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by Paula Bernstein
February 25, 2014 5:03 PM
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Sarah Jones' Death Highlights Dangers Crew Members Face on Set

Sarah Jones (Source: South Carolina Film Council on Facebook)

In a painful reminder of the dangers crew members can encounter during production, Sarah Elizabeth Jones lost her life last week when she was struck and killed by a train while working as a second camera assistant on the new Greg Allman biopic "Midnight Rider." Her death is now serving as a lightning rod for the industry, which is using the tragedy to draw attention to the occasionally dangerous role of the crew -- and the risks filmmakers are often willing to go to in order to get the shot. The investigation into the accident is underway, but whatever the eventual findings, the tragedy is a reminder of the risks that crew members take every day.

Jones, 27, was killed after trying to remove a bed from the tracks. She was working as part of a 20-person crew from Savannah, GA-based Meddin Studios. Directed by Randall Miller, “Midnight Rider” stars William Hurt, Tyson Ritter, Wyatt Russell and Eliza Dushku. The film is being distributed by Open Road Films in the U.S. Filming this week was temporarily halt in the wake of the tragedy.

Jones lived in Atlanta, Georgia, where she worked as a camera assistant on many projects. According to her obituary, she died "doing the job she loved."

Jones began her film career while interning on the set of "Army Wives" and then discovered a passion for cinematography. She worked as a crew member of "The Vampire Diaries" and many of her former colleagues mourned her death via social media. Jones was a member of the International Cinematographers Guild (IATSE Local 600). In a statement, The International Cinematographers Guild said it was "shocked and saddened" by Jones' death and described her as "a well-respected camera assistant, much loved by those who worked with her.

There's an online petition to add Jones to the Academy Award Memorial tribute on Sunday night. Over 4,000 people have already signed the petition, which reads: "Only 27 years old, Sarah's promising life was cut short when she was struck by a train while working on a dangerous set. Crew members are the unsung heroes of film and television production who work long hours and sometimes very dangerous conditions for the love of filmmaking. Sarah Elizabeth Jones was one of us.  We ask for Sarah Elizabeth Jones' love and passion for filmmaking be acknowledged on the grandest stage of all, The Academy Awards."

Though he didn't know Jones, video assist technical Chris Murphy created the online "Sarah Jones Oscar" campaign and shared it via Facebook. "Sarah could have been any one of us," he told Deadline. "We've all been in that situation before in our thirst to accomplish our jobs and help directors get their visions accomplished."

Now the film and television industry is honoring Jones with "Slates for Sarah," a campaign to post memorial tributes to her on clapboard slates from film and TV crews around the world. The crews are posted photos of the tributes on the Facebook page Slates for Sarah, which has over 13,000 followers. So far tributes have been sent from TV shows including "Person of Interest," "Revenge," "About a Boy," "The Goldbergs," "Revolution," "Parks and Recreation," "Devious Maids," "New Girl," "Veep," "The Mentalist" and "Drop Dead Diva" and many more. Below are just a few of the many images.










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40 Comments

  • Harry Bateman | April 15, 2014 12:16 AMReply

    My heart felt condolences go out to Sarah Jone's family for a great loss.And to all that knew and worked with her.For a life cut short as it's just beginning is a tremendous tradgety.God speed,and God bless.Very sad.

  • Cyndi B | March 18, 2014 2:22 PMReply

    while sad for the loss of this young woman, one must point out that she unlike many dies doing what she loved. and unlike many other deaths there is a certain responsibility she herself must carry to the grave. my heart goes to her family, but I would not condemn an industry for this death. this is a career chosen, and unlike many others, actors, stunt people production crews know first hand sometimes shit goes wrong. kinda like life period.

  • Suga | March 3, 2014 2:47 AMReply

    Someone should write a screenplay for "The Making of Midnight Rider".
    Especially now, with big Business saying: 'Let's be rid of Unions'.

  • Chris J | March 3, 2014 1:50 AMReply

    As for Sarah, she is a human capable of making her own decisions. How she could be struck by a train regardless of any other person or permit, is beyond me. It's tragic for sure, but I'm not sure the blame rests anywhere else but on her shoulders.

  • Kelly M | April 14, 2014 6:17 AM

    I agree with you Chris J!

  • Suellen | March 3, 2014 11:25 AM

    Ridiculous!

  • Chris J | March 3, 2014 1:50 AMReply

    Wow, the responses to Carl Spitter are horrible. You people are actually worse than him. Cursing at him, calling him names, saying things like you hope he doesn't work another day in his life, I honestly hope the horrible things you say to people come back to you.

  • T.Jarvis | March 1, 2014 1:49 AMReply

    I can't believe some of the heartless responses I've read in regards to this loss of life. I'm so sorry for the loss of such a young and talented individual. Always let those around you know how much you love and appreciate them because in a blink of an eye they could be gone. Make every moment count. Carl if you continue on this path of hate your life will be meaningless.
    Your inner pain is so evident. Don't destroy yourself! Seek help.

