Saturday, 05.09.2015 -
First day of shooting -
A fight scene in bright sunshine on a moving truck was on the shooting schedule. However, Olivia's planned assignment wasn’t exactly an open and shut job, as they say.
But more about that in a moment.
She waited around for ages until it was finally clear whether it could go off.
She doubted ‘if' right from the start, because it was rainy an wet. The days before the shoot the sun was beating down, hot and dry, in a way that was so typical for the country. The weather forecast promised that the weather would continue like this for the entire following week. They weren’t wrong, but as mentioned above: On the day in question, the weather was grey, dark and wet.
The crew agreed that the planned fight scene on the truck could not take place because of the rain. According to the script, it needed sunshine. "But could we still shoot some motorbike riding?" said the producer. In the script the fight scene was to be immediately followed by Olivia jumping on a motorcycle on a platform on the side of the truck, popping a wheelie, jumping the motorbike off the side of the truck and riding away.
It didn’t make sense to film the motorbike scene because the weather would need to be the same as the fight scene. But typical of producers, the crew are all already on set and getting paid, so they should shoot something at least.
Olivia waited at her number 1 position, alone with just 1 AD under a bridge 800m away from the crew. In front of her was a long desolate road that was, of course, closed to all other road users. The road was scattered with various car dummies lying around, so that everything looked like an apocalyptic world. There was an overhead bridge at each end of the road and under one Olivia sat on her motorcycle. At her side: the assistant director with his walkie-talkie for instructions. Under the other bridge was the director, the stunt coordinator, the rest of the crew and an action vehicle: a SUV with a huge camera crane on it.
Olivia was to ride at 70km/h in a straight line along the road. The action vehicle was to drive towards Olivia at 50km/h starting with the camera crane swooping along the ground and as they came towards her was supposed to lift the camera crane up and over Olivia’s head in a pre-planned safe and timely manner.
In a stunt like this timing is everything!
Exact speeds, starting positions and distances are worked out and for it to be safe it is absolutely vital that everything stays exactly the same. There were a couple rehearsals for timing and for the action vehicle to work out where to start lifting the camera crane. Unfortunately on the 3rd run the crew made some changes that directly affected the timing of the stunt… all without informing Olivia.
The action vehicle driver and crane operator changed their vehicle’s starting position and changed the position where they decided to lift the crane. The director also asked for a lens change.
Olivia rode down the road in exactly the same way expecting the action vehicle team to do as they were meant to do. The camera crane operator did not lift the crane headed for Olivias head in the position as in the earlier runs.
They drove the camera and crane directly into Olivia’s head and left shoulder area, whipping Olivia backwards off the bike and slamming her onto the tar road.
Olivia's left hand side of her face was degolved (where the flesh is pulled back from the bone) and her cheekbone and eye socket shattered, her brain bled and swelled, her brachial artery was severed and she bled internally to the point that it caused her lung to collapse under the pressure. She suffered a shattered shoulder blade and broken vertebrae, collarbone, ribs, humerus, radius and ulna. Her spinal cord was injured where 5 main nerves were furiously ripped out of her spinal cord by the root, paralysing her top left quarter of her body.
Olivia was rushed to a trauma ICU hospital and put into an induced coma for 2,5 weeks where the surgeons performed multiple lifesaving operations and tried to piece Olivia back together again. Olivia’s husband Dave Grant, a fellow stunt performer, rushed over from Malta, where he was filming, to be by her side. Her family gathered from all over to potentially say goodbye and clung to the hope that she may make it through.
Against all odds Olivia did make it. She spent many months in hospital learning to walk again and undergoing further surgeries.
To this day she has to often undergo surgeries as her complex injuries are degenerative and still cause her immense pain and suffering every single day without a break
Her life has drastically changed and it is difficult, both physically and emotionally, dealing with her change of life style and her change in physical capabilities and appearance but she faces it as positively as she can and still tries to make the most out the hand that she has been dealt.
Her Buddhist faith and meditation creates a calming balance in her life and it helps her to deal with the inescapable pain.
The compensation process
What indemnity exactly? Simple question, simple answer: there was none!
even though the film grossed a good $300 million. I repeat: 300 million, so no small clunker, which is also shown by the names of two crucial participants in the film: Milla Jovovich (leading actress) and Paul W.S. Anderson (director).
Not one entity that Olivia’s legal team found to be responsible for the accident were insured with liability insurance. The stunt coordinator was simply not insured for anything, the action vehicle team had only insured equipment that could be damaged and did not have liability insurance (even though their job is to drive heavy machinery in close proximity to stunt performers) and, even though their contract said otherwise, the film’s production did not have liability insurance that covered cast or crew.
5 years later, in 2020, a court in South Africa ruled 100% in Olivia’s favour. The camera crane company were proven to have negligently planned and executed the scene. The judge rejected the defendants' claim that Olivia was to blame for the accident and completely ruled out any responsibility from Olivia’s side. Even though those responsible have been proven negligent, the court process is still going on these many years later and Olivia is yet to receive any compensation.
Olivia Jackson is an infectious "let's do it" person.
She sees something she likes, just starts doing it and, fuelled by passion, enjoys the process until she gets really good at it.
Olivia is an absolute inspiration on endless levels and I really hope that she gets justice!
Here you can read another story of hers, which was about a funny experience, thank God.
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