Investigator: ‘Midnight Rider’ Crew Wasn’t Supposed to Be on Tracks

Investigator: 'Midnight Rider' Crew Wasn't Supposed

27-year-old camera assistant was killed Thursday on set of Gregg Allman feature

The crew of Gregg Allman biopic “Midnight Rider” was working on train tracks without permission from the railroad in Wayne County, Ga. when a train crashed into the production team, killing one and injuring seven others, an investigator said Friday.

The tracks, owned by CSX Railroad, cross private land owned by forest-products company Rayonier, which has a nearby paper mill. Joe Gardner, the lead detective on the case, said the crew had Rayonier’s permission to film on its property next to the train tracks.

“CSX has told me they were aware they were out there, but they did not have permission to be on the train tracks,” Gardner told reporters.

An eyewitness told Variety the Open Road Films drama was in its first day of shooting Thursday afternoon and the crew was filming a dream sequence on a railroad trestle when a train unexpectedly crossed the bridge.

The victim, a second camera assistant, was later identified as Sarah Jones, 27, of Atlanta.

A rep for Open Road has declined to comment on how Thursday’s fatal incident could effect the pic’s future.

The crew, including director Randall Miller, had been warned to expect two trains on the local bridge, one in each direction, and waited until after those two trains had passed to set up their shot, which involved placing a bed on the tracks. The railroad had also told the production that if any additional trains came, they’d hear a whistle about a minute before the train would reach the bridge.

A third train did arrive unexpectedly, blowing its whistle while the crew was on the bridge and the bed was on the track. Crew members ran toward their base camp, which was on land at one end of the bridge, using a plank walkway on the side of the trestle bridge. However in doing so they ran toward the bed. That proved disastrous.

Miller, who also directed the 2008 film “Bottle Shock,” and a still photographer rushed to get the bed off the tracks. Miller fell onto the tracks but the still photographer pulled him off, according to the witness, saving his life. The train was unable to stop and crossed the bridge while the crew was still on the walkway and the bed was still on the tracks.

The bed was hit by the train and shattered, sending debris flying. One large piece of debris hit Jones as she was running and knocked her onto the tracks. She was then struck by the train and killed. Debris also hit and injured several other people, including one who was seriously injured and airlifted to Savannah’s Memorial Health University Medical Center.

Another person also suffered injuries during the accident and was admitted to the hospital while at least two other people from the crew, none seriously injured, were treated in the emergency room at Wayne Memorial Hospital in Jesup, Ga. Gardner told reporters on Thursday that seven people were injured.

In addition to the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department in Jesup, Ga., near where the accident occurred, officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are conducting an investigation, according to a spokesman for the agency in Atlanta.

Starring William Hurt, Bradley Whitford, Eliza Dushku, Zoey Deutch and Tyson Ritter, “Midnight Rider” is set to be released by Open Road in the U.S.

Allman is also an executive producer on the film.

Representatives for the production did not immediately return requests for comment.

Update: Nick Gant, creative director and principal of Meddin Studios in Savannah, which is working with the production, said via email:

“This is not guerrilla film making or a group of indie film makers trying to grab a shot. It was weeks of communications and scouting multiple places. You had to have access to get onto the site. We have 20-30 year veterans in all the departments, crew is extremely qualified, cast trailers were transporter, location was almost 90 minutes away… No corners were cut.”

“CSX will say what they want because they can retract their statement in 6 months and it will have no press around it.

“We are spending too much time trying to place blame on a horrific accident. Sarah’s actions probably saved other peoples lives. The crew, our families and our community are very tight. We are able to hand select who we are going to spend long days and weeks together. Sarah and every crew members were friends, family and professionals at what they did.

“We need to celebrate their accomplishments, their lives and support their families as we move forward.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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  1. Greg Bridges says:

    As a retired Local 80 Grip, I have, from time to time, worked under precarious situations. It’s our job to rig something to make it safe for our fellow crew members safety. But, in this case, someone dropped the ball! Joe Leonard, the lead detective said, CSX did NOT give permission to be on the tracks. Heads should roll,,from top to bottom! No passing the buck, period. This is so sad and it hurts! My heartfelt condolences to Sarah’s family & friends. Greg Bridges

  2. Case Study says:

    Quoting Nick Gant, “We are able to hand select who we are going to spend long days and weeks together.” Is that a threat?

