Friday, July 11, 2014

I'm Going To Get In Trouble For This...

I’m going to do something I shouldn’t. I’m going to wade into some very murky waters to address something that is a hot-button topic, which I’m sure to get me into trouble… because I’m going to write things that some of you may disagree with or even find offensive - not all of you, but some. 

The topic? Gender bias in the film industry - specifically related to directors, but also to the industry as a whole. And let me be clear, there is a bias, to be sure… but not in the way some think.

I’m going to write (cautiously) about this topic because I can’t stand to read another article about it framed, as it often is, by this ridiculous stance that women aren’t hired because they’re women, and I should note that this exact phrase was written to me on Twitter by journalist Melissa  Silverstein, who writes for Indiewire, after I saw her article and responded.

The title of Ms. (Mrs.?) Silverstein’s article on her blog Women And Hollywood, is: “Male Privilege Watch: Man With No Directing Experience to Direct Film With Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett.” (*)
To say that the title of Silverstein’s article seemed inflammatory would be an understatement… and her need to push an agenda seemingly without consideration of research or, it would seem, an understanding of the business beyond the fringe, actually bothered me.
When I read that heading, I immediately clicked through to the link, which I suppose is what Silverstein wanted - more hits for the site… I was, as one might imagine, expecting to find an article about some late-20s first-time writer somehow getting the proverbial Golden Ticket and being allowed to direct his first ever screenplay… or worse, some nephew of a studio head or well-established producer simply being handed an opportunity… but it only took me to the second paragraph before I laughed and clicked away… Why? Because all of Silverstein’s credibility was lost for me. 
The person who was going to direct this Redford/Blanchett film… this person who was, according to Silverstein, merely a result of “Male Privilege,” wasn’t a newbie at all. He wasn’t some kid with zero experience on a set and no credits to his name, no, no… director is James Vanderbilt, and he also wrote it.
If you don’t follow screenwriters, let me give you a bit of background on Vanderbilt. Family heritage aside, he graduated the film program at USC in 1999 and, only two years later, began his professional screenwriting/producing career when his script BASIC was turned into a film starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Connie Nielsen (directed by John McTiernan). 

After selling BASIC, he  briefly became the “new hotness” in town and was quickly sought after. He wrote the successful Universal action-comedy THE RUNDOWN (directed by Pete Berg).  After THE RUNDOWN, he had a bit of a lull (as often happens) before finally joining up with David Fincher and adapting the non-fiction novel Zodiac by Robert Graysmith. After ZODIAC   (which he also produced), he had some heat again. 
Next up, he wrote Warner Bros.’s THE LOSERS, followed by THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, then WHITE HOUSE DOWN (again, producing as well), and, finally, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, which brings us up to date.     

Now, one would have to be pretty uninformed to believe that a writer on a massive tent-pole studio film these days (like either of Sony’s SPIDER-MAN films or WHITE HOUSE DOWN) isn’t sitting in a Star Waggon (yes, they spell it with two ‘g’’s) somewhere in basecamp, frantically re-writing the very scene that 347 people are waiting to shoot just a van ride away… This isn’t 1944, after all, and while writers these days rarely get the respect of some of the other crafts, they’re not entirely pushed away from set either - especially when they’re also producers on a project. Because of that, Silverstein’s assertion that Vanderbilt is a man with “no directing experience,” is absurd. He may not have actually stood on set and called, "Action," but he absolutely has experience.

In her article, Silverstein mentioned that this new film Vanderbilt would be directing is based on a novel by “former CBS producer Mary Mapes,” and goes on to pose the question, “would a female writer be given this kind of opportunity?”

Well, Ms. Silverstein, as Twitter’s 140 character limit was not sufficient for me to give a detailed response, allow me to answer here: Yes, under certain circumstances, a female writer would be given the opportunity.

As with almost anything, it all comes down to demand. Who wants the material, what are they willing to pay for it and what, if any, concessions are they willing to make in order to acquire it?

From the Deadline article (**) that Ms. Silverstein refers to in her piece, along with a quick check of IMDb, we are able to learn several things about the project.

1). As previously mentioned, the script will be based on the non-fiction novel Truth And Duty: The Press, The President, And The Privilege Of Power by Mary Mapes. (Huh. “Privilege.” I see what you did there, Melissa).
2). Vanderbilt will not only direct, but write and produce as well.
The second item is the important one here. In the Deadline article, it states that Mr. Vanderbilt optioned the rights to the book, along with his partners, via their company Mythology Entertainment and that he will be adapting the book (most likely with the intention of directing it).

