Last week brought horrible news to the filmmaking community as word spread that 27-year-old Sarah Jones, a 2nd Assistant Camera (AC) working on the movie “Midnight Rider,” was killed on set after being struck by a train. Several other crew also suffered injuries and were taken to the hospital.
When the story broke, it was immediately apparent that the accident was avoidable. Since then, ongoing investigations and testimony of crew present have started to answer some questions raised. And as the story unfolds, it’s beginning to look more and more like it was due to gross negligence.
Overall, it was just sad to hear about. Those who worked with her talked about how Sarah was a good person, well-liked, and a skilled professional. Her obituary, written by a friend and fellow AC, reads:
Sarah began her film career while interning on the set of Army Wives, a popular television show. With her spunk and determination, Sarah continued to climb the ranks of the film industry, quickly finding a passion in the art of Cinematography. She was a loyal and respected member of the International Cinematographers Guild (IATSE Local 600).
From the heights of the mountains she hiked, to the depths of the oceans she dove (and never without a camera to record her experiences), the gift of her presence was felt far and wide. To have HEARD of Sarah was a privilege, to have KNOWN Sarah was a blessing. It was to feel an energy that was infectious and kind. Although her physical being is no longer beside us, her smile and her love of life will forever transcend in all the lives of those she touched.
Her friends are too many to count.
I wasn’t fortunate enough to know Sarah, but the news of her death made me very sad. She sounds like an excellent AC who could’ve taught me a lot had I ever been on a set beside her. I know what it’s like to grow close to crew over the course of a shoot. It can be like summer camp – in good ways and bad – and the end result is that you come out the other end feeling extremely close to many that stood behind the camera alongside you. I don’t ever want to discover what it’s like to lose someone in the midst of that, let alone to an accident that could’ve been prevented.
It’s hard to describe the tight-knit closeness of the film community, but it is real and has a profound effect. No matter how the investigations unfold, we in the film community have lost one of our own.
I don’t wish to take away from the grief of her family, her friends, and those she knew, however, by pretending I feel the same depth of their sadness. I don’t. I can sympathize, but I can’t empathize. To me, she is a talented 2nd AC whose career was cut short. To them, she’s a daughter, a sister, a close friend, and probably a million other things. They will be grieving long after I have finished reflecting on it.
So I am truly sorry to Sarah’s family, friends, and those who had the pleasure of working with her.
In many circles, this incident will bring about a very serious and necessary conversation about safety and removing the attitude that we have to do whatever it takes to get a shot. And while reflecting on what happened to the crew of “Midnight Rider” in terms of safety is crucial, I want to save that for another post and instead focus on something positive happening right now:
One of Sarah’s major responsibilities as 2nd AC would’ve been the slate/clapperboard. So, in a show of solidarity, a Facebook page was created to show support for Sarah by placing a note or a picture of her on various production slates.
The response has been overwhelming. In just a few short days, the Slates for Sarah Facebook page has gotten over 30,000 likes. Submissions have come from all over the world and from sets both big and small. It’s even been covered by Variety, Buzzfeed, E! Online, and CNN.
Here’s a handful of the slates that have been posted to the page:
Someone even made a mosaic of Sarah compiled from all the slates uploaded to the page:
I strongly urge you to go visit the Facebook page, like it, check out some of the awesome pics, and even submit your own photos. You don’t even have to be in the camera department: photos showing support have come from editors, video assists, sound mixers, boom ops, grips, and more.
Another important way you can show support is by signing this petition to get Sarah included in the In Memoriam tribute of the Oscars which airs this Sunday. It will be submitted to the Academy Friday morning (the 28th), so please sign it ASAP to be included when it’s handed over.
While the accident can’t be undone and the nasty untangling of “what happened” is going to take awhile to play out through investigations and in courtrooms, Slates for Sarah has been an extremely positive ray of light shining through the storm clouds. It’s been amazing to see the solidarity from within the film industry swell to remember and share Sarah’s story.
So, from one AC to another: