Sheriff’s Report: ‘Midnight Rider’ Was Denied Railroad Permit, According to CSX Email

Midnight Rider accident: Sherriff's report says

Exec producer replied "That's complicated" to question about permission, says report

The sheriff’s office of Wayne County, Ga., released an incident report that suggests the production company did not have permission from CSX to shoot a scene on a train trestle and in fact may have been denied such clearance.

In the incident report, released  to local reporters on Monday, Wayne County Sheriff Sergeant Ben Robertson writes that he witnessed a conversation between executive producer Jay Sedrish and and employee of CSX. “In my presence, Mr. Sedrish was asked by an employee of CSX if he had permission to be on the trestle or tracks and Mr. Sedrish replied, ‘That’s complicated.’

“According to the CSX employee, the production company had previously been denied permission to film on the trestle, and there was electronic correspondence to verify that fact,” Robertson wrote.

According to the incident report, the e-mail was between location manager Charlie Baxter and CSX employee Carla Groleau.

Sarah Jones was killed when a train unexpectedly arrived at the location on Thursday, when the production crew was planning a scene in which a mattress was laid out across the tracks. Seven other people were injured.

Meanwhile, the production company behind “Midnight Rider” has withdrawn its requests for permits to shoot in the Savannah area this week, a local official said on Monday.

William Hammargren, interim film services administrator for the city of Savannah Film Office, said that the project was scheduled to begin shooting in the area on Monday and the production company had several pending permit requests, but retracted all of them on Sunday.

“We have not issued them any permits and currently have no pending permit requests from the project,” he said.

Unclaimed Freight Prods. is the production company and Open Road Films is the distributor.

Meanwhile, Steven Poster, president of International Cinematographers Guild Local 600, of which Jones was a member, issued a statement in which he said, “Local 600’s membership and IATSE members across the country are mourning the loss of Sarah Jones, a 27-year old camera assistant, who died in a tragic accident last Thursday while shooting on the set of “Midnight Rider” in Savannah, Georgia. Sarah was a smart, talented camera assistant with an infectious personality and a promising career ahead of her.

“When Locals 600 and 491 received the call about the accident on late Thursday afternoon (local time), we immediately sent representatives to the site. We are cooperating with ongoing government investigations including OSHA, and NTSB and the Local Sheriff’s office and we are providing grief counseling for the crew.

“The safety of our crews is of paramount importance to this union and we will work tirelessly to ensure that a tragedy of this kind never happens again.There is no way we can mitigate the pain and the loss of Sarah. But we hope that something good can come out of this very unfortunate situation. It will surely shape our talks with producers in the future. There will be memorials across the country to honor the memory of beloved member, Sarah Jones.”

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  1. Carol Ann says:

    TRANSPORTATION SAFETY CHLORINE
    Please help First Responders ask federal administrations to consider adding secondary containment to rail tank cars used to transport chlorine gas, providing lifesaving safety to First Responders and the public they serve. See First Responders Comments at PETITION C KIT.

  2. anon says:

    I read in a article Gregg said he wanted Had Vito power over the whole movie does that leave him with any responsibility? I bet he feels really bad about it, its sad

  3. Safety Last says:

    What kind of idiot tries to steal a shot on an operating train trestle? Shame on the director and producers for putting their crew in harm’s way.

    • camoperator says:

      This doesnt appear to me to be a typical ‘steal a shot’ incident.

      The production had access by CSX onto the tracks.

      CSX had personel on site – as was noted on the police report.

      CSX had given the crew a schedule – which apparently did not include the 3rd train.

      There was a full crew and trailer support.

      This was not a guy with a cam setting up an unauthorized shot.

      A very professional organization and crew with permission to be where they were but given bad information on schedules.

      So your comment is unsubstantiated and only serves to add to the dis information that surrounds this incident.

      • Tracy Facelli says:

        I’m not sure where you are getting your information, but everything you have said us the exact opposite of the evidence in this case. CSX has produced several emails that substantiate they said no repeatedly to the production shooting on the tracks.
        The property adjacent to the tracks is owned by a local lumber mill. The production had permission to be in the area near the tracks, but they were denied permission to shoot on the tracks.
        Did you even read the headline to this article? Or are you part if the production company trying to help cover your butt?