This is not a new idea for a writer to control the material so as to move him or herself into a new role.Heck, even actors have made this play… Think back to ROCKY. In 1975, everyone wanted the script by the unknown writer about the underdog who simply wouldn’t quit, and they were willing to pay Stallone as much as $300,000 dollars for his screenplay (an even more extraordinary sum at that time than it is now), but Stallone (who was, as the story goes, literally sleeping in his friend’s closet in New York) refused to sell the script unless he would be guaranteed the lead role. In the end, MGM wanted it bad enough and John G. Avildsen signed off on it. The film went on to be nominated for 7 Academy Awards and, by the time MGM commissioned a sequel, Stallone was already positioning himself to direct the film.
How about Damon and Affleck with GOOD WILL HUNTING. Billy Bob Thornton with SLING BLADE. 
So. Knowing this, could one make the assumption that a writer (or actor) with a script that people want, leverage that desire into a job in the directors chair? Could, say, Kelly Marcel, coming off her BAFTA Nominated work on SAVING MR. BANKS, leverage her next script as an opportunity to direct? Yes. I’d say that she could.
Let’s talk about some other (female) directors…
What about the excellent Nicole Holofcener? Holofcener had written and directed four films - all of them modestly budgeted - that found an audience. They weren’t blockbusters, but their investors (one assumes) recouped. 

During the two years between PLEASE GIVE and ENOUGH SAID, she went back into television (where she’d been working steadily as a director on shows like Six Feet Under for HBO and Enlightened for Showtime). ENOUGH SAID was, again, a modestly budgeted film, but this one connected on a level her other films hadn’t. The film was unique and funny (and also, sadly, benefitted from being one of James Gandolfini’s last performances). It grossed an impressive $25 million worldwide. Since then, she’s gone back to tv again, working on the hit series Parks and Rec for NBC. 

How about Susannah Grant? Back in 2001, she was an Oscar and BAFTA Nominee for ERIN BROCKOVICH. She went on to write IN HER SHOES for Curtis Hanson and, in 2006, wrote and directed CATCH AND RELEASE. Since then, she’s gone on to write films like CHARLOTTE’S WEB and THE SOLOIST and, like Holofcener, is now working in television… 

Why isn’t she directing now? My guess is because, like any director, when you film tanks (CATCH AND RELEASE made on $16.1 million worldwide on a reported $25 million dollar budget), you go to “director jail” for a while. Sometimes you get out for good behavior (Joseph Kosinski), and sometimes you literally go to jail and try to make a comeback later like the aforementioned John McTiernan. As an aside, he was jailed for his involvement in a wire-tapping scandal, not for ROLLERBALL, despite maybe deserving prison for that film, too.

I should probably mention at this point that I am a huge fan of a number of female directors… but the fact that they’re women has, literally, nothing to do with my fandom. I, like most people I know, judge a filmmaker on the quality of their work, not on their gender… and that goes for the casual film viewer in me as well as the producer who might be considering potential director candidates for a project.

Of the three films I’ve produced, all have been directed by men - however, two of the three have been shot by the same woman, and the reason the directors were male was because, in two of the cases, the director was also the screenwriter and in the other, my Co-Producer had optioned the material specifically so that he could direct it. I wasn’t, as a producer, not hiring a female director because I don’t like women or don’t feel a woman would be up to the task… it was that the projects were generated by men, and those men controlled the material. 

On my second film even our Key Grip was a woman (talk about a rarity!). DP, female (another rarity). Costume Designer, female. Script Supervisor, female. Co-Producer. Another Co-Producer. All female. 

On my third film? Two female producers, (excellent) female Co-Writer, (the same, badass) female DP (still a rarity) and her two female AC’s. We had the same (genius) female Costume Designer, a (smart, meticulous) female Script Super., and our Production Designer was another (brilliant) woman. We even had a (phenomenal) female Prop Master. Hell, our Travel Coordinators were both women! I mean, I could go on and on. 

Did I hire these people because I specifically didn’t want to hire men? Did I hire them because I thought the fact that they were women somehow gave them a better sense of the material? No. That’s an absurd idea. They were hired, all of them, because they were A).Talented and B). If I’m being candid, they were willing to work on the film within the given budget constraints.

