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‘Midnight Rider’ Filmmakers Enter Not Guilty Plea, Break Silence: “This Was Not A Crime”

By | Thursday July 17, 2014 @ 2:02pm PDT

‘Midnight Rider’ Filmmakers Enter Not Guilty Plea, Break Silence: “This Was Not A Crime”Midnight Rider director Randall Miller and producer Jody Savin broke their months-long silence Thursday, calling the February 20 death of camera assistant Sarah Jones “a horrible tragedy and horrific accident.”

Jones, a well-liked 27-year-old crew member working on Miller and Savin’s Gregg Allman biopic, died when she was struck by a train on the Doctortown trestle in rural Georgia. Several other crew members were also injured in the tragedy which rippled through the production community and sparked industry-wide calls for increased safety measures on film and TV sets in Jones’ memory.

Related: ‘Midnight Rider’ Filmmakers Turn Themselves In To Georgia Police

Miller and Savin served as producers on the Gregg Allman biopic via their Unclaimed Freight Productions banner and were charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing along with executive producer/unit production manager Jay Sedrish earlier this month. They turned themselves into police in Wayne County, GA and were released on $27,700 bail on Sunday before returning home to California. Sedrish surrendered to authorities this morning and was released after posting a $27,700 cash bond. Per Georgia law, Miller and Savin waived an arraignment hearing and entered not guilty pleas this morning through their attorney, Don Samuels of Atlanta, GA.

In their statement, Miller and Savin emphasized their history of producing over 10 feature films and television projects with a self-described emphasis on crew safety. “In the weeks and months that follow when the true facts of the events are … Read More »

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UPDATE: ‘Midnight Rider’ Exec Producer Jay Sedrish Turns Himself In To Georgia Police, Following Randall Miller & Jody Savin

By and | Thursday July 17, 2014 @ 9:57am PDT

UPDATE: ‘Midnight Rider’ Exec Producer Jay Sedrish Turns Himself In To Georgia Police, Following Randall Miller & Jody Savin2ND UPDATE, THURSDAY 9:57 AM: Midnight Rider executive producer/unit production manager Jay Sedrish turned himself in this morning to the Wayne County, GA police and was booked and released after posting a $27,700 bond. This comes after his fellow filmmakers Randall Miller and Jody Savin turned themselves in earlier this week. All three were charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones. They were also charged with criminal trespassing for filming on a train trestle when, according to police, they had no permit to shoot on the tracks.

Related: ‘Midnight Rider’ Filmmakers Enter Not Guilty Plea, Break Silence: “This Was Not A Crime”

One of the key points in the case is that Wayne County Sheriff Sgt. Ben Roberston, in his initial report about the incident, wrote: “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.”

Related: The Death Of Sarah Jones: Safety Concerns Raised Over ‘Midnight Rider’ Crew’s Previous Film In Georgia

Sarah Jones Midnight RiderUPDATE, Tuesday, 6:57 AM: As of this morning, Midnight Rider executive producer/unit production manager director Jay Sedrish has not yet turned himself in, but we are told he has another week and that arrangements are being made to meet that timetable. Here are the mugshots of director Randall Miller and producer Jody Savin, who along with Sedrish could face 10 years in prison for the tragic on-set death of camera assistant Sarah Jones. Read More »

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UPDATED: ‘Midnight Rider’ Filmmakers Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter In Death Of Sarah Jones

By and | Thursday July 3, 2014 @ 7:38am PDT

UPDATED: ‘Midnight Rider’ Filmmakers Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter In Death Of Sarah JonesUPDATED: Prosecutors in Georgia’s Wayne County today charged filmmakers Randall Miller, Jody Savin and Jay Sedrish with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass in the February death of 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Elizabeth Jones. Jones was killed on a train trestle while filming a scene for the Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider.

The accident happened on February 20, when Jones was struck by a freight train. The film’s crew members were on the tracks of the Doctortown train trestle for the shoot by Unclaimed Freight Productions Inc., the production company owned by Miller and Savin.

Related: The Death Of Sarah Jones: Safety Concerns Raised Over ‘Midnight Rider’ Crew’s Previous Film In Georgia

Image (10) randall-miller-jody-savin__140331235341-275x343.jpg for post 707163Under Georgia law, a manslaughter conviction would carry a sentence of 10 years in prison. Criminal trespass is a misdemeanor and carries potential sentence of one year. Miller was the director of the film, Savin (his wife) was the producer, and Sedrish served as the unit production manager and executive producer. Other crew members on the shoot were injured but survived. The film was to be distributed in the U.S. by Open Road Films. Production was shut down, and attempts to restart the shoot in LA were rebuffed.

Related: Hollywood Adopted Railroad Safety Guidelines Shortly Before Sarah Jones’ Death

The Wayne County Sheriff’s office has been investigating the accident since it occurred. A grand jury was impaneled and Detective Joe Gardner presented before that panel yesterday. The indictments followed this morning. “After the indictment, the DA can issue an arrest warrant or negotiate an informal surrender through their attorneys,” said criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos. “An arraignment will come first, and then after that, the defense will have a chance to challenge the indictment on procedural issues and or the substance of the charges.” Normally what happens is the DA will immediately turn over grand jury testimony and all evidence to defense attorneys so they can work on any challenges to the indictment.

