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Filmmakers indicted in death of camera assistant in Georgia

Tribute to Sarah Jones
Tribute to Sarah Jones
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Movie lovers have this romanticized notion that the motion picture industry is glamorous. They are fascinated by the magic of movie making and obsessed with its celebrities. Many don't understand the grunt work and very long hours it takes to create their favorite block busters. Movie making can be very dangerous work.

The film industry and it's audience have been issued a wake up call. Filmmakers Randall Miller (director), Jody Savin (producer) and Jay Sedrish (unit manager and executive producer) have been indicted for involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass in Wayne County, Georgia for the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones. She was killed by a speeding train while shooting on location for the Greg Allman biopic "Midnight Rider". Sarah died on February 20, 2014 at the age of 27.

Sarah was setting up camera equipment on train tracks when she was struck. It has been reported the film crew did not have warning when the trains would be coming through town. Also, the filmmakers reportedly did not have permission to shoot on the bridge where Sarah died. The accident happened on the first day of shooting. The film production was brought to a halt and has not yet resumed. Sarah's parents Richard and Elizabeth Jones filed a wrongful death lawsuit in May.

In March there was a candlelight vigil held for Sarah. It took place in Los Angeles and was organized by International Cinematographers Guild. A Facebook page was created to force the Motion Picture Academy to have Sarah listed in the people we lost segment of this year's Academy Awards. Their efforts worked, and Sarah was acknowledged during the Oscar broadcast.

On set accidents have happened many times since the start of the film industry in 1895. One example is the helicopter accident on the set of The Twilight Zone in 1982. Now there is a an ever bigger movement to force the film studios and production companies to make safety first. Film producer Marty Katz told the L.A. Times "What will change — particularly if these people are prosecuted heavily — is that people will pay more attention to safety issues. The reality is, no shot is worth a life and safety has to be the primary concern, whether it is a $100,000 production or a $100-million production." Commercial director Karl Richter told the paper "My concern is that the bottom line is the deciding factor when it comes down to pretty much everything. I want to think that there is going to be change."

Sarah's death continues to help push for more safety regulations in the film industry. Recently a crew member on the television show "Longmire" fell asleep at the wheel. Joe Tuck was driving home after a 22 hour production shoot. Per Nikki Finke Teamsters Local 492 in New Mexico is investigating whether or not Joe's death was the result of working such a long shoot. Time is money. Trying to get a project finished in a short amount of time would save the production company and the network a lot of money. But the cost was a man's life. Hopefully this will be the end of extremely long work days.

If convicted the "Midnight Riders" film makers could face 10 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter and 1 year for criminal trespass. Hopefully they will be convicted and get the book thrown at them.

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