Could women have directed any of my three feature films? Sure. Each film I’ve done could’ve been directed by a man or a woman and gender would have had nothing to do with the outcome. Story is story is story, and if women had written the films, they likely would have been directed by women.

Hopefully this illustrates that I, personally, prefer a set with women around… as long as they tend to be those with a calming presence and not the, sort of, (here’s where I get in trouble) shall we say, overcompensating presence… and I’m referring to those women who, in order to compete in this (admittedly) male dominated business, feel they need to yell a lot or… assert themselves lest they be perceived as weak. And don’t get me wrong - I don’t want to deal with men like that either!

Looking again at Silverstein’s statement that women can’t get hired simply because they’re women, let’s dig deeper. First, some (sad) stats just to show that I’m not ignorant of the numbers:

(Courtesy NY Film Academy)


Clearly, there is an imbalance… but I honestly don’t believe it’s simply that women can’t be hired as directors. Look at television, which is in the midst of a new “golden age.” TV in the last few years has seen an enormous influx of women directors… from feature directors like Jodie Foster (who received an Emmy nomination this week for her work on Orange Is The New Black) and Lena Dunham, to Lynn Shelton and the aforementioned Nicole Holofcener. 

Then there’s Michelle McLaren who has proven more than capable at handling shows that might be perceived (and rightly so) as coming from a rather masculine point of view, like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. Is she being asked to do features? I don’t know, you’d have to ask her. Would I ask her to direct a feature? You’re damned right I would. She strikes me as capable of working in any genre and is on par with, say, Kathryn Bigelow.

Since I mentioned Bigelow, I want to point out a comment she made right after her film BLUE STEEL opened. She had already done the violently brilliant NEAR DARK, and BLUE STEEL was, once again being pointed out for being very violent and intense “despite having been directed by a woman.” She was asked if she found it difficult, as a woman, to get films made. She replied, “If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.”

Clearly, Bigelow has done just that. While not all of her films have been successful and she’s had to occasionally get bailed out of director jail (hello, K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER, I’m talking to you), she has always come back, and her recent work (THE HURT LOCKER, ZERO DARK THIRTY) has been her best yet…

Now, Bigelow doesn’t write her films (she has partner Mark Boal for that), but if you look at the majority of the examples I’ve made, you’ll find that most of the successful (female) filmmakers have written the films they direct - including Nancy Meyers who years ago surpassed Penny Marshall as the highest grossing (female) director.  Look at this little collection of names below:

Of the names in that little cloud, only five of the nineteen names listed are not writer/directors. Five.

And I didn’t even include Nicole Holofcener (writer/director), or Susannah Grant  (writer/director) there because I already mentioned them above. That makes five out of twenty-one names who are not writers.

And then we get to Dee Rees. 

I met the extremely talented, extremely intelligent Dee Rees at the Mill Valley Film Festival (back in, 2011 I think it was), when my film GIRLFRIEND tied with her film PARIAH for Best U.S. Feature. 

You want to talk about industry bias? How about being female, black and gay. Funny how that hasn’t seemed to stop her, Ms. Silverstein. 
Dee picked up a host of awards (from Breakthrough Director at the Gotham Awards, to a GLAAD Media Award for outstanding film), and is currently working in television. 

I also didn’t include Ava DuVernay in the little cloud of names. DuVernay is currently directing SELMA about Martin Luther King, Jr., which was long tied to (male) director Lee Daniels. She’s also credited as a writer on the film. 

DuVernay was the first black woman to win Best Director at Sundance (for her second feature MIDDLE OF NOWHERE), and in regard to SELMA, even Melissa Silverstein herself (in another article) pointed out that, “movies about epic male historical figures are usually reserved for [male directors]”.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t call attention to Haiffa Al-Mansour, who is the perhaps the most intriguing person in this blog. She is the first ever (female) director from Saudi Arabia. Her film, WADJDA is also the first film to lens entirely in Saudi Arabia, as well… and to direct the film, she often had to hide in a van so as not to be seen giving instruction to male cast and crew members. I mean… really, ladies of the U.S. film industry… do ya really have that much to complain about? I know it’s a rough, male dominated, sexist industry… but would you have to direct from a fu*king van in order to avoid being… I don’t know… stoned in the street?

So, what am I saying here? I guess I’m saying that if we want more women directors, we ought to be cultivating more women screenwriters… because, though they may appear to have limited power, a phenomenal screenplay in this town is gold. Solid, f*cking gold… and if you have it and they want it, they’re going to let you direct it.

