Midnight Rider location manager warned director he didn't have permission to film on train tracks

Closing arguments in the ongoing civil trial surrounding tragic camera assistant Sarah Jones' death will be heard on Monday.

Filmmaker Randall Miller and his producer wife opted to go ahead with filming on Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider on train tracks in Georgia without the correct permission, a court as heard.

The now-scrapped movie's location manager, Charles Baxter, testified on Friday (14Jul17) during a civil trial brought against landowners CSX by the family of camera assistant Sarah Jones, who was struck and killed by a train while filming B-roll footage on the first day of shooting.

The company's defence team brought Baxter to the stand and entered into evidence a string of emails between him, CSX, who own the railroad tracks and Rayonier, a firm that owns the land adjacent.

Baxter testified he spent over a month trying to secure permission to shoot on the trestle with Rayonier representative Tina Kicklighter serving as a middleman between him and CSX bosses, who refused to let Miller and crew shoot on the train tracks.

The location manager revealed he had Rayonier's permission to shoot on the land around the trestle and when he relayed this to his director on the morning of the shoot, Miller allegedly decided "to go down and film and try to get the shot done anyway".

Baxter told the court he was ridiculed by production designer Missy Stewart and executive producer Nick Gant for opposing the director's plan.

"Nick had said to me, ‘Are you going?’ And I said 'no'. He said, 'Why?' and Missy said, 'Because he’s a Rhode Island Red'. And she looked at me and started laughing, so I figured she was insinuating that I was a chicken."

He claimed the supervising crew members did not tell their staff they would be trespassing on the train tracks.

Earlier last week (beg10Jul17), videographer Izabeau Giannakopoulos testified she didn't know she was trespassing until someone started urging everyone to get off the tracks because a train was coming. Actor William Hurt and Miller were among those who were left scrambling.

The director, first assistant director Hillary Schwartz, executive producer Jay Sedrish and Miller's wife and producer Jody Savin were all charged with criminal trespassing and felony involuntary manslaughter.

Miller pleaded guilty so his wife would not be officially charged and spent time behind bars. Sedrish and Schwartz were sentenced to probation.

Closing arguments in the civil trial will be heard on Monday (17Jul17).

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