  3. Keith Currie : member iatse 849 says:

    It is very difficult for the individual crew member to speak up when and if they are put in a situation of potential risk especially if department heads don’t admit the risk is real. There is a very good chance that in speaking up, you will be overlooked on the next one. Its really a very small industry and rumour and innuendo can ruin your chances to work in it. Most people, myself included, can’t being themselves to do it.
    The notion that “we are a family” pervades film. I have a family. Id like to go home to them safely at the end of the day. I prefer respect. shoot based on mutual respect accomplishes the same end and you don’t need to” like” everyone involved, only show respect for them and the job they do.
    Film crews work in a high risk occupation. The job is really all about managing that risk. Nothing should die to get a film made, not an animal and certainly not a human being.
    What happened to this young woman is tragic. Tragic that it happened, tragic because it should not have happened and especially tragic because the risk was not recognized as real in the pre production phase. It foolish to think that this young woman or anyone on that bridge for that matter, had any real option to say no and keep working. The bottom line is merciless.

    • bb says:

      Why is it hard to speak up for yourself? I do it all the time. I have taken myself out of harms way over and over and over again. I am constantly shaking my head at people in this industry who put themselves in harms way instead of saying no. if you know you are being put in a dangerous situation you are just as responsible for your injuries as the person who’s job it is to enforce safety protocol.

      • location man says:

        Think of the investigation like the Nuremberg trials. There will be a separation of those who were giving orders, and those who were taking orders. Otherwise, every Nazi soldier would have been on trial. The prosecutors and investigators are right now distinguishing between who “commanded” the crew to be on a live track without permission, and who were “the soldiers” who paid the price for that decision. Had Sarah Jones been hurt instead of killed, this story might have been glossed over as a local news event. As Aaron Sorkin said about Phil Hoffman, his death saved ten lives (by bringing attention to addiction). I like to think that Sarah Jones’ death has saved a hundred.

        It’s an unfortunate reality of our business that “speaking up for yourself” can get you fired. It’s been reported that the location manager Charlie Baxter did speak up, and they proceeded anyway — so he refused to be a part of it. I’ve had the situation arise myself, and the chain-of-command then falls to other department heads (in this case, trained DGA members and IATSE if you include the DP, whom Sarah Jones reported to). Ultimately your producer/director is your General.

        The safety protocol existed, it’s simply that those higher up in the chain-of-command disregarded it.

  4. karl1459 says:

    Looking at the comments I see a great outpouring of constructive comments. As a volunteer firefighter and railfan I will step in with a couple of ideas.

    First is the concept of a “safety officer” within the “Incident Command System” used by most firefighting agencies. The Safety Officer is involved in the planning of operations to assure that all issues relating to safety such as protective gear etc is addressed. Most importantly the Safety Officer has the authority and responsibility to STOP any action which is is or may become immediatly dangerous.

    Having a Safety Officer on ALL shoots may be as step in the right direction.

    • John Weeks says:

      Good idea, but what we are all failing to remember is that a safety expert is already MANDATED on train shoots; both by the railroad and the studios.
      This incident is what happens when people fail to follow directions.

      Director, producer, department heads, whoever…..all are ultimately responsible.
      The crew members down in the trenches all depend on the higher-ups to do their jobs. Needless to say, they will share in that responsibility from now on.
      Why, just on my show today the crew balked at a safety issue….BAM, crisis solved.

      If producers want to lie for the camera, they will only be making their upcoming defense that much harder.
      Hard to believe the lawyers representing those knuckleheads (Gant et al.)can’t get them to shut their pie-holes for even a damn second. I say let them go on talking.

      Now, if it turns out that they DID have proper authorizations then……it’s a whole new ballgame of blame.

  5. m corwin says:


  6. Jim says:

    And CSX doesn’t have years and years of experience? If the filming crew was so experienced, why didn’t they have a train spotter one mile up each way, radios, flagmen, etc? This isn’t an obscure shortline (like where there is a great location about 30 miles East). It’s a very busy mainline with trains that can run every 20 minutes. Yes, despite 30 years, corners were cut, and the experience wasn’t enough. A freight train takes between 1/2 and 1 mile to stop – provided they can even see that far ahead. A professional, safety conscious crew would have had a rep from CSX with them.

