EXCLUSIVE: The parents of Sarah Jones are calling on the DGA to kick Randall Miller out of the guild after learning that he recently directed a new movie, Higher Grounds, in Serbia and Colombia last summer — this despite the special conditions of his probation after he spent a year in jail for the death of their daughter, Sarah Jones.
Jones was killed by a speeding freight train on the first and only day of shooting on the Miller-directed Midnight Rider in Georgia in 2014.
In a statement provided to Deadline tonight, Jones’ parents, Richard and Elizabeth, said that “The legal system will decide whether Mr. Miller violated the terms of his probation when he produced and directed the feature film Higher Grounds. But in our opinion he most certainly violated the moral and ethical standards that informed his court sentencing. To us, his actions were blatantly defiant and egregiously disrespectful to the entire creative community, to the six crew members who were injured while filming Midnight Rider, and to the memory of Sarah Jones, who died on Mr. Miller’s set as a direct result of the unsafe conditions that he willfully and illegally created.
“To help ensure that the film industry consistently protects the lives and safety of all its members, it is imperative to hold those responsible for Sarah’s death fully accountable.”
“In light of Mr. Miller’s continuing insistence on pushing and arguably overstepping the boundaries of court rulings and common decency, we urge the Directors Guild to reconsider Mr. Miller’s membership. The prestigious DGA has such an esteemed list of law-abiding, safety-conscious members that it is increasingly difficult to imagine why they would allow Mr. Miller to claim equal standing among them.”
Deadline reached out to the DGA and Miller’s attorney Ed Garland again tonight specifically regarding the Jones’ statement and will update if they respond.
The terms of Miller’s Georgia probation stated that he is “Prohibited from serving as director, first assistant director or supervisor with responsibility for safety in any film production,” however the document contained a lot of ambiguous language. Miller’s attorney, Ed Garland told Deadline earlier today that the filmmaker was never skipping probation: “The day that sentence was entered, the language of that sentence indicated he could continue to direct.”
In addition, a separate Atlanta, GA law firm, Baker Donelson, also did a legal review of Miller’s situation and provided assurance to those agents with actors in Higher Grounds that “Mr. Miller is allowed to direct so long as he is not the crew member assigned with the task of safety on set,” and that “Mr. Miller is a member of the Director’s Guild of America in good standing” with Baker Donelson attorney Michael M. Smith adding, “Mr. Miller is on what is termed ‘Non-Reporting Probation’ which means he is free to travel and work anywhere in world.”
Previously in March 2018, Miller’s attorney went before Judge Anthony Harrison and argued that the probation and supervision restrictions left the director unemployable. That motion was denied at the time by Harrison.
Higher Grounds was a DGA signatory film, shot for 33 days last summer in Belgrade, Serbia at the same studio where Paramount’s Crawl was shot as well as the Johnny Depp film Minamata. There were also two days of shooting outside of Bogota, Colombia. Sources inform us that there weren’t any complicated scenes involving stunts or action in the comedy about a vegan barista, played by Glow‘s Kate Nash, whose coffee shop is sinking, and gears up to compete in the World Barista Championships. Sources informed Deadline today that production took place in Serbia given the location’s skilled production infrastructure, affordability, and feasibility to double as a number of UK locations where the film is set.