‘Midnight Rider’ director accepts blame for camera assistant’s death, then blames other people

Director Randall Miller plead guilty to charges related to the death of 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones earlier this month, for which he received a $20,000 fine and 2 years in jail. Friday he released a statement to the AP where he sort of takes responsibility for his actions while also throwing a couple of other people under the bus.

In the statement, Miller says “although I relied on my team, it is ultimately my responsibility and was my decision to shoot the scripted scene that caused this tragedy.” Um, OK. It’s weird that he’s trying to accept blame and call the incident a team effort all at the same time, but maybe he just worded that sentence wrong. Let’s read on.

I pleaded guilty for three reasons: first, to protect my wife and family; second, out of respect for the Jones family and to not put them through a difficult trial; and, third, to take responsibility for my failure in not knowing that every safety measure was in place.

If I could put my editor’s hat on for a second and take a crack at this disaster of a paragraph, I would suggest maybe changing pretty much everything about it. First, let’s make that third point the opener, and really hammer home the fact that your “failure” in this instance got somebody killed. That second point is fine. You can leave that. I would strongly advise taking point one out though. It really makes it seem like you don’t care about the person who got killed, which I remind you, you are attempting to accept the blame for in this statement.

Ok, great. Glad we could get that sorted out. Let’s see what else you’ve got here:

The location manager, the production designer, the unit production manager, the cinematographer, assistant director and others all made mistakes that led to this, but I have taken responsibility because I could have asked more questions, and I was the one in charge. I have worked in the film industry as a director for 25 years and never had a significant accident of any kind on any one of my sets.

Oh boy. Ummmm, hey I’m gonna remind you again that the whole point of this thing was supposed to be you apologizing and taking responsibility. That usually doesn’t entail listing the specific people you also think deserve some of the blame. Also, if I could bring your attention to that last sentence, maybe you should tack on “until now” to the end of it? Unless you don’t consider what happened last year with that woman dying to be a “significant accident.”

I see we’re coming to the end of this thing though. What have you got to bring it home?

I am heartbroken over this.

Great start.

I hope my actions have spared the Jones family more anguish and that the on-set safety measures that were lacking before this terrible tragedy will now take precedence for all in the industry.

God dammit. Dude. Your actions are what led to their anguish in the first place. And what the hell was all that about on-set safety? Why is that even part of the apology to the Jones family? How are those two things in the same sentence?

You probably also shouldn’t try to make this about the “industry.” There actually are a whole bunch of safety measures put in place already. One of them is to not film in a location for which you have repeatedly been denied permits, which is exactly what you did. If only the existing safety procedures had taken precedence for you, maybe you wouldn’t be writing this tone-deaf letter from a prison cell.

Anyway, aside from these notes, great job.

[h/t Deadline]