  7. JanieJ says:

    Here’s a heartbreaking recollection of the event from camera assistant Tony Summerlin: “Midnight Rider” crew had discussed train safety, colleague recalls

  8. anonymous says:

    From the AMPTP’s Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee website, you can download safety bulletin #28, “Guidelines for Railroad Safety” (last revised April 17, 2013), which clearly states (pg 3, item #14): “Do not place any objects on the rails, switches, guardrails or other parts of the track structure. If the performance of any of these activities is required for production purposes, specific permission must be obtained from the designated railroad representative and additional safety precautions may be required.” (link: )

  9. Michael Berryman says:

    First my prayers to her family……Now I must speak: I have been in the industry almost 40 years. I was the Skull Cowboy from The Crow with Brandon Lee. When you cut corners and are not thorough..people die’. To all Directors and Producers from Exec. to Line….Always remember: Safety Is Rule One!!!
    Protect the Family, our fellow Artists and Crew. Then will you have a Joyful “It’s A Wrap” I pray this never happens again. Completely avoidable..I am Michael Berryman

  10. equipment guy says:

    John Weeks is right, most Producers I’ve worked with are in the production office miles away after the shoot starts. They lined up the permits and as a Director it’s my location to shoot with my DP and 1st AD helping me organize things. That camera gets moved where I want it and or my shot selection dictates. I know there are many different experiences out there but I’m still wondering why the hell this Director let this shot get set up on HIS set.

  11. John Weeks says:

    Why is everyone so quick to damn the producers? There is very little chance that a producer was even there.
    Who WAS there was the director. Directors want to bask in the acclaim of THEIR film when it opens, I suggest this one do his basking in jail.
    The director is the captain of the ship and, no doubt, he tried to steal the shot.

    In my career in the film industry I’ve been around when some of the stupidest shit you can imagine has taken place.
    Most of the stupid stuff reflects poorly on department heads. Occasionally the tone of the production, set by the producers, is to blame. In this situation, the leader was the director.
    I suggest he take his credits now.

  12. kc says:

    As a director. I shoot a series in GA and recently wanted to shoot a scene that was on a sidewalk in town, separated by a parking lot but within less than 20 feet ( or whatever the limit was) of live train tracks and on the location scout, I was informed that I couldn’t shoot on that sidewalk because it was within the limit of a live train track. There was no discussion. I was just told NO! I was bummed because I really liked the look and had to move to a different spot that I didn’t like nearly as much. Of course, there was no question. Safety first! Period! This is why I can’t understand how/why they were shooting on live train tracks.

  13. Mark Rimmell says:

    There is absolutely no way that this accident should have occurred..However professional the producer may say his team were someone made that fatal mistake..When I worked in the industry it was ‘Check,check and check again’….To film on a working line was crass stupidity. To think that one minutes warning was sufficient to clear the track was sheer madness…..Nick Gant may utter those words of support,sympathy but in the end the buck stops at his door..

  14. Marilyn Parker says:

    If you are a soldier and you die in battle protecting our freedom, you are a hero; if you are a fireman and die fighting a fire and saving lives, you are a hero; if you are a police officer and you die in the line of duty, you are a hero. To be responsible for a person being injured or causing their death while filming a movie is a CRIME and the CRIMINALS should be charged accordingly.

  15. ronnie says:

    There is nothing good about this tragedy. I just hope that producers and production companies realize that safety is the number one priority on set and you don’t skimp on it to save on the budget. And maybe a few more crew members will remember to stand up for themselves if they feel a situation on set is not safe, but also become more vocal in their union regarding it so they don’t fear being blackballed.

  16. Scherminator says:

    I know this: To have permission to be present on at live track, at anytime, the must be an engineer and a flagman present. If those employees were not present, there was not permission given. It the crew on the track was not certified, as per federal regulation – permission was not given. Corners, we most definitely cut and this statement, fairly, proves it.

    Worse than negligence causing a tragic death, this is a symptom of a deeper sociopathy , present and rampant in our industry. One where, in a tight and competitive environment, people are afraid to say NO to the things they should say no to.Because…you WILL get blackballed by some dickhead producer for “going against the grain” or “complaining” about unfair, unhealthy, and unsafe conditions that crew is CONSTANTLY being put under – whether it’s the drive home after a 16 hour day – or failure to properly obtain safe access to the railway.

    • JFitz says:

      Thank you for this. My young child had a small role at an out-of-state movie location. After the day’s shoot, we were instructed to quickly get into an 18-seat van for a ride to the train station. As several others piled in, the driver shot out of the location’s parking lot and onto a winding road. The driver did not wait for seatbelts to be found or buckled, my child’s seat had no seatbelt, and the van was being driven so aggressively (so someone didn’t miss his train) that I was afraid a request to stop and let us out would cause a crash. Another actor and I frantically hoisted my son over the seatback and onto a seat that had a seatbelt, got it buckled, and hung on to our own seats. Most of the other passengers just laughed at the crazy ride; they seemed to feel that this lack of concern for personal safety is part of the business. I’m a firefighter and love adrenaline rushes/speed, but this was a completely unnecessary risk that could have caused the deaths of a dozen talented, kind people. I’m glad to hear that some in the industry care as much about safety as they do about their craft.