So stop complaining about inequality. You cannot compare yourself to anyone else. You are on your journey, whatever that is. It does no more good than me saying, “I can’t greenlight a movie because my father isn’t Larry Ellison and I didn’t get a blank check to start my company.” Is that true? Sure. If I had been given a blank check by my dad, would I have had an even shot at some Oscar nods by now? I gotta think, “yes.” I have a good sense of story and I would seek out filmmakers (male or female) the way Megan Ellison did. But, for now, I can’t do that… and holding myself up to Megan Ellison or her brother or even Lawrence Bender or Chis Moore isn’t going to help me.

You simply have to focus. Stop making excuses and make art. Create. Write a goddamned script and then go and direct it. If it’s good, the door will open for you. At least for a few seconds. Then you can slip through. I’m still working on getting it open myself and moving up to that next  level.
Two more quick things: 

1). Lynn Shelton agrees. #GetWriting 

2). My extremely talented (male) director (also a Gotham Award winner) has been unable to work outside of his own projects despite the fact that he’s repped by WME and is an incredible talent…  Perhaps “they” don’t like Jewish/Quaker/Sicilian men… I think it’s some kind of… religious… gender… racial bias, but if you’re not opposed to hiring a man for your tv series, you could do a lot worse.

Now. How much trouble am I in?

Shaun O’Banion is an independent film producer and member of the Producers Guild of America. He has produced three films: DAKOTA SKYE, Gotham Award-winner GIRLFRIEND, and THE AUTOMATIC HATE (due in late 2014/early 2015). 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Re: Lawsuits and Nudity (NSFW?)


You may not know this, but there's a battle being waged right now between an actress named Anne Green and the producers of a show called Femme Fatales that, somewhere along the line, was meant for Cinemax (aka worldwide as "Skin-emax")... 

The crux of the suit is this: Ms. Green alleges that she was coerced ("bullied" or forced) into simulated sex scenes and nudity during the production of the show. Incredibly, or perhaps not so incredibly depending on your stance, the companies named in the suit are counter suing for breach of contract. 

I recently blogged on this murky topic for the site Stage32, which is a sort of Facebook for film creatives, and what follows is a (slightly modified) version of that blog. It's murky because I've been on a set or two (not mine) in which I could see how an actor might be pressured into going a bit further than he or she otherwise might be comfortable. I also know all too well, what it's like to be a producer as the minutes tick away (along with the money) while a director creates new blocking on the fly to accommodate an actor who is... less than agreeable about all those little deal points he or she initially agreed to.

So, here's my take on the dueling "Nudity Rider" lawsuits: 

I have produced a number of projects featuring nudity - everything from shorts to features to music videos. It should first be said that the shooting of any scene in which any actor needs to be nude (or simulate sexual situations) is a very strategic process, and the filmmakers (and crew) must all take into account the uncomfortable nature of such scenes - it is, therefore, the job of the filmmakers to make the set as comfortable as possible for those performers during the shoot. 

Actors and actresses are, particularly in this day and age, used to the process - the cast members of Game of Thrones or True Blood, for example, are damn near experts by now - but the parameters by which any scene is put on film (or digital) is very specific, and no two sex scenes are exactly alike in the handling. 

Game of Thrones (HBO)

True Blood (HBO)

Nudity Riders are brought up, by honest filmmakers, at the beginning of any initial conversations with cast. Like, in the meeting phase. I actually point out sex scenes or nude scenes in a script when I first talk to reps. Conversely, reps tend to know which of the actors (male or female) at their agency are amenable to scenes like this, which makes the process mercifully easier in the negotiation phase. 

Nonetheless, one must always be aware that, in the internet age, whatever these young men or women do onscreen, will live forever on the web... and that's a hard pill to swallow... especially for young actresses who are asked (far more than their male counterparts) to lose their clothes in a scene. This is also why you see, more often than not these days, sex scenes in which nobody actually gets naked. Still, there are actors of every age, weight, race... whatever... who have no qualms about nudity (Kate Winslet, Michael Fassbender and Marisa Tomei come to mind) and there are those who will just never do it. 

Black Swan (Fox Searchlight/Cross Creek)

I've had negotiations so detailed that deal points come down to not only which body part/s will be shown but, literally, the amount of frames in any one shot that will be shown in the Final Cut of the film. Frames! [Note: One frame is 1/24 of a second.] Of course, I don't begrudge any actor (or their teams) for this kind of specificity. I completely understand why they'd want to know what's going in the picture and for how long.

