus on safety. Everybody I talked to says this never should have happened if proper procedures were followed. I talked to Michael Shortt-- he’s a longtime producer and director from the Savannah area. He wasn’t involved in this film, but he says crews everywhere are talking about Sarah Jones and talking about safety. And Michael Shortt says he’s really pleased to see these indictments and believes this isn’t a reflection of the film industry. But it’s really kind of a wake up call to the whole industry that filmmakers have to protect the safety of their crew. Especially the young ones who are eager for work, and not put themselves in danger just to get a shot.
RICKEY BEVINGTON (Host, All Things Considered): Well hopefully some good can come from this story. GPB’s Savannah bureau chief Sarah McCammon. Thanks Sarah.
SARAH McCAMMON (GPB Savannah Bureau Chief): Thank you.