  4. Reality Check says:

    Everybody in the industry follows the two unwritten rules:

    1. “The show must go on”; therefore, production will continue (eventually).
    2. “You’ll never work in this town again.” So if anyone would have balked or refused to participate in this shoot, they would be fired and blackballed in the film community.

    Reply logically any way you want, but these are steadfast rules that have governed Hollywood since its inception.

    Here’s a third quote from the best movie ever made, The Godfather, Part 2: THIS IS THE BUSINESS WE’VE CHOSEN.

    • uninvolvedandpartialtofactsnotconjecture says:

      This comment is symptomatic of the self righteous gibberish that seems to accompany these open and un edited ‘comment’ forums.

  5. Brad says:

    I understand from a spouce of a crew member that the grief councilor Unclaimed Freight brought in is telling the crew that ‘completing the film is a good way to bring about closure for them’

  6. Localite says:

    An article published today in an Atlanta magazine included an interview with a cameraman Tony Summerlin), who was working alongside Sarah Jones when the incident occurred:

    http://www.accessatlanta.com/weblogs/buzz/2014/feb/25/midnight-rider-crew-had-discussed-train-safety-col/

    An excerpt:
    The first train came by around 3:20 p.m., the second one about 15 minutes later, he recalled. The third train, the one that struck Jones, came through about 20 minutes after that, he recalled.
    “It was going full speed. It seemed like it took half a mile to stop,” he said. “We were running. She said, ‘I can’t carry all this stuff.’ I said, ‘Throw it. Throw it down.'” Tragically, she was not able to get out of the way in time.

    “She and I were face to face up to the last second,” said Summerlin, who said he planned to speak with a grief counselor. “Possibly it’s going to be hard to work again. It will be with me forever.”
    Asked if the crew had secured proper permitting to film in the track he said, “As a camera person you don’t show up and ask, ‘where’s the permit?’ You’re trying to make a movie. You’re thinking safety but you’re thinking that’s someone else’s job.”

  7. Donna white says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this. May God be with her family, friends and coworkers. Donna 479

  8. KIRT DOW says:

    IT IS A TERRIBLE THING TO LOOSE SUCH A TALENTED YOUNG PERSON IN ANY SITUATION THE ONLY POSSIBLE GOOD THING ABOUT THIS IS IF YOU LOOS YOUR LIFE DOING WHAT YOU LOVE THEN AT LEAST YOU WEAR LIVING YOUR DREAM BUT TO BE WORKING IN SUCH A DANGEROUS LOCATION WITH OUT PERMISSION IS NOT RIGHT I DON’T BLAME HER SHE WAS JUST DOING HER JOB I WISH EVERYONE ELS WOULD HAVE BEEN DOING THEARS PLEAS EAVERY ONE BE CAREFUL OUT THEAR TO MANY PEOPLE HAVE BEEN LOST TO THIS BUSINESS

  9. Gc says:

    Ultimately the director has the final say over where to and how to shoot.

    And from the way it sounds they had permission to shoot near the tracks but not on them, and they were caught trying to steal a shot.

    The producers may or may not have final say over where the shot is set up. The director is involved in preproduction and most likely knew the issues concerning the tracks.

    People may forget trains go a lot faster outside of urban areas so its likely the train engineer blew the whistle but it was too late.

    Locations can only do so much if the director or production choose to ignore them. The producers may or may not have some responsibility the person on location who made the decision, that being the director

    • M33 says:

      What? Unless you’re Spielberg or Tarantino or some other MAJOR director, the Producer has the final word on everything, period. The Producer can overrule every decision the director makes, that’s even in DGA guidelines. The producers are the final word and they are the ones responsible for these details, not the director.

      • Gc says:

        I understand what you mean but the the producer’s job may vary. Some maybe the financier and producer in name only and not involved in the actual production.

        Randall Miller is also a producer on film as well as director so he more than likely knew if they had permission to be on the bridge.

        Yes the producers are the bosses but the decision to go onto the bridge is a creative one made by the director not a producer.

        The director is the boss on set even if a producer forced them to set up on the bridge someone needs to say no.
        What it seems is they tried to steal a shot on the bridge and got caught. What I’ve read they had permission to shoot near the track but not on

  10. Jeff says:

    The real tragedy is for the train crew. Trains are pretty quiet for their size and can take over 1 mile (5,280′) to stop. Someone died on these railroader’s watch because people were on the tracks who were not supposed to be there. Being on the tracks without permission is a crime called trespassing.

