It has not been an especially great week for Netflix or its polarizing monster flick Bird Box, which has spawned one of the most idiotic so-called “challenges” to surface in this cursed timeline we’re trapped in. In yet another public relations headache for the company, Netflix is now looking into whether actual footage of a deadly 2013 event in Canada appeared in Bird Box after it was discovered in at least one other production.
According to the Canadian Press, an early Bird Box scene involving a newscast about a mysterious phenomenon resulting in mass suicides appears to depict real footage of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, one of the worst rail incidents in Canada’s history. The incident occurred in the Québec town after a train transporting crude oil derailed and exploded, leaving 47 people dead.
Footage of the incident was recently discovered in an episode of the latest season of the science fiction series Travelers, which was produced by Toronto-based Peacock Alley Entertainment. The production company’s president Carrie Mudd told the Canadian Press it got the imagery from stock footage supplier Pond5, whose spokesperson Tina Witoshkin told BuzzFeed News the footage “was taken out of context and used in entertainment programming.”
Pond5 apologized for the obvious oversight, telling BuzzFeed News that it “deeply regret[s] that this happened and sincerely apologize[s] to anyone who was offended, especially the victims and their families.” Mudd said in a separate statement that Peacock Alley Entertainment had “no intention to dishonour the tragic events of 2013.”
Both Mudd and a Netflix spokesperson reportedly told the Canadian Press that the images would be removed from the episode of Travelers in which they appear; as for Bird Box, Netflix told the outlet that it was investigating whether the footage shown in the film does indeed depict the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster.
It’s not clear if the footage of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster has been used in other productions on the platform. However, as BuzzFeed News noted, Netflix was accused earlier this month of using footage from another fatal train crash that occurred in Belgium in 2010 in its film Death Note.
Bird Box has created some unique hassles for Netflix in recent weeks, not the least of which include the extremely moronic “Bird Box challenge,” which involves wearing blindfolds while wandering around and (in particularly unfortunate cases) operating a vehicle. The challenge recently prompted YouTuber Jake Paul to idiotically dash through traffic with his own eyes covered, a stunt he (of course) later uploaded to the platform. (At least YouTube seems to have pulled the cord on that mess.) Netflix has since asked that people please not do this.
Update 1/17/19 12:25 p.m. ET: A spokesperson for Pond5 issued the following statement to Gizmodo by email:
“Pond5 is a global content marketplace with over 14 million video clips, including fictional scenes as well as news coverage and archival footage. Some of the content we offer includes footage of historical tragedies, military conflicts, weather events, and natural disasters that may depict sensitive events. We believe that by offering this type of content, we enable these stories to be brought to light with the hope that history will not repeat itself.
“Pond5 maintains the highest standards and employs multiple measures to guide customers to the appropriate usage of our footage. This includes AI-based technology and a team of professionals that reviews every asset for sensitivity, recognizable people, or third party intellectual property. We clearly tag and label all content on the site, and provide account managers and customer support for additional guidance. We license millions of clips every year, and it’s very rare that something like this occurs.
“We are saddened by this incident and are taking additional steps to correct the situation. We are contacting all customers who have purchased any related clips to ensure they are aware of the sensitive nature of this footage. Additionally, we’re proactively re-auditing content of this nature, while continuing to improve our guidance for usage.”
Update 1/17 5:15 p.m. ET: Netflix said it will not remove the footage from its film Bird Box, the Verge reportedly confirmed with the company.