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Executive: Shooting in L.A. Could Prevent 'Midnight Rider'-Style Accidents

Executive: Shooting in L.A. Could Prevent 'Midnight Rider'-Style Accidents

Shooting the ill-fated “Midnight Rider” in California could have prevented the February accident that killed a member of the indie film’s crew, Richard Wright, Lakeshore Entertainment’s head of production, said April 24.

An experienced crew, he told the industry crowd at a breakfast organized by the California Film Commission, would have known better than to shoot on active railroad tracks.

“That was a low-budget film, a lot of people that hadn’t worked on a lot of films at that point,” he said. “Shooting in the low-budget range in Los Angeles, you can still get good crew. You’re not pulling people straight out of film school."

Sarah Jones, a camera assistant on the Gregg Allman biopic, died in Georgia Feb. 20 after being hit by a train during a shoot.

I don’t think that if that show had crewed here that you would have seen people taking the risks that obviously were taken on that film,” said Wright.

Lakeshore Entertainment is about to release "Walk of Shame," a $15 million feature starring Elizabeth Banks that shot in Los Angeles after receiving credit from the California Film and Television Tax Incentive Program. 

“The reason we shot the film in California pure and simple was because we got the tax credit,” Wright said. “When you’re an independent film company and your margins are as tight as they are nowadays, a tax credit is part of the calculus and you can’t ignore it.”

Wright said the cast, which includes 20 comedian cameos, was attracted by the local setting. 

“Shooting the film in California allowed us to cast great people for those roles because most of those roles were shot out in a day,” he said. “If we were shooting in Atlanta, we would have not been able to fly [in] 20 actors. We would have to cast local actors in all these parts and the film would be vastly different.”

It also makes it easier on the producers, he added. “As an executive it makes my job easier. It means that I can go to the set every day.”

Before Wright took the stage, Kish Rajan, director of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Office of Business and Economic Development, hinted his boss might support adding funding to the program’s $100 million annual budget.

A bill to revamp the program is moving through the Legislature. Supporters say the program needs to match New York’s funding level, which sits at $420 million. Brown has a reputation for disliking tax credits as a means to stimulate economic growth, but Rajan indicated he’s trying to change his mind. 

“I realize that the tax credit issue is a central issue, we’ve been spending so much time visiting with industry experts, with folks all throughout the ecosystem,” he said. “I’m telling the governor…when you look at the director contribution that this industry makes in terms of jobs and economic contribution—it’s very substantial.”

Another sign Brown could be warming to an increase in the incentive: His office announced it was launching a pilot program to incentivize businesses to hire new workers in certain parts of the state. The governor is in Los Angeles Friday to address the Los Angeles Business Council Sustainability Summit.

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