    Each person who went on the tracks and bridge (which is never a safe idea) took his/her own life and safety in their own hands. Each person should have confirmed whether or not they had permission.

    It’s too bad that someone was killed. These dangers are known dangers and this whole thing could have been prevented by the movie crew. Because of the movie crew, the train crew has to live with this death for the rest of their life.

    • Andy says:

      Jeff, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that “the real tragedy” is for Sarah’s family, friends and the co-workers who witnessed her death.

      • Andy says:

        Randy: I’ll still opt for losing the sanctity of human life over losing one’s career as the “real tragedy.”

      • Randy says:

        Andy, I’m going to go out on a limb and presume you’ve hit fewer people with a freight train than I have. The sound isn’t something you ever forget, and you basically have the choice of revisiting the scene daily or giving up your career. Can’t exactly cut over two blocks to avoid looking at the spot it happened.

  11. sandy says:

    This posted on FACEBOOK by Ray Brown:
    JAY SEDRISH, Producer…. In yesterday’s crew gathering “Sarah would want us to finish this film”…. Unidentified crew member stands and says “no, Sarah would want to be with us in this room now”. He went on to ask “show us the permit”….. (Silence)……”please, just show us the permit and explain how this happened”….. (Silence)….”somebody answer me….how did this happen?”….
    JAY SEDRISH … “We can’t answer that right now”. As he glances toward their Attorney…..

  12. Ariel says:

    I’m getting frustrated reading about Jay Sedrish and Nick Gant. I’ve been in the business close to 40 years, both above and below the line, have won many awards, and seen people at their best and worst. For me, othes stand out equally for their roles as enablers in this tragedy: Jody Savin wrote the screenplay and the dream sequence, was the film’s producer, and is married to the director. Randy Miller collaborated on the screenplay, and was to direct the film. Finally, the film was to be shot by Miller’s customary DP, who could have refused to roll the camera until he saw an executed document, or at the very least, asked “the question” and received a truthful answer from his director buddy. Train tracks are not to be taken lightly. Even the uninitiated know that.

    • M33 says:

      I think that’s the point, DPs and ADs don’t normally protest and demand to see location permits before working. They (as most everyone else on set) probably relied on the fact that everyone, mainly the producers, did their jobs and secured permits and safety protocols ahead of time. The question is, who made the decision to put everyone on the track knowing they did not have a permit and who enabled this to happen knowing that CDX explicitly denied access to the tracks? So far, the only two people who have made guilty statements are Gant and Sedrish. Gant went as far as accusing CDX of lying to police and the media and Sedrish said “that’s complicated” when he was asked if they had a release. I agree that the DP and ADs should have been privy to safety protocols and procedures, but I also believe that if they relied on what Gant and Sedrish represented to everyone (hence Gant’s assertion that they actually had permission from CDX) then I would put more of the responsibility on Gant/Meddin who lied to police and the media and Sedrish for knowing they didn’t have permission to be on the tracks ahead of time.

      • renworb says:

        I have been working in this business for many years. We were once shooting, at night, in a SEVERE lightning/thunder storm (that’s what it was labelled by the national weather service) and were surrounded by tall trees, any one of which could have easily been struck and fallen on us. I brought my safety concerns to our AD dept (this was a big-budget, union show btw) and was told …”we always knew we would be shooting in the rain”: Translation…..be quiet and get back to work, we have a schedule to keep. The point being….well I’m sure you all get the point!!
        Sadly it usually takes a tragedy for positive changes to be made. God Bless Sarah’s family.

      • Sandra (script supervisor) says:

        It certainly WAS the AD’s responsibility, ultimately, to make sure the crew was safe and operating with permits in place!!! He is the ‘foreman’ of the set and is the one responsible to make sure the people above the line are not cutting corners when it comes to safety!

  13. location guy says:

    Hey AD’s reading this thread…this one is firmly on your department, you are in charge of saftey. Quit blaming locations for all your screw ups.

    • Howard Beale says:

      Hey Location Guy, why bother having a Location Manager then? The Ads may VERIFY that all location safety measures are in place but it is the direct responsibility of the LOCATION MANAGER to make those arrangements and secure the necessary permissions. The Location Manager absolutely shares a major part of the responsibility. The lack of mention of the Location Manager doesn’t let him off the hook.