  17. Christopher Green says:

    There are no accidents on movie sets, only negligence :-(

  18. Sean Lyons says:

    20 to 30 veterans (17 listed on imdb) with 12 producers according to imdb, 12 with little or no experience listed on imdb. those 20 were counting on you to make sure they were safe. but unfortunately looks more like you were worried about money, oh wait you had cast trailers so that make’s it ok.

  19. KeithAP says:

    The production report will (or should) clearly state whether the 1st AD held a safety meeting prior to the day’s shoot…

  20. John Lincoln says:

    i’d like to clear up a few things here
    1. While CSX had knowledge that a film crew was working in the vicinity,they obviously didn’t know said crew would be FOULING the track(S)’. When you foul tracks without permission,you are TRESPASSING.
    2. Permission must be applied for well in advance of the date(s) you want to work, This is so a conductor/flagman can be scheduled. It is also so the said work area will be listed in the Daily Bulletin Order. The bulletin will have the date,time and limits of the work area. All trains traveling in the vicinity of said work area must approach the outer limits of the area PREPARED TO STOP,unless told otherwise by the conductor/flagman.
    3. Permission to foul tracks must be obtained from the conductor/flagman. failure to do so will have the work zoned closed and will have the entire crew escorted off the property.
    4. Always remember,when the engineer sees you it’s already too late,and in case of a tie,the train ALWAYS wins.

  21. H. says:

    The following are excerpts from our Film Industry Safety Guidelines-Bulletin #28-Railroads….

    “There are strict rules governing rail work. These rules must be communicated to and followed by all cast and crew. Check with the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) and with the owner/operator for local regulations, specific guidelines, and required training. Additionally, each railroad property or transportation agency may have its own rules and training requirements. In many cases, everyone must receive training.”

    “Prior to starting rail work, the Production, in conjunction with the railroad representative, will conduct a safety meeting with all involved personnel to acquaint cast and crew members with possible workplace risks.”

    “Do not place any objects on the rails, switches, guardrails or other parts of the track structure. If the performance of any of these activities is required for production purposes, specific permission must be obtained from the designated railroad representative and additional safety precautions may be required.”

    Nick Gant’s credit list on imdb and his public statement on this incident speak for themselves. To echo many of the comments posted for this story, I know I speak for hundreds in the film community when I say this was totally preventable and simply would not have happened had the normal railroad filming procedures been in place. I have worked on several railroad shoots, as well as shoots on aircraft carriers, runways, taxiways, roadways, etc.-all without incident. Reps from the controlling agencies control the film crew’s every move and no margin of error is allowed. Inbound trains are always tracked and announced well in advance. There is no such thing as an “unexpected” train and even if there had been, there would have certainly been a predetermined, quick and safe escape position in place. Shameful….

  22. john says:

    This is beyond reckless. You don’t set up on a street where you don’t control traffic, you sure as **** shouldn’t be setting up on a train track, must less a bridge, without any more than “you’ll have 60 seconds”.

  23. Just Alex says:

    The one minute warning was not enough and the fact that it relied on the train to deliver the warning is not acceptable, either. Has anyone addressed if once the train whistle was heard everyone knew from which direction the train was coming? Is it the assistant director’s position to ensure safety and safety protocol?

    • If the production had permission to be on the tracks, the train company would have provided a lot more guidance and warning on the day of the shoot. They know when and where the trains are at all times, and they would have been responsible for communicating that information to the AD department while the shoot was going on. The production company was not qualified or authorized to provide that kind of information, it was their responsibility to contact the train company and comply with their (extremely strict) rules and regulations, and this production company simply did not do that.

      • Sandy says:

        I read that there was no permission to be on the tracks but they could be next to the tracks………. still sounds like someone took a liberty they were not allowed and it caused this. Unless you have a back lot and make your OWN train scenery…… you get what you get.

  24. I have worked on several feature films as a location manager that involved being on train tracks and I can tell you with 100% certainty this crew did not have permission to be on those tracks. CSX is extremely clear about what you can and cannot do on their tracks, and if this crew had permission to film there, CSX would have had a representative on site all day, there would be P.A.s with radios stationed a mile down the tracks in each direction, and a ton of permits and paperwork would have had to be filled out weeks in advance, detailing EXACTLY what you can and can’t do. This production company tried to pull a fast one by sidestepping the proper procedures and it cost someone’s life.

