I have gotten two messages now asking me why I hadn’t commented on the death of Sarah Jones. Sarah was the camera crewwoman struck by the train outside of Doctortown, Georgia on February 20 during the filming of Midnight Rider, and her death is opening up all kinds of those “oh, well holy shit, there weren’t permits” barrels of monkeys that you would assume would be opened when someone is tragically killed.
This is Joyce Gilliard, she was a hairdresser on the film. She was almost killed in the train bridge, too. She had her arm snapped in half by the train, and then fell onto some steel cables under the tressel.
Well folks, I have only one real answer to why. It’s simple. Researching death and disasters and accidents where people were ripped limb from limb or fell 100 feet onto a concrete floor or had thousands of pounds of rig fall on them from trim height at a fair — this kind of stuff makes me hurt inside. I needed a break. It sucks looking up these kinds of facts, learning about so-and-so-who-was-up-and-coming-in-their-field because the next time, it’s going to be another so-and-so-rising-star with a different name that will have an equally gut-wrenching, tear-pulling story. This shit gets old, let me be the first to tell you. Researching the disaster at the Indiana State Fair truly made me sob a few times, it’s hard to hear those stories and write those words.
Here is the part where I comment organizations like the Event Safety Alliance for doing what they do, which is trying to stop this nightmarish stuff from happening in the first place.
As a whole, we are an industry that waits until stuff gets really broken before we fix it, and usually the fix comes either after a death, series of deaths, or a majorly serious catastrophe like the Indiana State Fair disaster or the Radiohead stage collapse. Suck it up, haters, it’s a fact. Most industries are, ours is no different until we make it so.
Why is it though that people generally wait so long to act on potential items of aggravated disaster? There are really too many questions that need answered here to be done in a human lifetime – why do companies who were previously denied access to film on a train bridge get caught filming on that bridge, ultimately causing deaths? Why Is it the cost of doing things safely? You have to admit, we persist and thrive in a relatively dangerous environment with myriad variables all having a potential for a seriously negative outcome. What we do in Entertainment can sometimes be one of the most potentially hazardous environments there is due to the nature of what we do and what we make — doesn’t that alone demand that we follow every procedure, every line item, every method possible, EVERY TIME to save the lives of our people, our brothers, sisters, husbands, and wives who make the stuff the producers and executives make shit tons of money selling?
Here’s what I know in my heart: this stuff that we do, that we love, that we love to love and hate all at the same time — our work has ZERO worth when it has to be measured in the number of lives it took to make it. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you have to be concerned about your safety in this business. I hope I’m not breaking the news to you now, but the people at the very top care about the money, not you. There are more yous to do the job, ask any one of the thousands of unemployed entertainment techs out there. Please though, remember that all of this is just entertainment, it’s just business. When you get killed in an accident because you sacrificed yourself for the sake of the art, the people who paid for you to make the art are going to be sad for sure, but are still going to be sad all the way to the bank while they cash the checks you got for them with your life…
…and you won’t see a dime of that money because you’ll be dead.
I’m sorry everybody, but I just don’t wanna write about this one. This article is the authority on the subject so far that I have seen.