Where things get tricky (and I assume this happens more in indie film), is when an actor shows up on the day, having signed the Nudity Rider weeks or even months earlier, knowing full-well the content of the screenplay, only to have second thoughts or... to protest in some fashion as to force the filmmaker to re-conceive the scene. This, too, has happened to me as well as a number of directors and producers I know.

9 1/2 Weeks (MGM)

So, wait... Why couldn't you just show the actor the contract they signed and compel him or her to do the scene as written? Well, this is littered with complication: How many shooting days are left? Does this actor or actress work the majority of the remaining days? Will there be animosity between the talent and the director? How much of a delay will fighting over this issue cause? Is this a situation where we'll have to call their reps?

     Last Tango in Paris (UA)

So, what do you do? The truth of the matter is this: On an indie film, you generally don't have time to waste trying to get agents or managers on the phone. You also can't afford to have your actors working against your director for the rest of the shoot, not to mention that, if scheduled later in the shoot, it'll be too late to "make a change" in cast and consequently, the scenes usually get rewritten or reimagined. 
Here's where you're thinking, "but it's a contract, right? Why would it be tricky?" Well. It's tricky because actors KNOW that you most likely have limited time and probably no money... They know that if you're further into your shoot schedule, you'll be locked in and so, (perhaps not so surprisingly) an unscrupulous actor will agree to everything in advance, knowing full-well that when it comes to the shoot day, he or she can find any number of reasons to explain why the nudity no longer works in the context of the scene for him or her... or any other myriad excuses... and so: OMIT.

Blue Is The Warmest Color (Wild Bunch)

In the past, I'd always tried to be a nice person and have asked my AD's to schedule nudity or simulated sex scenes for later in the schedule so that the actors have time to become comfortable - not only with one another, but also with the crew - but I've been burnt... so now, I ask my AD's to front-load those scenes if possible - even on Day One... this way, if the actor has agreed and the Rider has been signed (and provided the director isn't trying to add shots which weren't agreed upon per the contract), on the day, if the actor resists, you still have a shot at re-casting if the director feels compromised... the flip side is that, if the filmmaker determines they can live without the nudity, you move on accordingly.

Ultimately, there are ways to avoid this issue prior to your standing on the set and preparing the shot, and again, the goal is to make everyone feel comfortable "on the day." 

For me, personally, I wouldn't want to hire a woman to play a stripper in a film who wasn't willing to be nude. I also hate the 'L' shaped covers in a film. I mean, really, who does this?

(This, of course, is a joke... right?)

Obviously, I don't have the full details of this particular case, but in my mind, when you sign a contract, you've made a deal, and as a producer in the indie spectrum, I'll be very curious to see how this plays out.

My advice to actors..? If you don't want to be naked in a film, you PrObAbLy shouldn't take a role which requires nudity. And filmmakers? Be honest. Be upfront. Then stick to the terms of the Rider. Whatever is agreed upon in advance, is what will be: 4 frames of full frontal nudity? Fine. Side-boob (with visible nipple)? That's it. That's all you get. No inventing stuff on set.

If you want to have a look at the article about the case, you can find it here: The Hollywood Reporter

Oh, and those stories of Paul Verhoeven sneaking the shot of Sharon Stone's... nether region... into BASIC INSTINCT? Don't believe it for a second.



I was recently offered the opportunity to speak at the SAG FOUNDATION on the topic of Post Production. I dragged my good friend (and editor of my last three films) Jeff Castelluccio along and, though he hadn't intended to be a panelist, he ended up on stage with producer Sebastian Dungan and myself. Sebastian has produced a number of films - from the festival hit TRANSAMERICA, to the scathing documentary INEQUALITY FOR ALL. The program was moderated by Kelly Thomas of Juntobox Films

You can check out the full Q&A here:

I want to thank Dennis Baker of the SAG Foundation for the opportunity to speak with the members of my union and I hope to do more in the future.

By way of information, The SAG Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 1985 that "provides vital assistance and educational programming to the professionals of SAG-AFTRA while serving the public at large though its signature children's literacy programs." They are separate from SAG-AFTRA, and rely solely on support from grants, corporate sponsorship and individual donations in order to maintain its programs and create new ones.

I've had the privilege, for several years now, to read to children in "at-risk" schools in my area through the SAG Foundation's BOOK PALS program (you DON'T need to be a Screen Actors Guild member to volunteer!) and I've loved every minute of it.

