The death of a 27-year-old camera assistant on a movie set in rural Georgia has resulted in a jail sentence for the film’s director.
The two year sentence for Randall Miller came after Miller pleaded guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing in a plea deal that got charges dropped against his wife and business partner, Jody Savin. Miller will also serve eight years on probation and pay a $20,000 fine.
Miller was charged in the death of Sarah Jones, a young crew member who was run over by a train while working on a railroad bridge in southeast Georgia. Six other workers were injured in the Feb. 20, 2014 accident.
Miller was helming a movie about singer Gregg Allman entitled, “Midnight Rider,” with William Hurt in the role of Allman.
Denied permission to film
According to news sources, CSX Transportation, which owned the trestle, had denied them permission in writing to film on its tracks. Prosecutors said Miller decided to shoot the scene anyway after the owner of the property surrounding the tracks said the movie crew could access its land.
Miller’s attorney issued a statement saying that his client mistakenly believed that no more trains would be passing on the bridge on the day of the filming.
Jay Sedrish, executive producer of the film, also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to ten years’ probation. “Midnight Rider” assistant director Hillary Schwartz is still facing charges.
Hurt and Allman bow out
Jones’ death brought calls for improved safety standards for the movie industry, which often has crew members working on remote locations and under difficult circumstances. In response to requests by film crews, both William Hurt and Greg Allman withdrew their support for the film.
In a personal letter Allman released to the press on April 25, he asked the producers not to proceed with the film: “Your desires as a filmmaker should not outweigh your obligations as a human being, I am asking you to do the right thing and to set aside your attempts to resume the production out of respect for Sarah, her family and the loss that all of us feel so deeply.”
Allman later filed a civil suit against Miller and Savin in an attempt to halt the film.