      • Mike Harrell says:

        You have a location manager to secure permits. It’s entirely possible that one was not secured for work on the tracks, but, knowing that, the director and/or producers decided to shoot on the tracks anyway, in spite of protests from the location manager. At any rate, all the information is not in. I advocate that we wait for the investigation to take it’s course before we start irresponsibly assigning blame, as Mr. Beale has done more than once on this thread.

    • DGA1 says:

      I’m an AD. I agree! This is from our Basic Agreement which outlines what the UPM and 1st AD may be responsible for. It’s avail. on the DGA website.

      1. Prepare breakdown and preliminary shooting schedule…

      3. Oversee preliminary search and survey of all locations and the completion of business arrangements for the same…

      7. Oversee the securing of releases and negotiate for locations and personnel.

      8. Maintain a liaison with local authorities regarding locations and the operation of the company.

  14. vivian says:

    how exactly does a train “unexpectedly arrive” at a location?

    • Tim says:

      I work in the railroad industry. The rule is expect a train at time coming from any direction.

      • Safety Last says:

        The only way this would have even been OK would have been to shoot on a NON-OPERATIONAL train track. OR in coordination with a railroad company who were constantly monitoring rail traffic and having people in constant communication with said railroad company at all times on radios etc. That, of course, costs money and it sounds like the bed on the tracks shot is a centerpiece to this project and the producers, director (and writer/producer) cheaped out on their crew and decided to shoot illegally. Do you think any union would agree to these working conditions for their members? Do you think the local film permit office would’ve agreed to those working conditions? Total selfish morons for planning this centerpiece shot without being willing to spend the money to shoot it properly/safely.

      • John says:

        “Expect trains, locomotives, cars, or equipment on any track in any direction at any time…” The AD or Location Manager should have got “track and time limits” from CSX. This is the railroad’s bar to any trains entering the area. CSX would have then provided a flagman for the location. Any engineer or conductor running a train into these limits would be immediately terminated. CSX probably denied access because their dispatcher knew a train would pass this location. Setting up a shoot on an active railroad track, on a bridge, without proper protection, is completely irresponsible. Tragic, and completely avoidable.

  15. Localite says:

    Perhaps Gant has been overestimated. His studio business is in financial trouble, involving a lawsuit and countersuit, and a real estate deal gone south. He either has invested his money in this movie, or was to make some needed revenue by providing facilities to the producers. This tragedy adds another financial blow to his business.

    What is not known yet is who was at the set, and who knew of the permissions allowed and denied. Another point not brought up yet – could the crew have been forewarned of the unlikely, yet potential, danger of this shoot? No crew member wants to break ranks, especially out in the field. Did the crew members have the chance to walk away from the task, but felt compelled or intimated to do so? Were they given some level of assuredness of safety, or were they flat-out lied to?

    Notice that nobody involved is talking yet. Nothing official has been said by the railroad company, the land-owners, the producers, nor the crew. The only one to spout off so far was Gant – his remarks were totally inappropriate and insensitive, but was he in the loop regarding permissions?.

    There is too much of jumping to conclusions here. Until any documents are legally filed, this is all hearsay. There may be some culpability by the railroad and the landlords. Maybe not. But until the justice system plays this out, we should all stand aside and take this time to remember and to learn.

    • JRP says:

      The actual director was there, he was trying to get the bed off the tracks. So…I think we can safely say that he ought to have known no permission was given. It’s possible he just assumed his underlings took care of it…but when the Director is there desperately trying to get the prop off the active tracks it does make it harder to deny responsibility…

    • Geoff Drake says:

      Hearsay? You must have overlooked that this article is based on the Sheriff’s Incident Report. “They” were DENIED Access”. The only ambiguity here is defining “they”.

      • Brian Dzyak says:

        The problem began the moment someone decided to shoot a scene on a set of live tracks on a bridge with limited exit opportunities. I can’t imagine any sane person believing that this would be a good idea or acceptable for any reason at all. Knowing that a train might arrive “unexpectedly” infers that all that stuff on the bridge (set dressing, camera, grip) and the cast and crew would clearly have to vacate quickly. What kind of Producer or Director or AD or Location Manager would believe for a second that all of that stuff and all those people could be cleared in time if a train “unexpectedly” arrived?

        Clearly the crew was misled by omission of fact that this was a safe work environment. The assumption on the part of the crew would have been that this was a closed set of tracks for as long as they were given permission to be on that bridge.

