Yesterday, NMR published a quick hitter warning YouTubers a new precedent was set in filmmaking — a film production team was being charged with criminal negligence/manslaughter over the death of a camera person on their documentary film. Many readers claim our coverage of this was some sort of ad hominem attack on YouTube and its creators — something out of almost malice.
While we typically keep our articles short and sweet, this article somehow hit a nerve with you, gentle readers. And so we thought it best to delve more into the subject of why exactly it does in fact apply to YouTubers.
While the original article is short, believe me, you don’t need more details about the actual death of the camera assistant Sarah Jones. At a certain point, the specifics of what happened to Sarah become prurient bloodlust on your parts. Everything germane to the YouTube community is listed in the course of the original article.
The relevant information is this: a filmmaking team without permits set up shop on a dangerous area of train tracks and someone got killed. This matters to YouTubers. The independent filmmakers had permission to be filming near the tracks, but not specifically on the tracks. So yes, one can see how it is a greater offense that they simply “neglected” to get the proper permits — or maybe they tried and failed? Whatever the case, these people had no right to be on the train tracks — any of them — and someone died. Now make that connection to YouTube.
How many YouTubers get permission for what they do? Few to none. The bottom line is that YouTube is still very much a guerilla industry at large and many sets take risks to get shots that they legally aren’t allowed to get. So you can perhaps make the connection as to how YouTubers should be aware of filmmakers being held liable for accidental deaths? Switch out the independent filmmakers who were out there for YouTubers. Does the situation change? If some assistant to a YouTuber gets hit because the YouTuber ordered them to be out on train tracks, is the YouTuber not in some way liable? YouTubers operate in the same manner as independent filmmakers (many films are shot without major studio participation and then hope to get picked up and distributed by major studios — it is similar to YouTubers hoping to attract an MCN). YouTubers definitely need to be held liable for the actions they take — just the same as anyone else.
And finally, for those of you who say that Ms. Jones should have expected a safe work environment while working with an independent filmmaking crew, all I can say is that you need to watch the independent film “Clerks.” Remember they were discussing about how unfair it is that all those contractors and construction workers got killed while building the unfinished Death Star in “Return of the Jedi”? And then that contractor stepped up and explained that you as an adult know the danger of the situation you are getting into — working on the Death Star was not without its risk of death. The same goes for filming on an OPERATIONAL TRAIN TRACK. As a 27-year-old adult, Sarah Jones and everyone involved with the production had to know there was some risk involved with what they were doing. And tragically, in that instance, the risk came up. Obviously (or perhaps not so obviously), the tone of the original piece said, essentially: “BE CAREFUL, PEOPLE.” And with that, hopefully you fine folks get all the information you need.
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