    • It appears that you’re probably right, Mike. And if so, this is a true tragedy that could have been have been avoided. It would be very interesting to see the permits and contracts—-if they didn’t state clearly that they were going to be on the tracks (as they should have stated explicitly), then there was some serious negligence at play.

  25. John DeFazio says:

    Nick Gant: When you say “This is not gorilla film making or a group of indie film makers ” you are clearly delusional. If that were true then Sarah would be alive today. Your company and the people you employed are the epitome of amateur “Indie” filmmakers. You claim that there was “weeks of communication” however in these weeks of communication you failed to get permission to shoot on the tracks and you failed to know that a third train was coming. Clearly amateur and legligent. Looking forward to reading about the lawsuits that follow.

  26. Kelly Clear says:

    I have been in the film business most of my adult life.
    In the mid 90’s I was the Chief Lighting Technician on a feature film shot in Nashville Tenn. We had a scene with a train crossing a bridge over a river at night. Oddly CSX was the railroad. From the time of planning through rigging the bridge with lights to the actual shooting of the scene CSX had a representative with us the entire time. At no time were any of the crew allowed on that bridge without permission from the CSX rep.
    The shot went off perfectly and no one was ever in peril or injured during the shoot.
    Needless to say this is a case of gross negligence by the production company and those in their employ to have even put any one member of the crew at risk.
    I worked briefly this last fall with Sarah,
    She was a wonderful vibrant young woman who is already missed and mourned by many of us here in Atlanta.

  27. Howard Beale says:

    IMDB lists 8 ‘Executive Producers’, 2 ‘Producers’ and 2 ‘Co Producers’ yet strangely no Location Manager?

    • rebeccameme says:

      They have a locations Manager. The same one they used for CBGB.

      • JB says:

        The location manager was not present, as this was preproduction and not a shoot day. The location manager, a 30 year + vet of major motion pictures, is someone I would trust with my life. His reputation for dotting every “i” and having every last detail locked down is sterling. I have been in many prepro meetings with him when difficult or SFX – heavy locations and set-ups were discussed and he was always militant about the safety of crew and cast. He NEVER cuts corners with ensuring the proper permits and authorities were involved and is an excellent communicator. The producers and director knew full well CSX did not grant permission. I have no doubt the director and producers were lying to the skeleton crew and cast they were using that day, and that they were stealing a shot they’d been previously told was not legally possible.

  28. John says:

    This is a real tragedy , and hopefully not a case of “safety first ,time permitting”. We stopped using ride on cranes and went to remote heads because they were safer. In an age of Vfx and green screens which are both effective and economical , do we really need to put crew and cast in these situations?My condolences to all involved.

    • Christopher Green says:

      Well said John. If you add up all the crew killed on cranes from; say, 1920 to 2000 and divide by 80 (years), then multiply by 14 (years that remote-heads have been ubiquitous), that is the number of people who are not dead today due to the prudent adoption of safer technology. I don’t know what that number is, but I’m sure every one of us is either in or knows a friend or loved-one in that group. Not using availiable tech such as a walkie-equipped flagman or PA raises the degree of negligence to a criminal level.

  29. Stephan Stomberg says:

    this is tremendously sad. As both an independent filmmaker and a railroad engineer, this hits me two ways. I have been involved in a accident that resulted in a fatality while operating a train. One thing that goes unasked often in situations like these is the impact of these incidents on the rail crew. I hope everyone involved gets the help they need to work through the guilt and pain (deserved or not) they are no doubt dealing with right now.

    • John Lincoln says:

      you are absolutely correct,nobodyg ives a damn about the crew and the rr co’s generally expect the crew to resume the trip after the body(s) are cleared and preliminary statements are given. Bet you can guess which RR I retired from….lol

  30. Chip says:

    I have worked in televison and film for almost thirty years. I can tell you without hesitation that MOST directors and cinematographers are selfish egomaniacs who simply expect the entire world to accomondate their “artistic vision.” These people will not hesitate for one instant to trespass, violate safety laws and regulations, and put cast, crew, and anyone else nearby in danger.

    They are not necessarily malicious, just immature and utterly self-absorbed. When you factor in the lack of real-world awareness of (often) drug-addicted people who live in fantasy lands inside their heads, tragedies happen… and yes, some of the most often-uttered phrases you will hear from “management” on a set are “it’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission, ha ha ha!” along with “this is not an OSHA-approved work site, ha ha ha!” and “safety, schmafety!”