This is reminiscent of on-set The Twilight Zone helicopter crash in 1982, where director John Landis, his associate producer, unit production manager, helicopter pilot and special effects coordinator were charged with manslaughter in the on set-deaths of actor Vic Morrow (the father of Jennifer Jason Leigh) and two children when a helicopter stunt went tragically awry. A sensational trial resulted in their acquittals, but during a preliminary hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gordon Ringer scolded Hollywood for putting children’s lives at risk just to make a movie. “This isn’t nickelodeon-time anymore,” he said from the bench. “I would have thought that after 75 years, somebody might have thought it inappropriate to put Lillian Gish on an ice flow and send her into the middle of Niagara Falls to make a movie.” Gish was seriously injured while filming that scene for the 1920 silent film Way Down East.

Prior to today’s charges numerous lawsuits have been filed against Miller, Savin, Sedrish, and over a dozen other parties. Richard and Elizabeth Jones, the parents of Sarah Jones, filed a wrongful death suit on May 21 claiming that the filmmakers “operated without minimum safety precautions and contrary to standard industry practices for productions of this scale and for productions involving dangerous filming conditions.” Read More »

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UPDATE: ‘Midnight Rider’ Producer Made Controversial Comments About Local Filming Days Before Sarah Jones Death

Midnight Rider Doctortown trestleUPDATED, 7:28 PM: Savannah Women In Film and Television has issued a statement about comments Jody Savin made at its meeting in February: “The executive committee of SWIFT recognizes that Jody Savin did speak to our membership on Feb. 16. Some of her remarks were very unprofessional and disrespectful. Her statements took an unexpected direction and left a negative impact on the entire group. We do not have any further comments at this time.”

PREVIOUSLY, APRIL 21: The weekend before the February 20 train accident that killed camera assistant Sarah Jones, Midnight Rider producer Jody Savin made controversial public comments at a meeting of local production crew in which she touted her company’s methods and complained about the Savannah film commission for keeping a close watch on her previous film, CBGB. Savin, who is married to Midnight Rider director Randall Miller and co-owns their Unclaimed Freight production company, was an invited guest speaker at a Midnight Rider Sarah Jones death Jody SavinFebruary 16 meeting held by the Savannah Women In Film and Television (SWIFT). Savannah-based hair stylist JC Davis was in attendance with about 30 others including local production crew, many of whom were seeking to work on the upcoming Midnight Rider production. According to her, Savin “went on to talk about CBGB and 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.’ ” Deadline has talked to other attendees who also corroborate the comments made by Savin at the event.

Related: ‘Midnight Rider’ Investigation Handed Over To D.A.

Savin’s comments during the hourlong chat reportedly left some of those in attendance unsettled. “A lot of people felt insulted by the whole thing. It was very negative toward a lot of people who work in this town,” another attendee present at the event told Deadline. “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.’ ” Read More »

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AFM: W2 Media To Sell International On Dennis Wilson Biopic ‘The Drummer’

By | Thursday November 3, 2011 @ 12:18pm PDT

W2 Media has made a seven-figure advance for international sales on The Drummer, a biopic about the Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson that stars Aaron Eckhart. The project, which is being shopped to buyers at AFM, looks at the final six years of Wilson’s life, which ended when he drowned in Marina del Rey in 1983. Randall Miller is directing from a screenplay by Miller and Jody Savin, the pair behind Bottle Shock. They are producing with Brad Rosenberger under the group’s Unclaimed Freight banner. James William Guercio of Caribou Records and Don Mandrik of Georgia Production Finance are executive producing; Wilson’s children Carl and Jennifer are on board as co-producers. Shooting is set to start after Eckhart finishes filming Lionsgate’s I Frankenstein, and the filmmakers expect to announce the rest of the cast soon.

Jonathan Gardner of Gardner/Cohen negotiated the sales deal on behalf of the producers, while CEO John Flock and Julie Sultan negotiated on behalf of W2 Media; Sultan brought the project to the company. W2′s sales slate includes Lucky McKee’s horror pic The Woman, the comedy Pete Smalls Is Dead, and the James Franco-starring drama William Vincent.

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Aaron Eckhart To Play Beach Boys Drummer Dennis Wilson

Mike Fleming

Aaron Eckhart has signed on to play Dennis Wilson, the legendary drummer, songwriter and heartthrob of The Beach Boys in Randall Miller & Jody Savin’s THE DRUMMER.

THE DRUMMER charts the last six years of Wilson’s life in which he created some of the finest music of his career. Eckhart is deep into training for the role, learning to play drums and piano as well as training vocally to sing on screen in the picture. The only Beach Boy who surfed, Dennis Wilson ironically drowned in 1983 in Marina Del Rey shortly after he finished and released Pacific Ocean Blue, his solo masterpiece. “Pacific Ocean Blue is an amazing album–beautiful and sweet, haunting and complex,” says Savin. The album was re-released in 2008 to rave reviews and was named the best re-release of the year by Rolling Stone. “Dennis was a pained and tortured soul, yet brilliant and loved dearly by so many who knew him.”

Eckhart has recently signed on as the lead in I, FRANKENSTIEN and he just finished the shooting the lead role in THE EXPATRIATE.

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