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.
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 revealed, people will know that this was not a crime: we never had criminal intent; we would never knowingly or intentionally put anybody’s safety at risk,” they wrote. Deadline’s investigative report into the death of Sarah Jones uncovered previous safety concerns on Miller and Savin’s prior shoot in the area.
Here’s Miller and Savin’s full public statement released today through the pair’s attorney:
Today we entered a Not-Guilty plea to the indictment that was handed down in Wayne County, Georgia.
We have remained silent out of respect for the family of Sarah Jones, their loved ones and all of the crew who were injured on that very sad day February 20th, 2014.
This devastating loss of Sarah, a young crew member who was just starting out with us, will haunt us forever. Our hearts are broken, our spirits are broken. We have young children and can only imagine with immense sadness the heartbreak of losing a child. We are praying for Sarah’s family.
We have been in the television and movie business since 1990. We have produced and directed more than 10 features and television movies. We have always emphasized the safety of the crew. In all those years we have never had a significant injury or accident of any kind. We believe in protecting our crew – the crew who work so hard on our movies. We consider them to be family. Many of them have worked with us on several of our films. All of our movies have been union films. No crew member has ever left one of our movies over a concern about safety. As members of the WGA, the DGA, SAG, the Television Academy and the IATSE, we believe in living up to the aspirations of those organizations.
In the weeks and months that follow when the true facts of the events are revealed, people will know that this was not a crime: we never had criminal intent; we would never knowingly or intentionally put anybody’s safety at risk. This was a horrible tragedy and a horrific accident.
We will dedicate ourselves in the future to honoring Sarah’s memory by promoting the safest work environment for everybody in the film industry.
Randy Miller and Jody Savin