    Which, of course, brings up the supreme hypocrisy you will encounter in the world of film and television production. It is an industry populated with an over-abundance of politically left-leaning people who fancy themselves to be enlightened and compassionate, and who rant and rave and march against “evil” abusive corporations that “exploit the workers”… yet behave likthen turn around and behave like abusive monsters on set, screaming and yelling at crew, driving them on 18+ hour days then try to wiggle out of paying overtime, ignoring or violating safety laws and regs, and all too often get away with abusive antics that would never be tolerated at any legitimate factory or other workplace. The hypocrisy is stunning, but all too often cast and crew go along with it, willing to do or say anything to curry favor with those who hire, or at the least just afraid of getting fired off the crew.

    I know, because as a younger person I shut up and went along with it. Eventually I learned to stand up for myself and get myself fired a few times, instead of killed. No film, televison commercial, web ad, documentary, or entertainment show is worth anyone’s life… but try telling that to the “great artists” in management.

    • 1stAD says:

      I’m an AD and I could not agree more. I’ve had directors go behind my back to get dangerous shots because they knew I would say no and physically put a stop to everything. I’ve been reprimanded for calling out producers and directors for safety violations, told to keep my mouth shut or I’ll lose my job, I’ve had one laugh in my face about a particular situation involving cops pulling over crew members at gunpoint. There are some producers and directors out there who really should be locked up for a very very long time.

      I did not get the pleasure of working with Sarah, but I’m sending out all my condolences to all those who knew and loved her. This is the most heartbreaking situation I’ve heard of in a long time and it’s despicable. That producer should spend his days rotting in jail, not running shows.

    • Lauren says:

      If this is the Chip I know, that is why I always know I am in good hands when you’re on set. You are a pro and speak up for the safety of your guys and the entire crew. I also know a few of the folks who were on this shoot and can’t imagine they’d go along with this without some sort of reassurance. Hoping to hear the truth of what really happened.

    • Name Withheld says:

      Chip, you are exactly right! I could not agree with you more and have seen these very actions you talk about with directors and cinematographers being egomaniancs and the worst of hypocrites! It saddens me that “that” kind of behavior is okay in the world of entertainment (and politics alike), but it would be morally and ethically wrong and there would be consequences in any other industry. It sickens me to the core and I’ve seen it all to many times. And if you speak up or try to say anything, you get fired on the spot!!! Sadly, no-one truly knows what goes on in the entertainment industry behind-the-scenes until they’ve worked in it. Sarah will never be forgotten. God rest her soul. ♥ (worked with her on the set of “Army Wives”).

    • Geoff Drake says:

      MAGNIFIQUE!!! Perfectly said!

    • John DeFazio says:

      Well said ! this is one of the greatest things i have ever read. Very true.

  31. M33 says:

    NO Railroad company allows anyone to shoot or even walk on an enclosed bridge on live tracks EVER!!! Even if they allowed shooting on the open part of the tracks, there would be so many safety protocols involved in arranging a shoot like this. Safety infrastructure that would have given the crew at least a 10-15 minute warning before any trains coming anywhere near the area, direct contact with the train operators and traffic control, law enforcement officers and a formal, written permit to allow them on the tracks, production insurance and bonding companies would require it, and at the very least, CSX would have required Meddin to pay for railroad employees to supervise. The railroad company probably told Meddin Studios that trains were coming by because of the sound interference.

  32. stan47 says:

    “Gorilla film making?” Can that guy really be that stupid?

  33. Carolyn says:

    Having a daughter that also works in the film industry in Georgia makes this especially hard to read. To think that the management of the crew would have allowed something so irresponsible is outrageous. My sincerest condolences to her family. What a senseless loss!!! I hope Gregg just shuts it down. I know I could never watch it.

  34. Iconoclast says:

    If the film crew was under the impression to wait on 2 trains to go by, but were surprised by a third train, that tells me there was some form of communications between the film crew and someone at the railroad dispatch center. Sounds like a genuine mix-up in communications, where the film crew thought they would have permission and didn’t. Sounds to me the railroad is retreating to a legal safe zone of “they didn’t have permission” while indeed there was some coordination between railroad and film crew prior to the accident. Don’t vilify the director as some cowboy just yet, he may has mistakenly thought he had a legitimate green light.

    • Scherminator says:

      Don’t believe that for a second. no rep = no permission. Simple as that. They lied. She died.