        And that this was a “camera test” day and not an official production day illustrates how the production was trying to cut corners on the budget which explains why they’d try to steal a scene on a location they didn’t have permission to use with no safety measures in place or medic on set.

      • Geoff Drake says:

        Reverse the burden of proof. What responsible individual or entity would withhold the proper permits or written permissions (which would clear them of any wrong doing) rather than turn them over immediately, and as publicly as possible?

      • Localite says:

        Mr. Drake – a Sherriff’s Incident Report is based on interviews taken at the incident location. Claims of communications ultimately have to be substantiated (like copies of emails or letters or recordings of conversations). So what is said in the initial investigation is just a starting point. Obviously, it seems very poor judgment to shoot a scene with set pieces on a live track on a narrow trestle with limited exit opportunities. But how and why this incident got to that point is a matter to be decided by much more information than has been gathered to date yet.

  16. Nicole W. says:

    They willingly injured 7 members and one was killed so they could put money back into their own greedy pockets! whenever crew members speak upthey like to ask us why we’re being so difficult. They can get the shot AND they don’t have to kill the crew members to get it-but they will have to pay extra for it to get it done safely.Now their lawyers get to get paid instead!

  17. M33 says:

    This isn’t about dropping balls or saying “NO”, you’re all giving them too much credit. Serdish and Gant made a conscience decision to break the law and knowingly endanger the lives of the crew. This wasn’t walking on to a flower bed on private property, this was setting up on a trestle of a live train track after they were warned not to. These guys didn’t say NO because they cared more about getting the shot. Sarah was killed by gross negligence on the part of Meddin, Gant and Serdish, and maybe others. Gant’s idiotic and defensive statement over the weekend where Gant actually accuses CSX of lying tells me we’ll be learning much more very soon…

  18. Steve Noell says:

    Sarah’s untimely and very preventable death is so sad and tragic. We work in one of the greatest and most fulfilling industries. While at the same time there are days when it feels like the life is being sucked out of you, usually somewhere around hour 15 of the work day. But it is with great tenacity that we push through and make it happen.
    There is an illusion at times that you are bullet proof and the only important thing is to “get the shot”. I have been very fortunate to been involved with many productions large and small where there were many potentials for disaster if just one person had dropped the ball.
    In the case of Midnight Rider not just one ball was dropped, but many fell to the ground simultaneously even before the crew arrived at set that day to do a “camera test”. That term in my mind and many others is a line of B.S. It is a technical way for the production to get around the rules that have been put in place to protect the those of us who support and make the impossible possible and to save money.
    The “ADULTS” that are commonly referred to are the above the line people that are ultimately in charge of the crews safety and the health of the production. However, I have seen too many times that a certain part of the “ADULT” faction ( Producers ) do not step up and say the most simple one syllable word….. NO….. They at times work in the most cowardly fashion by not stepping up and saying that one simple word that while not meaning to sound melodramatic, can make the difference in avoiding terrible bodily injury or in Sarah’s case death. When there is an “ADULT” that won’t step up, the last line of defense for the safety of the crew is the 1st AD. How can it be that when there wasn’t a rep from the rail road on set, common sense did not kick in and say, “something is wrong here” Anyone who has any experience working in situations like this knows that the rail road rep not being there presented a huge piece of the puzzle for everyone’s safety was missing.
    I have worked with the Exec Producer of this show ( Jay Serdish ) on the first movie that I worked when I moved to NOLA nearly three years ago and had a wonderful experience. It saddens me that as the captain of this ship, he did not step up and say that one simple, one syllable word….. NO …..
    Even though I never worked on the same set with you Sarah, I’m sure our paths would have eventually crossed somewhere as most do in this this incredibly small bubble that we work in. May you rest in peace, and may your loss not be in vain.

  19. David says:

    They were denied a permit and went ahead and shot anyway? On an active railroad track? There’s a giant amount of stupid on display here.

    • Travell Blake says:

      Sarah Jones will be greatly missed, I worked along with her on Vampires Diaries, it’s so shocking and hard to believe this happened. My prayers goes out to her close friends and family.

  20. I am befuddled and saddened. How did they not see the big train coming down the tracks they were on?

  21. J.E. Vizzusi says:

    Its clear now they were attempting to cheat the shot. What a horrible tragedy that makes every Indie Filmmaker look bad. I shoot in the deep South USA and have seen this style of Production often from visiting crews that presume, nobody will know attitude. I hope that the folks if found negligent make amends to the families of the victims starting immediately.

