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In Honor Of Sarah Jones, Crew Members Vow To Boycott 'Midnight Rider'

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Parents Richard and Elizabeth Jones attend a memorial for their daughter Sarah Jones on March 7, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
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Behind-the-scenes workers in the film industry have vowed to boycott production of the movie "Midnight Rider." Production was halted on the Gregg Allman biopic after a 27-year-old assistant camera operator was killed by a train on the set during the first day of shooting.

Sarah Jones was killed and others injured on the set in Georgia this February when a train came rumbling across a trestle where the crew hadn't been given permission to film. Since then, workers in the industry have been working hard to bring attention to her death on the job. A Facebook group has sprung up called "I REFUSE to work on Midnight Rider! For Sarah!!!" The group started by camera operator David Allen Grove already has nearly 10,000 members, who have vowed to boycott the production company Unclaimed Freight Productions behind the film, which has plans to continue shooting in L.A.

Production was halted after Jones' death, but Unclaimed Freight Productions—helmed by the husband-and-wife team director Randall Miller and Jody Savin—have plans to resume filming in June. The union representing Hollywood crew members was dismayed about the move to continue production while the investigation into Jones' death is ongoing. According to the Los Angeles Times, Michael Miller, international vice president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, wrote in an e-mail to colleagues:

"We have expressed our obvious concerns regarding this production starting again. We have demanded that they provide clearances from any and all governmental agencies and/or police agencies that are investigating this company and the individuals involved."
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There's nothing the union can do to block production. Miller told the Times, "As uncomfortable as this is, we cannot prevent them from starting up again."

That's where Grove and his group comes in. Crew members—union and non-union, East Coast to West—have vowed that they won't work for the "Midnight Rider" or any of the higher-ups behind it. They've called for members to strike against the production, and for equipment companies to refuse to rent to them. They've also called on executive producer Gregg Allman to dump the production company. One member wrote:

What we can impact is whether these producers ever work again. In many ways, their career is the ultimate price to pay. STAND UNITED. Don't become fractured (some of the posts pit California against Georgia). REFUSE to work for these producers on Midnight Rider or ANY OTHER FILM THEY EVER TRY TO MAKE. Randall Miller and Jody Savin are in their 50's; they are not novices; they knew what they were doing. Losing their careers at this stage in their lives will hurt more than spending a few months in the slammer.

The members have honed in on statements that producer Savin made just days before Jones' death when she was a guest speaker for the group Savannah Women In Film and Television. One attendee told Deadline that Savin "was bitching about how our former film commissioner Jay Self kept showing up to set, telling her she couldn’t do this, she couldn’t do that and that she was so glad he was no longer film commissioner. [Savin] said, 'We make movies by our own rules.'" She added, "Savin seemed proud of the fact that she was able to get crew cheaply. It was more about the bottom line. A lot of women wanted to work on it but I think after meeting a lot walked away and thought. 'I wouldn’t work on that show.'"

A relevant side-note: coincidentally, while I was working at the Pasadena Star-News in 2008, I was assigned to write a profile and visit the home of the producers that would ultimately helm the "Midnight Rider" production. At the time, Savin and Miller made a big deal about the fact that as independent filmmakers they personally handled a lot of nitty-gritty details they otherwise wouldn't if they were working with the studio. Here's an excerpt from a profile of the couple after they'd produced the films "Bottle Shock" and "Nobel Son" together:


The Craftsman house where they live and raise their kids doubles as their studio, where they write the script, edit the film, mix the sound and direct a marketing campaign. Just a week before the release of "Nobel Son," Miller was at home working on a marketing campaign that he said was "lean and mean." He and his assistant were working together to make last-minute changes to the internet banners promoting "Nobel Son." Miller edited the trailer used in the TV spots and he called vendors directly to make sure the movie would be promoted in Times Square.

"It sort of shocks people, too," Miller said. "When I'm making the billboards and stuff, it's like, `Who are you?' and (I tell them), `Well, I'm the director and I designed this poster."'

Savin manages all the legal and accounting paperwork - something she said never crosses your desk as a director in the studio system. She even contributed a few paintings for [a character's] apartment.


At the time, it didn't seem like a big deal, but their "lean and mean" approach is noteworthy in retrospect.Related:
Sarah Jones' Story: Camera Assistant Killed On The Job Is Honored At The Oscars
William Hurt Pulls Out Of Starring Role In Troubled Production Of 'Midnight Rider'