    • 1stAD says:

      To film on any tracks requires a rep from the railroad company to oversee everything from set up to wrap. There was no rep on the premises, which means their permit was not for the tracks. This was a producer being stupid and leading his crew on to believe they had the proper permit to be on the track. It’s disgusting.

    • Dave W. says:

      “…some form of communications between the film crew and someone at the railroad dispatch center.” ~~~
      Wrong. There would not have been ANY communication between a film crew member and a CSX dispatcher. Had the production company acquired permission to be where they were, which we now know they had not, any and all communicating would have first been between a film crew member and an onsite CSX flagger/employee who himself/herself would have been in contact with CSX train control and would have had full charge and authority over the track limits being filmed within. It didn’t happen this way because no track authority was ever issued by a CSX dispatcher and no individual or group had permission to be ON CSX property. Class 1 railroads are not in the habit of saying to anyone “well, okay, you can fool around on our right of way, but, just don’t get on the tracks… okay?” Someone of authority within the production company/film crew evidently made the incredibly stupid, irresponsible and negligent decision to place a large object on a live main line and to then give a group of people in his/her charge a directive to commence work upon and/or around that live main line. The result of those actions was the death of a film crew member, making the decision, judgment and actions of that individual homicidal.

    • Alex A says:

      You don’t know what you’re talking about.

      • Scherminator says:

        Actually – They are 100% correct. I speak from experience shooting movies on a live track. Dave W. Nailed it. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

    • S.C says:

      If they had CSX permission to be on the track, a rep from CSX would of been present on set. Any crew in any field that has to cross a line has to have a rep present.

  35. Rich Carl says:

    Rule #1, expect a train on any track at any time…

    • Mike says:

      Exactly. I have this in my head so securely that I even look both ways when crossing a long out-of-service track near my office building. It is so out of service that the track does not connect to anything once it crosses the street, any train going that way would be getting dumped into the Allegheny river!

  36. equipment guy says:

    Just came off a project as Director and the better saying to keep in mind instead of “asking forgiveness later” which a lot of crews run on is the saying “it’s only an f*#ing film” and no one should be hurt doing this. The gung hoe attitude to stealing dangerous shots is something I saw coming up many times. It usually resulted in an injury of someone who was not in that decision making chain (think poor Sarah on this project who had no say on this shot or the children and Vic Marrow in the Twilight zone accident). Blame is going to get thrown everywhere on this but as a Director I am in charge of my set and where every shot is going to be, this is where I think you have to go for answers, buck stops at the Director.

    • Lauren says:

      Clay, I’ve seen producers shut a set down for the safety of the crew ( and also to prevent more meal penalties and overtime, but safety was also a factor)…Producers have the power and the say to do so and need to use it more often, because I’ve definitely been put in some unsafe situations on set. I will be more vocal than I already am from now on. That’s for sure.

    • M33 says:

      Unless you’re Spielberg or Tarantino, the Producer has the ultimate say and I don’t care who asks for a shot, if it endangers lives through blatant negligence, the production services company can say NO, we are NOT endangering the lives of our crew on that bridge.

      • Karen says:

        I am sorry, claymatthewshairplugs. M33 IS right. As someone who has worked for years on high budget films, that IS the FINAL responsibility of the producers. The safety of the crew falls on many shoulders, and yes, directors, especially heavy hitting ones, will call the shots or push the limits and break the rules, but at the end of the day, in this situation, it is the producers who have the final power to say no and veto this terrible disregard for crew safety. It sounds like you’re suggesting that M33 is saying the producers help decide the shot. Artistically of course not, no it is the director and the DP who control this. But when it comes to the legality of shooting locations and crew safety the responsibility lies with the shop steward, the UPM, the 1st AD, and most importantly the producers. This is what they get paid for.

      • Equipment guy is correct. The director always has final say. The producers have input but the director is always in charge of the shot and set in general. As a fellow who has worked and works constantly with a very high profile director, I know for a FACT that a majority of the directors call the shots and MOST of them are concerned about safety. To me it seems like they were trying to steal a shot and poor old Sarah Jones become a tragic victim of poor planning and miscommunication. The director should answer for this as at the end of the day, like it or not he/she is the one that calls the shots.

  37. J.E. Vizzusi says:

    Learning shot setups with storyboards and shotlists that are in real time in a vital instrument in getting the shots you need and also keeping safety first in unsafe conditions. Every set need stunt coordinators that can step in and over-ride Directors that may be overzelous in trying to get that perfect shot. And whomever signed the Location permits must read the script sides and realize what is happening scene for scene. The basic
    mechanics of filmmaking if in play here, everyone comes out getting what they need. This is a terrible
    tragedy that should not have happened.