  22. Howard Beale says:

    Sorry Charlie, Here are my questions for the ‘Location Manager’ Charlie Baxter;

    1. Did you send a memo to all parties concerned telling them it was illegal to film on rail tracks withou CSX permission?
    2. Did you merely ‘forward’ the CSX denial of permission?
    3. When you forwarded the CSX denial of permission did you ‘leave it up to them [producers]?
    4. Did you threaten to quit if the production company ignored your advice?
    5. Did you quit or just ‘not show up’, in other words leave the crew to the devices of a renegade production company?
    6. Be HONEST, Were you more of a Production Manager or were you actually a ‘Location Manager’? There is no ‘Location Manager’ listed on imdv – only “Producers, Co-Producers, Executive Producers ”
    7. Are you a union Location Manager?
    8. Have you completed any Industry Safety Training?

    I believe you Charlie Baxter are the one person who might have stopped this murderous tragedy before it began. The ‘Sin of Omission’, not acting to prevent this disaster, rests squarely on you shoulders as well as the Producers, Co-Producers, Executive Producers, ADs and the Director.

    • Mike Harrell says:

      Mr. Beale. You ask a series of questions which indicate you don’t know the specifics of what happened, but then you don’t hesitate to go on and place blame “squarely on the shoulders” of the person in question. That’s irresponsible. There should, and will, be a thorough investigation into the tragedy. Once that information is collected and verified, judgement can be made. Until then, it’s premature, to make “omniscient” pronouncements naming “the one person who might have stopped this murderous tragedy.”

      • DGA1 says:

        This is a partial list from the DGA basic agreement re: the tasks of UPM and 1st AD. SInce no permit was secured, it’s clear they will be held the most responsible.

        1. Prepare breakdown and preliminary shooting schedule…

        3. Oversee preliminary search and survey of all locations and the completion of business arrangements for the same…

        7. Oversee the securing of releases and negotiate for locations and personnel.

        8. Maintain a liaison with local authorities regarding locations and the operation of the company.

      • JB says:

        I have worked with Charlie Baxter for over 25 years on six features and pilots. All but one involved extremely challenging locations with explosives, fire, complicated violent scenes and, yes, working with locomotives. He is an exceptionally principled, organized, honest professional, and he never- NEVER – cuts corners or allows production to shoot in less than a thoroughly prepared and safe location. Charlie has the full backing of Ray Brown, President, IATSE 479 in Atlanta – who has been in touch with Charlie and knows much more about this horrific situation than any of us. Anyone who has worked with Charlie knows of his integrity and that he always has every permit in order, every possibility accounted for and has thoroughly communicated everything he knows with the proper channels. I would unhesitatingly trust him with my own life, as would my husband, a DP with 35 years’ experience – a great many of them working on productions with Charlie Baxter. I suggest, before slinging accusations, that you take a deep breath and wait to learn ALL the facts. You may also want to visit Ray Nrown’s Facebook page, as he is doing an excellent job of disseminating reliable information as it becomes available.

  23. Dort says:

    I feel it makes it worse that it was a union picture , I sincerely feel that if this movie was shot in Los Angeles this would not have happened . Nothing I can say will bring Sarah back but maybe , just maybe if producers brought these projects home to L.A. This won’t happen again, I feel our industry roster in Los Angeles has far more experience , there are exceptions but only a few, and the relocated to Georgia from Los Angeles …….time to come home folks …everyone from above the line to below the line , it’s just not worth someone life to save a buck on a feature film.

    • Brian Dzyak says:

      I have to agree with Dort. The only reason so much work occurs in Georgia, Louisiana, and other States is due to the Tax Bribes offered to lure productions. It’s not “too expensive” to shoot in Los Angeles. It’s just cheaper to shoot in States that freely offer up bribes at the expense of taxpayers. When the goal is to save money no matter what, the mechanism begins to cut more corners instead of ensuring that the crew is experienced and that safety is paramount. It has less to do with “keeping production in LA” than it is about the money-centered attitude that “tax incentives” introduce to the process. You get what you pay for.

      This production was undoubtedly in Georgia because of the “incentives/bribes” and was stealing a scene on a camera test day to save money. They clearly just didn’t want to pay what the real cost would be to do it the right way, corners were cut, and someone died because of that emphasis on doing it cheaply.