  • Carl Spitter | March 2, 2014 12:18 AM

    I don't require help but this bee-otch requires a f@cking casket. Waddup.

  • Dan J. | February 28, 2014 5:52 PMReply

    Midnight Rider:
    1. No permit to be on the tracks, much less the trestle.
    2. No set medic.
    3. No establishment of adequate warning for oncoming trains.

    Producer/Director: Randall Miller
    Unit Production Manager: Jay Sedris
    First Assistant Director: Hillary Schwartz

  • Suellen | March 3, 2014 11:27 AM

    Indie wire, please monitor your comments and add a link to report.

  • Bradley " Wiszard " Grasser | February 28, 2014 1:12 AMReply

    Carl Spitter , You are a piece crap and to think that she is responsible for this tragedy and that you would defend the people responsible for breaking the law show what a useless piece of S#$%^** you are .
    I bet your family is proud to have you as a relative . If you were my brother I'D disown you . I bet your Mom & Dad hope you will someday become a human being instead of a piece of S##$%^&*( t

  • Bradley " Wiszard " Grasser | February 28, 2014 12:57 AMReply

    The words " Love Your Job " in the film industry is a passion when in the craft you can't explain well enough for others to understand we thrive on 6-7 day work weeks 10 -18 hour days , physicality and Mentality draining . We at times expect our higher ups to look out for our safety and well they should , but we need to look out for our selves and our Brothers & Sisters

  • Carl Spitter | February 28, 2014 9:53 AM

    If you idiots loved your "craft" you'd all stop complaining, bitching, moaning and whining about how "evil" producers are and just WORK. You're abigfatbunchof WHINY COWARDS!

  • Jake L | February 27, 2014 11:08 AMReply

    Wow, thoughts and prayers to Sarah's family. Hard to put blame on anyone; best we can do is learn from it. I truly hope that Carl Spitter never works a day again in his life.

  • Carl Spitter | February 27, 2014 1:23 PM

    Oh Jake, I'll just mooch off your moms.

  • anya | February 27, 2014 7:07 AMReply

    you know this is a very sad tragedy and it might have been preventable, but to blame the victim is totally wrong on so many levels. so, why don't you show some damn respect. but, then again i guess it is easier to blame the victim then blame the whole industry. so, l guess we will continue to just blame people like sarah and then while we are at it lets blame actors like brandon lee, vic marrow and others who have died on set doing what they loved. then we could really be assholes and say that every stuntman or woman who has died on set is to blame for their deaths as well.

  • Carl Spitter | February 27, 2014 1:23 PM

    But Anya, she IS to blame. Had SHE not existed to begin with, SHE wouldn't be DEAD NOW!

  • CARL SPITTER | February 27, 2014 1:19 AMReply

    If I were a lawyer I'd defend these producers to the death! The crew sucks, obviously. Who the hell lets one of their own members get killed? Selfish idiots.

  • Siva | February 27, 2014 1:10 AMReply

    @carl spitter, if I want to hear an arsehole speak, I'll fart. So shut the f*** up. This is so unprofessional of you to make such comments on the passing of someone. Makes me think that you must be a producer or something like that.

  • Carl Spitter | February 27, 2014 1:17 AM

    SIVA, when you're through degrading your employers, come by my office and f*cking blow me. I could give two sh*ts about you and this union douchbag who F*CKED UP ON THE JOB AND PAID THE ULTIMATE PRICE!!!!!!

  • Carl Spitter | February 27, 2014 12:06 AMReply

    If she wasn't getting paid to do it would she still love it? Just saying, these pro crew types are sketchy at best.

  • CARL SPITTER | February 28, 2014 9:54 AM

    Head over to your nearest IATSI office - I'm always there, watching over you... BRADLEY!

  • Bradley " Wiszard " Grasser | February 28, 2014 1:33 AM

    You spout your mouth on the web . Put your address out there I'm sure lots of people would like to visit you and your views and you , then your family could read a post like if he didn't exist in the first place he wouldn't have been a useless f#$$%^ng piece of s$%^^t

  • Bradley " Wiszard " Grasser | February 28, 2014 1:23 AM

    Where did you crawl out of it is somewhere below Hell . I mean pro-types and sketchy at best sounds like someone who couldn't do the job and is whining little B#$%^^&h so crawl back to where ever you came from because the human race doesn't want people like you to breed or even waste of perfectly good oxygen !

  • Pedro Bürgerbräu | February 26, 2014 8:50 PMReply

    Her death had an explanation: the delirium of a satisfied talent. That was the explanation of friends and family, also found on her obituary. But there is a much more exact explanation; Sarah eluded herself; she saw a gesture of love where there was only an alteration of ingenue vanity. And after having got everything she wanted, which was her absolute love for filmmaking, it escaped from her, since offering her heart was the only thing supposed.