  38. Zack Lazar says:

    I’ve been in the film business for 17 years. I’ve heard the phrase “it’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission” many times. Usually that’s followed up with an act of carelessness. This seems like one of those situations. The outcome is tragic, senseless and totally avoidable. I feel terrible for everyone involved.

  39. M33 says:

    Meddin Studios should be held responsible for this blatant negligence.

  40. Property Hound says:

    I would like to know if there was a safety meeting before the day started. Usually, a mandatory safety meeting is required. At these meetings crew is usually told to mind there surroundings and speak up if they do not think they are safe. A PA is usually stationed and armed with a walkie to notify production. Also, local police should have been monitoring train activity. They’re so many safety protocols that were certainly passed. This unfortunate and appalling accident could have been avoided.
    Whose to blame: 1. Production-not ensuring the safety of crew via mandatory safety
    meeting, lockdown PA’s stationed at reasonable distances on both
    ends of the tressle
    2. Local police-not monitoring train activity
    3. CSX-knowing they were filming near the tracks
    They obviously acknowledge they knew they were there, would t.   they still blow the whistle a min. before if there wasn’t a film?

    • Mjkbk says:

      Just because CSX knew that a film was being shot near their tracks doesn’t mean they knew it was being shot ON the tracks. They probably provide train schedule and whistle info as a courtesy, in case filmmakers need advance notice of unwanted train noise, for example. If they say there was no permission for actual track usage, then there likely was none requested.

      Of all the crazy things–not understanding the possibility of unscheduled or off-schedule trains …..and thinking a one-minute whistle warning is enough to clear set and crew safely from a TRESTLE, of all places!

      • John Lincoln says:

        If there was no conductor present,there was no permission to occupy any tracks. See my post above for what is needed to be on or near tracks. BTW,I am a retired locomotive engineer with 33yrs. experience

  41. Journalism all over the country is in decline, its called a railroad, or railway, railroad track is acceptable, train tracks is what young children say, how is it so many writers use this incorrect terminology, animals leave tracks, ( deer tracks, rabbit tracks, ect) trains operate on railroads.

  42. elmustardo says:

    Also, nice plug for the movie at the end. Classy.

  43. elmustardo says:

    This is what happens when your production doesn’t do what is necessary to protect their crew. Who dropped the buck here? A young woman is dead because this film “needed” to shoot a scene in a dangerous location without gaining enough information on how to keep their crew safe. It’s a shame Sarah had to die running from a train on a bridge in sheer terror because somebody didn’t post a few PA’s along the tracks several miles in each direction with a cell phone.

  44. Caitlin Machak says:

    Out of respect for Sarah and her family, I hope you will remove the credits of actors, executive producers, and the distribution company set to release the film. It demeans this terrible tragedy.

    • Karen says:

      it looks to me that there’s enough blame to go around that ultimately killed this young lady!
      Was the production company at fault because they didn’t have someone stationed at either end of the bridge (with a walkie!) to call the crew just in CASE , someone at the Train dropped the ‘ball’?
      or was it the production director who didn’t make the crew understand that there WAS some danger, so to be ‘alert’ at all times.? (safety meeting?)
      The local D.O.T. should have been aware of the project too! If they dropped the ball then The State of Georgia needs to be on the short list of who’s getting sued!

      • Alex A says:

        How could have CSX “dropped the ball” if they never gave permission for them to film on the tracks? Think a little… They are a class-one railway that does things by the book. The production and any management present are 100% responsible.

  45. Chuck Moran says:

    This story makes me so sad. It also makes me very angry. I have worked in the film business for a long time and I have seen these kinds of situations countless times. I love my job, but as I always say, We aren’t saving lives here. In this case, the producers of this film TOOK a life. They set up a seriously dangerous situation and did it in a very reprehensible way. Being on train tracks is no joke. On set, we are all used to following orders and doing what we are told, but someone should have stepped up and said no. I don’t know how these producers will be able to look themselves in a mirror, much less look Sarah Jones’ family in the eye. If they can, then they are everything that is wrong with producers. I would urge anyone in any job to speak up if you see something unsafe happening. The producers on this film failed Sarah. I didn’t know her, but I could have. My wife works as a camera assistant. This could have happened to her. I really feel for Sarah’s family. My prayers are with them. Sarah will always be a reminder to me to be safe and look out for my fellows. And most of all, to speak up.

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