All of this is to say that there are some very valuable and rewarding programs offered to both members and non-members alike and, if you can, I highly recommend making a contribution to the Foundation.

More updates soon.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Regarding Sarah Jones

This is a reposting of a blog I wrote for

If you've been following the news lately, you've likely heard about Sarah Jones, a 2nd AC who was struck and killed by a train while working on the new Allman Brothers biopic, MIDNIGHT RIDER.
Over the past few days, more and more information has been coming to light, and I wanted to weigh in as a producer...
I should mention that there is little concrete information out of Georgia at this point, but this is what is known: "The crew, including director Randall Miller, had been warned to expect two trains on the local bridge, one in each direction, and waited until after those two trains had passed to set up their shot, which involved placing a bed on the tracks. The railroad had also told the production that if any additional trains came, they’d hear a whistle about a minute before the train would reach the bridge.

Sarah Jones
A third train did arrive unexpectedly, blowing its whistle while the crew was on the bridge and the bed was on the track. Crew members ran toward their base camp, which was on land at one end of the bridge, using a plank walkway on the side of the trestle bridge. However in doing so they ran toward the bed. That proved disastrous.
Miller, who also directed the 2008 film “Bottle Shock,” and a still photographer rushed to get the bed off the tracks. Miller fell onto the tracks but the still photographer pulled him off, according to the witness, saving his life. The train was unable to stop and crossed the bridge while the crew was still on the walkway and the bed was still on the tracks.
The bed was hit by the train and shattered, sending debris flying. One large piece of debris hit Jones as she was running and knocked her onto the tracks. She was then struck by the train and killed. Debris also hit and injured several other people, including one who was seriously injured and airlifted to Savannah’s Memorial Health University Medical Center." – Source: Variety.
Sarah Jones
I have produced three feature films at this point in my career, but this is my 20th year in the industry, and what I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, is that there are several people who should be held criminally liable for the tragic death of Sarah Jones if, in fact, the information we currently have proves true.
One of the first jobs I ever had on a feature film, was as a set P.A. on Katherine Bigelow's film STRANGE DAYS. In the film, there is a sequence in which a woman flees a murder scene and runs across a series of train tracks as she's chased by a pair of dirty cops (played by Vincent D'Onofrio and William Fichtner).
My job for that night, was to be driven in a van more than three and a half miles down the track in City of Industry, where I would wait trackside with a military style repeater walkie. My ONLY job that night was to announce over the radio if I saw a train coming at me, at which point the First AD. Steve Danton would clear the track.
In truth, my job that night was redundant - a rep from Southern Pacific was already with the AD's on set and monitoring their own walkie channels in case any unscheduled trains may have made their way toward "the set." 
In my roughly 14 hours in my lock-up, there were (maybe) two trains. Both were scheduled, and in both cases the AD's were given advance warning by the rep for Southern Pacific and by me. Nobody was hurt.
This crew had ABSOLUTELY NO REASON to be on that track. Plain and simple. They should NEVER have been there. And now a bright, beautiful young woman is dead.
On a recent project, I had the distinct pleasure of watching our First A.D. make a judgement call which took to mind the SAFETY of the crew BEFORE any other obligation to the story or filmmaker, and that's EXACTLY as it should be.
When the below the line crew show up for work each day, it is their belief that the grown-ups on the set (Above the line crew), and the 1st A.D., other A.D.'s and location reps have done their diligence and have assured the safety of the unit. It should never be the concern of the rank and file crew to ask for the permit or to inquire as to their own safety. That safety is implicit, and simply by their showing up at call, there should be NO REASON to question the preparedness of the production.
Regardless, of anything, Sarah Jones died because the Producers, locations people and A.D.'s failed her. And that fact is sickening.
If you are a producer or an A.D., let the senseless death of this woman with such a bright future be your wake-up call. There is no such thing as "cinematic immunity." YOU are responsible for the safety of your crew.
Sarah Jones was let down by her producers, locations reps and A.D.'s, and for that... for trusting and not questioning (as most crew often do and SHOULD BE ABLE TO), she lost her life.
As a producer, I will always and ONLY work with A.D.'s who place the safety of the cast and crew at the top of their list - A.D.'s like Scott Kirkley, Seth Edelstein, Carey Dietrich and their teams. A.D.'s who will stand their ground and say "no," when it matters. To me, they'll only need to say it once.
RIP, Sarah. May your death prevent others dying in the future.