      Apparently, the new motto is “Safety First, if we decide to pay for it.”

    • JC says:

      How petty. Filmmaking isn’t rocket science. It’s not curing cancer. Or do you have a Doctorate of Grip? Yeah, I thought not. Maybe it’s time for you L.A. guys to realize that YOU killed the industry there with your self-righteousness, self-absorption, and grandiosity, and now that attitude has slithered east and got one of our friends killed. To even hint that this wouldn’t have happened in L.A. is ludicrous. Sarah was a VERY capable AC whom I’d worked with for years and she knew her craft well. It’s your L.A. pompous attitude and the lies from the LOS ANGELES people who brought that here that was a large part of the problem that got Sarah killed.

    • Teem says:

      Really? Nobody ever died or got hurt shooting an indie film in L.A.? Your attitude is why people flee L.A. Accidents happen. THIS accident is criminal in its negligence and stupidity. Your comments are all about your personal bottom line and L.A.s struggle with competition. Nice. Just as I would expect from someone who lives and works in L.A.

    • David says:

      Not everyone can afford to shoot in LA since union prices are sky high, and the real tragedy here is that a young woman lost her life not that it was a non-union shoot.

    • dlerchlv426 says:

      Fact: More people have died in LA on movie sets than in GA.

      People die on set, it happens. This production company was based out of LA. The producers, AD dept, and director are from LA. Maybe Ga needs to keep this hackjob LA producers out of our local because they obviously have no idea how to provide a safe work environment.

      • H. says:

        Sorry pal, but this was not a film set. The crew was directed by the Producing and Directing staff into a position that was not permitted, uncontrollable, unauthorized and exceeding dangerous.

    • Fluffy says:

      Did you read your own post before you hit post comment? Can you see how it makes one mention of Sarah and then rambles into the real reason you posted. This feels more like a commercial to bring production back to L.A. and not at all an opinion on what has happened in the story.
      Keep it on topic, hint…the topic isn’t Los Angeles.

  24. Richard says:

    “In my presence, Mr. Sedrish was asked by an employee of CSX if he had permission to be on the trestle or tracks and Mr. Sedrish replied, ‘That’s complicated.’

    Actually Jay, it’s not complicated at all. It’s actually a yes or no answer. As in “No we did not have permission, and were specifically denied permission, but our egos are so much bigger than our brains, we did it anyway.”

    Hopefully manslaughter charges will soon be filed.

  25. JB says:

    From Ray Brown, Local 479’s Facebook page:

    Ray Brown shared a link.
    1 hour ago ·
    As President of Local 479 GEORGIA I want to announce my full and whole hearted support for Charlie Baxter, locations manager, referenced in this article. He has been my friend and colleague for 19 years and I have worked with him on many films. The investigation will PROVE that he did his due diligence and the Producers disregarded several e mails from CSX. Thus the answer from the Producers “it’s complicated” when asked by the CSX representative if they had permission to be on the tracks. This article should now prove that there was gross negligence involved. Judge for yourself.

    I think this says it all.

    • Dog says:

      Was he there when the crew was directed onto the tracks? If so, and he knew, what did he do to stop them?

      • ms says:

        I Agree, don’t the producers and financers always have to ok things before they go forward? on a project with anything, this is tragedy could have been avoided, guess money was more important, just hope they don’t sweep it under the rug.

      • Brad says:

        DUE DILIGENCE does not mean you burry your head in the sand and refuse to go to set when you KNOW the producers are going to ‘do it anyway’ and shoot on an active train trestle and put the crew in a deadly situation. If what you say about your friend is true, then this loc manager washed his hands of it and sat on his ass while an innocent girl died. All this email proves is that he has no plausible deniability.

  26. Localite says:

    FYI – there is a beautiful memorial page to Sarah Jones on Facebook – look up Slates for Sarah, and you will find camera slates from all over the world with tributes to her. Scroll to the bottom to find a message from her sister. It’s very touching and in a sad way it unites film crews from around the the globe.

  27. sandy says:

    Curious that Variety still does not name “the production company.” Is there a personal relationship? The name of the L.A. production company that is producing Midnight Rider is, Unclaimed Freight Productions.

    • JC says:

      Unclaimed Freight Productions is, most likely, director Randall Miller’s company. The only things they’ve ever produced are films that he has directed. And ultimately, he’s the one that “directed” Sarah to be on those tracks.

