Chasing state tax incentives can have disastrous safety consequences, according to producers, risk managers and insurance brokers, who spoke today at a PGA Produced By panel on industry safety.
The recent death of camera assistant Sarah Jones in a tragic train accident during filming of Midnight Rider has shaken the industry like no other accident since the 1982 Twilight Zone disaster. The fact that Midnight Rider was shot in Georgia, one of the most tax incentive-friendly states in the nation, wasn’t lost on the panelists.
“They didn’t do enough prep time to do it right,” said Winnie Wong, SVP of Momentous Insurance. Nobody questioned or said ‘Stop,this isn’t safe.’
“Sarah Jones could have been anyone of us” said production manager Ellen Schwartz of Black Label Group. “Anyone of us could have been standing on that set. So many things went wrong because a lot of safety precautions were not put into place.”
“The biggest fear that most crews have is being fired for speaking up,” said Schwartz, an industry leader on safety issues.
“The biggest problem” for indie producers filming in tax incentive states Schwartz said, is that they often end up working with “D-minus crews — people in the business with less than 18-months experience who think they know it all. There are so many productions chasing incentives.” She added that many crews that are available “are really inexperienced. I find it really hard to get a good crew in a tax incentive state.”
“I know of a production that pulled out of Atlanta because they couldn’t get an experienced crew,” said Deborah Moore president of production at Inner Primary Entertainment. “You have to be very careful.”