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.