Every year the Oscars host their In Memoriam section which showcases a montage of all the people within the film industry who’ve passed within the last year. Though she wasn’t featured in that section, the fact that The Academy did not forget about Sarah Jones is a testament to the many people who made sure it was important that she was remembered.
Sarah Jones was a 27-year-old second camera assistant who was killed by an oncoming train while filming on the tracks for a movie entitled “Midnight Rider.” Several other crew members were injured but she was the only fatality. Questions were raised as to whether producers of the film had the necessary permits to even be filming on the tracks. Considering what happened, I highly doubt it.
Sarah Jones’ death brings up a complex issue of crew safety on set and wanting to prove yourself in the film industry. As a person starting out in the film industry, you are eager to prove yourself, even many times at the cost of your own safety, with the belief that your team would never put you in any immediate danger. Unfortunately for Sarah, her producers were more worried about shooting a scene (while ignoring the necessary rules and regulations in the process) than ensuring the safety of the crew. Now they have to explain to her family why their daughter is gone.
In my five years of working in the film industry on and off, I’ve seen and done some relatively dangerous stuff myself. Shooting on rooftops, arranging props on ladders, and even witnessing some of my fellow crew members climb a 200 foot hill that had no netting for a shot. However one particular experience stands out.
In the summer of 2011 I was working as a production assistant on the set for an independent film and we were filming a car chase scene in Brooklyn. In the particular scene, it involved one car pulling out of a space and the second car following in pursuit. Well, when the first car was pulling out on a two way street, it nearly got sideswiped by an oncoming vehicle in the opposite direction and missed it by mere inches. The producer involved immediately blew a gasket and walked off the set incensed at the lack of precautions taken. All of us crew members just sat back stunned.
So I say this to say, that unfortunately these things do happen, but rarely if ever do you here of any crew members dying as a result of such carelessness. Hopefully more crews will take more precautions in light of this tragedy and the memory of Sarah Jones will not soon be forgotten.