  • brandon | February 26, 2014 1:50 PMReply

    I worked with Sarah in the camera department on a pilot in Atlanta. She was young but experienced and a member of local 600, having a background both in TV and Film. I doubt seriously she would have done anything to knowingly put herself in a dangerous situation. I am heartened by the outreach of the film family to make her loss of life public and promote change. I am also pissed that production didn't think enough of the safety of the crew to put them out of harms way. Sarah had an amazing personality and was a consummate professional. Unfortunately she trusted too much that others would have the same professionalism in keeping them safe.

  • Carl Spitter | February 27, 2014 12:07 AM

    Oh she was a union girl, that explains so much. She wasn't only getting paid, she was getting OVER PAID! F*ck this cunt! Glad she's dead!

  • Paul | February 25, 2014 9:48 PMReply

    This tragedy was preventable. An early report in the trades and then local news reported that the filmmakers had a permit from the landowner of the adjoining property - a paper company, but not CSX, the railroad. CSX stated they did not permit. CSX stated "they were aware there was filming in the vicinity." Other accounts include the investigating sheriff who observed that people from around there knew there were sometimes as many as 1o other trains a day on that track.

    The filmmakers had put a bed on a railroad trestle to recreate a dream sequence. Thus the flying debris was the bed placed on the trestle. That trestle spans one of the largest water basins in the south. is) assuming that the two trains that made daily stops at a paper mill, were the only ones on the track. This is likely the result of not having permission from CSX. In post 911 America it is difficult to find train schedules - unless of course, you are a user of the tracks. Somehow the reporting, which was based on rewrites of the original morphed into a narrative that the railroad had granted permission. Anyone who has ever filmed on or around railroad tracks knows how complex permission/permit is to get. The exceedingly cautious environment demanded by the railroads is non-negotiable. But, once they have signed on - they come with their safety people, spotters - and in a situation like this derailers. Unfortunately lower budget films don't have the time, and often the money to manage a permit from the railroad.

    Below is a link to a google aerial map of the trestle. There were no spotters to warn the crew - which might have been a way to mitigate the risk of working on tracks without a permit. So judge for yourself - should any production put its crew in a situation as lethal as this?

  • Christy | February 26, 2014 11:53 AM

    Thank You Paul for this very thorough report.

  • Mark | February 26, 2014 12:58 AM

    Then the producers should be charged.

  • Mark | February 25, 2014 6:22 PMReply

    Its the First AD and Key Grips jobs to make the set safe. And its on the producers to follow their call. There are way too many ADs/Key Grips/Producers/Crew members who will say, "well, lets just give it a try."

    Unfortunately, too many crew members will put themselves in harms way over...a shot. Nothing.

    Again, could have been a freak accident. I'm not sure. But folks HAVE to wake up.

  • Paul | February 25, 2014 5:31 PMReply

    I find "Sarah Jones death" strikingly low-key given the impact of the story to those who haven't heard it. How about, "Assistant Director dies on-set"? Or is that too-bad of publicity for the biz?

  • DB | February 26, 2014 11:11 PM

    She wasn't an Assistant Director, she was a 2nd AC.

  • CJ Harris | February 25, 2014 5:27 PMReply

    Did the crew have permits or were they shooting run and gun style? If they had permits it should not have been dangerous. Was the director overzealous in getting "the shot?" Who's job is it to make sure the crew is safe? The AD? The Production Manager? The City? Lots of questions. A terrible tragedy.

  • Hardy | February 26, 2014 3:12 AM

    @michelle, investigators already determined that crews had permits to film in the area but not on the tracks. This is another common case of DOP or Director trying to get that 'perfect shot'. Except somebody died this time.

  • Andrew | February 25, 2014 9:06 PM

    The producers were not only operating without a permit to be on the tracks, they had actually asked and been denied. they went ahead anyhow without any coordination with the railroad.
    I am not able to post links but there is an article in Variety from Feb. 24th explaining this.
    It's really criminal. read all the comments on that article.

  • Michelle | February 25, 2014 7:51 PM

    By all accounts so far, the shoot was permitted and the team were told there would be two trains coming, so once those two trains passed they returned to close to the tracks. When an expected third train came by, they had less than a minute to get to the production 'safe' spot situated far from the tracks, unfortunately the train crashed into the bed and the debris from that knocked her onto the tracks. This is a real tragedy and am important reminder of the dangers crews are often asked to face in the course of their job regardless of who is ultimately to blame.

  • Aaron | February 25, 2014 5:24 PMReply

    What a tragedy. Since the beginning, film has often been a dangerous endeavor. This is so tragic, as she was only 27 and clearly loved film. My love goes out to her family.

  • Jim | February 26, 2014 7:37 AM

    By most accounts, production DID NOT HAVE PERMISSION to be on the tracks. In fact, many accounts state that production did the following: They asked for permission; It was denied; They trespassed anyway and lied to the crew saying they had permission. While this is not the final word, it seems to be what most accounts are saying or implying. Here's a page that is apparently from the police report that has been posted on the web. http://postimg.org/image/9gyzyn9a1/