Cameraman Killed Shooting BBC, Netflix Drama Maybe Victim of Cost-Cutting Stunt

Published November 11th, 2019 - 01:31 GMT
Experienced cameraman Mark Milsome (Twitter)
Experienced cameraman Mark Milsome (Twitter)
The hearing was told that the stunt coordinator, Julian Spencer, was too ill to travel to Ghana and the stunt was planned in the UK.

A cameraman who was killed when a stunt went wrong on a top BBC and Netflix drama could have been the victim of costcutting by the production company, an inquest heard.

Experienced cameraman Mark Milsome - who previously worked on Game of Thrones and Saving Private Ryan - died after being hit by a Land Rover Defender performing a stunt in Ghana for the series Black Earth Rising.

The veteran camera operator, 54, was filming the car at night, driving up a ramp, but it ended up colliding with him and his camera.

A pre-inquest review was told that the crew in Ghana was not as qualified as it should have been and the drivers were inexperienced.

Counsel for the family requested the inquest look into possible costcutting measures that might have resulted in his death.

The hearing was told that the stunt coordinator, Julian Spencer, was too ill to travel to Ghana and the stunt was planned in the UK.

But when it came to be filmed in November 2017 the inquest heard that the stunt was changed, including the position of the camera, with a different risk assessment.

Mr Milsome's father Doug told the hearing that Julian Spencer told him had he been there he would never have put Mr Milsome's camera position in the path of the car.

In a 30-year career, Mr Milsome worked in films including James Bond feature Quantum Of Solace and Oscar-winner The Theory Of Everything.

His TV credits included episodes of Game Of Thrones for HBO and Sherlock for the BBC as well as Downton Abbey.

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His family launched the Mark Milsome Foundation which aims to nurture young film-making talent.

Stars including Robert De Niro, Dame Judi Dench and Johnny Depp have all backed the cause by wearing the foundation's T-shirts.

Katherine Deal, QC, representing the family, said: 'The stunt changed on the day. The risk assessment was very different to the actual stunt that happened.

'We want to know why the collision happened and the assessments that led up to the stunt.

'Someone, not in this country, changed the stunt and the position of the camera. The person who originated the stunt was not there to oversee it.

'The team in Ghana was not as qualified as they should have been and the family is concerned there were commercial concerns to cut corners.

'These were inexperienced drivers. They were not at the same level as Mr Milsome was used to working with.

'We want to know whether there was financial concerns before the stunt went wrong.'

Coroner Dr Sean Cummings said: 'I will look at the planning of the stunt, the position of the camera, discussions of the stunt before it occurred, and how and why it went wrong.'

He added: 'I am not sure I am persuaded to look at costcutting. It is not within my remit to investigate the financial concerns of a production.'

Ms Deal said: 'Costcutting may not have had any bearing on the death. It may be rumours but this is the only way the family has to find this out.'

Dominic Kay, QC, for the production company Drama Republic, said: 'I am not aware of any financial or commercial concerns by those who have been advising me.

'I understand there are rumours, but I do not see that is part of evidence.

'We would highly refute the suggestion that cost cutting is any reason that would have led to Mr Milsome's death.'

Ms Deal requested the production disclose raw footage of both the stunt and any rehearsals, as well as sound cards that may have recorded behind-the-scenes conversations between the crew.

She said: 'Mr Milsome ended up directly in the car's trajectory. We need to be aware of everything that happened that day to get the full picture.'

Doug Milsome, himself a famous cinematographer who worked on many Stanley Kubrick films, accompanied by his wife Dorothy, said the original stunt coordinator had spoken to him privately before the hearing.

He said: 'Julian Spencer said to me, if he was there, there was no way he would have put a manned camera in the path of a moving stunt vehicle.'

Coroner Cummings, however, replied: 'This is not the time to give evidence, Mr Milsome.'

Ms Deal then again requested finances be a part of the scope of the tribunal.

She said: 'We are not trying to suggest that the production cut catering costs in week six, for example, and that somehow led to Mr Milsome's death but we believe it may come up during evidence.'

Mr Kay responded: 'We will object to any examination of cost-cutting as it was absolutely not a factor in what led up to the tragedy of Mr Milsome's death.'

A list of production items were requested to be disclosed within 28 days. 

Many crew members, from the assistant director to sound engineers, will be called as witnesses.

The inquest, likely to take between five and seven days, will be heard in March 2020 at the earliest. 

No fixed date was set.

This article has been adapted from its original source.    

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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