It hasn’t been a great week for Netflix.

Hot on the heels of a vehicular accident directly related to an online meme commemorative of Netflix’s lukewarm new release Bird Box, one which had the streaming giant’s PR team tweeting: “Can’t believe I have to say this, but: [don’t] end up in the hospital due to memes,” a new PR threat has emerged. Netflix is now investigating whether or not actual footage of a deadly 2013 event has snuck its way into the film after it was discovered in another production.

An early scene in the film includes a newscast about a mysterious phenomenon leading to mass suicides; in reality, the reel appears to show real footage of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, one of the worst rail incidents in Canada’s history, occurring after a train transporting crude oil derailed and exploded, leaving 47 people dead.

Footage from the incident was recently discovered in an episode of science fiction series Travelers, produced by Canada-based Peacock Alley Entertainment. The president of the production company, Carrie Mudd, says the imagery was sourced from stock footage supplier Pond5, whose spokesperson said the footage “was taken out of context and used in entertainment programming.”

Pond5 has since apologised for the blunder, and Mudd has emphasised that Peacock Alley Entertainment had “no intention to dishonour the tragic events of 2013.” Even so, the damage seems to have been done, made worse by the fact that this isn’t the first time Netflix has been accused of allowing such an oversight.

Earlier this month, the streaming giant was accused of using footage from another fatal train crash that occurred in Belgium in 2010 in its film Death Note.

Bird Box has certainly been the source of some… unique… PR hurdles for Netflix in the wake of its release, not the least of which include the absurd “Bird Box challenge” involving the wearing of blindfolds while wandering around and, even worse, operating a vehicle.

The challenge gained further traction when well-known YouTuber Jake Paul dashed through traffic wearing a blindfold in a stunt that was, of course, uploaded to the platform. Netflix has since called for internet users to refrain from such antics, declaring on Twitter:

“Can’t believe I have to say this, but: PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE. We don’t know how this started, and we appreciate the love, but Boy and Girl have just one wish for 2019 and it is that you not end up in the hospital due to memes.”

-5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian


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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.