    • steve says:

      Meddin studios

      • JC says:

        M33 is right. If Gant had no association with the project other than as a vendor he wouldn’t have felt the need to email Variety with his lies and ask that people stop looking for someone to blame. It’s not a case of guilt by association…it’s because he knows he’s culpable for the crime.

      • M33 says:

        Meddin Studios arranges local location logistics and yes is a participating “producer” and “production company”. Nick Gant is an equity participant and principal in the project. He will continue to attempt to weasel his way out, but we will see the chain of communication and who was holding the reins as information is released. If Nick Gant had nothing to worry about, he would have kept his mouth shut and not made the idiotic statement he made over the weekend, Gant went as far as accusing CSX of lying about the “permission” he himself claimed to have. A local “vendor” would have never attempted to conceal information or deceive from the truth and especially not accuse people of lying on record to a journalist of a MAJOR media outlet. Stay tuned folks…..

      • Localite says:

        Meddin Studios is only a vendor. They supply brick-and-mortar facilities to many productions that take place in the Savannah area (indoor sets and stages, office space, filming and editing equipment, etc). Meddin Studios gets paid for supplying these facilities, and its owner, Nick Gant, gets Exec. Producer credits in some cases.

      • Andy says:

        No, not Meddin studios. That’s simply a physical production space, etc. in Georgia. Unclaimed Freight is the production company and Open Road is the distributor. Go to IMDB.com if you need more clarification.

  28. ms says:

    Yes I agree criminal all involved should be held accountable..

  29. Michelle says:

    Absolutely criminal. That poor girl was as far as I’m concerned murdered. They knew they didn’t have proper athority to be there, nor any of the safety measures that should have been in place to pull off a set up like this and all the above the line folks knew this and yet they place the crew directly in harms way!! That’s pre-meditated s**t and I hope those whom are responsible are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and that this movie never sees the light of day!

  30. Andrew says:

    Charley Baxter refused to participate. Those who proceeded without permission should be held accountable.

    • sandy says:

      Did Charley Baxter notify anyone? Did he take measures to protect the crew and community?

      • Andrew says:

        He forwarded the denial email from CSX. He said don’t do it, bad idea, not the way it works, and he refused to go to the set. He was ignored by above the line fools.

  31. Robin says:

    How can this production company be so stupid and irresponsible on so many levels. That young woman lost her like making a movie. My heart goes out to her family.

  32. ms says:

    The death of this beautiful girl. for a Gregg Allman movie… I just hope this will not get brushed under the carpet and forgotten we all know money can buy peoples way out of everything in this world.

  33. Katie says:

    Keep looking for that paper trail ….. Truth has to be told

  34. M33 says:

    Jay Sedrish and Nick Gant are two peas in a pod. So now we know Meddin Studios’ statement was BS! Gant lied about CSX, what scumbags! Criminal negligence!!!

  35. Andy says:

    For the director, 1st AD, UPM and location manager: When you get out of jail and can’t find work again in the movie business, here’s a good line to memorize: Would you like fries with your order?

    • JB says:

      We do not know which crew members were present. I have been involved in many camera tests where AD’s were not present.

      • Andy says:

        Not to get snarky but I don’t work on movies that small, so I’ll grant you that maybe the AD wasn’t there but I’ve been done 60 or so movies and have never witnessed not even a location scout without the 1st AD. But the tragic truth will definitely come out….

    • KK says:

      I haven’t read anything that says that the 1st AD was present? If they were calling it a “camera test” he/she may not have been there.

      • Andy says:

        And it wasn’t a camera test. The sound mixer and boom person were there and have been named in news reports of having been “banged up but ok.” So, if everyone wants to persist in thinking that the AD wasn’t there when the sound team was and the stills person was…fine.

      • Michael says:

        I have directed three very low budget features in three different states and my first is with me all the time. In fact in my experience, the first AD would have had hand in organizing that camera test.

      • Andy says:

        The still photographer pulled the director to safety (as was reported in all accounts). Do you really think that the still person would be there and not the 1st AD?

  36. Isadora D says:

    I have worked with Jay Sedrish before, and never have I worked with anyone more duplicitous as he, and that’s saying something in this biz. Jail time, please.

  37. James McCarthy says:

    An awful story and it just got worse. This film could be over before it has begun.

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