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.
“No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”
On Sunday night my Twitter timeline was flooded with positive emotions and well wishing on behalf of Lupita Nyong’o who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role of Patsey in “12 Years A Slave.” It wasn’t the only award “12 Years” would win on the night however, as the film also won for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Lupita has come a long way in just a few short months. If you had asked anyone just last summer about who Lupita Nyong’o was, most people would probably give you a quizzical response. But then “12 Years A Slave” began premiering — and winning — at various film festivals picking up momentum into its eventual theatrical release in October. The film’s director, Steve McQueen, and star, Chiwetel Ejiofor, weren’t exactly household names prior to “12 Years A Slave,” but they had worked on other projects in the past. “12 Years A Slave” introduced Lupita Nyong’o to world and the Oscars were just the crescendo to her months long coming out party.
Despite all the attention, media profiles, and magazine covers, I truly do wonder what becomes of Lupita from here on out. In what was sort of a subtle reminder of just how fleeting celebrity can be (particularly for black actors in Hollywood) Gabourey Sidibe made a brief appearance at the Oscars when she presented the award for Best Original Song. It was just four years ago that she along with Monique were the talk of the town for their roles in Lee Daniels’ 2009 film “Precious.” It’s safe to say neither of their careers has had the expected trajectory of Oscar nominated actresses.
Perhaps Lupita’s career arc will be different. Unlike Monique and Gabourey, Lupita has a certain “it” factor about her right now that is simply hard to dismiss. Also, Lupita does have a small part in the current Liam Neeson thriller “Non Stop.” Hopefully “12 Years A Slave” is only the beginning to an illustrious career for Lupita Nyong’o and not just a mere footnote in Oscar history.
Last month Cheryl Boone Isaacs made history by becoming the first black president of the The Academy. Yes, the same Academy who votes on Oscar winners every year.
Considering the dearth of diversity in Hollywood and the lack of recognition black actors and actresses have received in regards to Oscar recognition, this news is significant indeed. Boone Isaacs has been working in the entertainment industry for a number of years now and has certainly paid her dues. Kudos to her. For more info about Cheryl Boone Isaacs you can check out this Entertianment Weekly article.