— -- “Midnight Rider” filmmakers took footage shot the day of the horrific train accident that killed crewmember Sarah Jones and injured seven others and edited it into a scene, the only one that was ever made for the ill-fated movie.
In the raw footage, shot on Feb. 20, 2014, by the still photographer on the Georgia set, “Midnight Rider” crewmembers and actor Wyatt Russell can be seen struggling to get off the tracks, some trying to move a hospital bed and other props, as a freight train barrels towards them. Within seconds, the train is upon them with a deafening roar, and the video goes sideways, then dark.
Despite the death of 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones and the others injured, some of the footage shot that day was later edited into a dream sequence scene, in which the main character chooses not to follow his deceased brother to a premature death.
The edited scene plays in the video player above, and includes audio of “Midnight Rider” director Randall Miller describing the scene. The film was supposed to be based on the life of rock star Gregg Allman, played by Academy Award-winning actor William Hurt, but after the accident, Allman sued to end production permanently.
Miller’s defense attorneys said Miller had the scene edited to help explain, as part of his defense, why they were on the tracks that day.
“It was really done to show us, as his attorneys, what was going on, what was in his mind,” Miller defense attorney Ed Garland told “20/20.” “And we would have shown what he was trying to create in his mind, where his mental focus was. And we said, ’We want to know what was in your head,’ and he said, ‘The best way to show that is show what I was trying to do.’”
Miller, his wife producer Jody Savin, producer Jay Sedrish and first assistant director Hillary Schwartz, were charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass. Miller pleaded guilty on March 9 to the charges, so the edited scene was never shown in court. He was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine. Miller is also prohibited from being a director or assistant director for the next 10 years. It the first time in history that a Hollywood director had been held responsible for a death on set.
“It was a very big deal because...in California, they're invincible,” said Brunswick Assistant District Attorney John Johnson. “It showed that directors and producers… can be held responsible if a crewmember dies… We take life seriously here in South Georgia, and we also take death seriously too.”
Jay Sedrish and Hillary Schwartz also pleaded guilty to with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass charges and each were sentenced to 10 years probation. As part of the plea deal for Miller, charges against Savin, who had pleaded not guilty, were dropped.
The scene the “Midnight Rider” cast and crew were filming that fateful day was set up on the active train trestle over the Altamaha River at Doctortown, Georgia, and the crew had placed a metal-framed hospital bed on tracks as a prop. Although they were actively filming the scene, it was marked as a pre-production shoot, according to the production schedule obtained by "20/20."