Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

What’s a life got to do with it, anyway?

I suppose it’s not a huge secret that film sets aren’t exactly  the safest working environment. We routinely enter condemned buildings, work in extreme heat and/or cold (sometimes on the same day), navigate treacherous  footing, run cable through human waste, inhale asbestos and snack on lead paint chips (oh, wait. That’s just the ‘healthy’ baked potato chips. My bad).

In the past decade or so, there has been a concerted effort to make sets safer for everyone, and it’s been very successful.

But accidents sometimes still happen. Mostly those accidents are just that. Accidental. No fault, no blame just…Oops.

But sometimes, it is someone’s fault. In this particular case, a criminally negligent someone’s fault.

About a week ago, a film crew in Georgia were trying to get a shot for a Gregg Allman biopic – a dream sequence with a bed on railroad tracks.

At first it was just a terse announcement on some of the film-worker centric Facebook circles.

Camera assistant killed while shooting. No details.

Then, an ID. Sarah Elizabeth Jones, age 27.

Then, more details started to  emerge, and I began to suspect that this was going to get really bad.

Sadly, I was right. I hate being right.

The production company had requested a permit to shoot on the train tracks, and had been denied.

Someone decided to order the crew to set up the shot on the tracks anyhow.

Just stop and think about that for a second. Someone – we don’t know exactly who as the production company has suddenly gotten very, very tight-lipped and lawyered up – knew that they were not allowed to be on a live fucking rail line and decided to do it anyways.

A train came. About 15 minutes later, another train came. The crew began setting up, and in about 20 minutes, another train came. There was approximately one minute of warning. The crew tried desperately to clear the track in time, but one young woman was unable to do so and was struck while one of her co-workers tried to save her.

And died.

Died. For a stupid fucking movie. Produced by a fucking waste of carbon about a fucking has-been waste of carbon whose claim to fame is fucking Cher.

I jest, of course. The subject of the movie is completely irrelevant. It wouldn’t matter if it was a movie about a paralysed nun who saved a busload of adorable orphans from Nazis.

It’s not worth a life. Any life – even the life of someone who has chosen to wear a toolbelt and not get any glory or residuals.

The “Slates for Sarah” thing is very sweet, but the person who is responsible for this needs to suffer, and greatly.

Sadly, I don’t see that happening.

What I do see is (hopefully) more people saying ‘no’.

As in: “I’m sorry, Mr Producer. This isn’t safe. Oh, you want to fire me? Fine. I’ll live to work another day, and you can burn in Hell.”

Oh, wait. My bad. Burning in hell is too good for some people.

Filed under: mishaps, movies, rants, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 Responses

  1. David says:

    Who was the safety or in charge for the IATSE crew ? This is simple, show us the permits and the plan to keep us safe or the clock ticks off dollars untill a rail rep is on set. The line is closed, Iatse and rail road safety people with radios are standing on the tracks with huge trucks parked on the tracks in two directions miles apart on the only way in and out of set. Then we work….maybe.

    Also a dirt road, some track and a green screen would make this a lot safer. Who is the production designer who could not find a safer work around in todays digital world? As it is discribed as a dream sequence. ………..WTF ?

    I have worked at the top…..above and way below the line over the years. Working with the old timers and the FNG’s and gals……..I can not count how many times I have had to grap their arm and walk and a few times yank then out from under a heavy lift as they looked down or just moved under thousands of LBS of set or gear on the hook……kids.

    Please understand if we do not look out for the dim bulbs on set and they get hurt or they hurt others…….we are just as at fault if we knew and stood by.

  2. kammi says:

    Absolutely. This gaffer I spoke with this week said that a crew he was on shot on live tracks but there was STRICT protocol by both the city and the train company and production which had to be followed and they did all have reps on site. One crew guy who was disobeying the protocol was fired, too, because at any given time only a certain number of people could be on the tracks, or not at all and he was caught twice disobeying the protocol. It was a HUGE deal and safety was super important. That’s the way to do it.

  3. ironrailsironweights says:

    I have a suspicion there are going to be some criminal prosecutions before this is over.


  4. EM says:

    If the law doesn’t bring justice, the industry definitely should. The people responsible should never work a single day in the film industry. They should be stripped of any union membership and blacklisted.

  5. this is looking like a john landis/twilight zone and this time the director may not be able to hide like john did — it always seems even in our biz we follow the same ideals that the FAA uses –there must be death to bring changes in safety –sad but true

  6. dugsdale says:

    I’m a little surprised no arrests have been announced yet (writing this on 3/5), but I suppose with the state of GA getting involved, plus sifting through all the eyewitness accounts trying to sort out culpability, actual charges are up in the air. I’m also curious whether big-time Hollywood lawyers (for the production team) might be able to buffalo the local prosecutors into indicting on lesser charges than negligent homicide. Really, someone deserves to do serious jail time for this, and not in a “Club Fed” style lockup, either.

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