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Oscar-Winning DP Haskell Wexler Calls 'Midnight Rider' Death 'Criminal Negligence,' Calls for New Safety Standards

Photo of Paula Bernstein By Paula Bernstein | Indiewire February 27, 2014 at 10:07AM

Following the tragic death of crew member Sarah Jones on the set of "Midnight Rider," two time Academy Award-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler called her death an act of "criminal negligence" and called for better safety standards on film and TV sets, Deadline.com reports.
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Haskell Wexler
Haskell Wexler

Following the tragic death of crew member Sarah Jones on the set of "Midnight Rider," two time Academy Award-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler called her death an act of "criminal negligence" and called for better safety standards on film and TV sets, Deadline.com reports.

Wexler directed the documentary "Who Needs Sleep?" which addressed the dangers crew members face on set when they are working long hours with not enough sleep.

He is also the co-founder of 12on/12off, an organization which promotes more humane and safer working conditions on set. As part of their credo, the group believes: "As crafts-people and technicians, it is our responsibility to initiate discussions about these concerns and to look out for the well-being of everyone on our sets. As human beings, we believe that every person’s health, safety and life is worth more than any product we can produce while jeopardizing same. As an organization, our responsibilities include developing and disbursing educational materials to promote these basic rules of humane and responsible filmmaking."

In a letter sent to fellow members of IATSE Local 600 and obtained by Deadline, Wexler said he supports efforts to add Jones' name to the In Memoriam tribute at the Oscars on Sunday.

Read More: Sarah Jones' Death Highlights Dangers Crew Members Face on Set

"I am part of a group asking that Sarah Jones' name be included in the Academy’s 'In Memoriam' section of the Awards telecast this Sunday. Sarah and the three injured crew members were not victims of an 'accident' but of criminal negligence. Something that would not have happened if proper safety rules were in place," Wexler wrote. "Employers will work you longer for less money and under questionable safety conditions because it is their duty to prioritize the bottom line. As individuals we cannot complain. That’s why we need a Union to speak for us, certainly when our safety, our health, and our very lives are at stake! Since they’ve abdicated that responsibility, please join us at 12on12off."

Jones was killed last week when she was struck and killed by a train while working as a second camera assistant on the new Greg Allman biopic "Midnight Rider." 

Jones died after trying to remove a bed from railroad tracks -- and now it's unclear whether the film crew had permission from the railroad operator to film on the tracks. Seven other crew members were treated at a hospital for injuries they sustained on the 110-year-old trestle above the Altamaha River in Savannah, Georgia. Production has been suspended on "Midnight Rider" while an investigation into the accident takes place.

This article is related to: Midnight Rider: The Gregg Allman Story, Midnight Rider, News, Filmmaker Toolkit: Production, Haskell Wexler





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