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Sarah Jones: The Glaring Afterthought to Last Night's 'In Memoriam' Tribute

By Vivian Kane | Miscellaneous | March 3, 2014 |

By Vivian Kane | Miscellaneous | March 3, 2014 |

Last night’s In Memoriam segment had one obvious (halfway) omission that left a lot of people very upset. And no, I’m not talking about Cory Monteith.

If you’re not familiar with Sarah Jones, she was a 27-year camera assistant who was killed last week on the set of the Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider. The film was in its first day of shooting, and the crew was working on a dream sequence scene involving a hospital bed on a railroad trestle. They waited until two scheduled trains had gone by to set up their scene, but when a third, unexpected train approached and blew its whistle, the crew (and cast, including William Hurt) had only one minute’s warning to get off the tracks. According to Variety,

Miller, who also directed the 2008 film Bottle Shock, and a still photographer rushed to get the bed off the tracks. Miller fell onto the tracks but the still photographer pulled him off, according to the witness, saving his life. The train was unable to stop and crossed the bridge while the crew was still on the walkway and the bed was still on the tracks. The bed was hit by the train and shattered, sending debris flying. One large piece of debris hit Jones as she was running and knocked her onto the tracks. She was then struck by the train and killed.

An online petition was started in an attempt to get Sarah included in the In Memoriam segment during yesterday’s Oscars, and it accomplished what few online petitions are actually able to: It worked. Well, kinda. Jones was not included in the main montage. Then Bette Midler sang for a while, and just before cutting to commercial, we got a glimpse of this shot:


By that time, though, the Academy was already being called out.

I watched the awards from a bar in a neighborhood of Los Angeles with a high population of TV and film professionals. There was a lot of angry booing before that last shot came up, and a kind of weird, mildly placated confusion after.

The In Memoriam segment is always a cause for debate. There are always people left out that should have been included. It was doubtful that Jones would be included because that recognition is usually saved for those who have made a profound impact on film, generally over an entire lifetime. But her inclusion was important because, in addition to being, you know, an actual person who lost her life in a horrific way, Jones represents a lot of what’s wrong with the film industry. Production Assistants are notoriously overworked, underpaid, and put in dangerous situations with regularity. (This is a fantastic piece about what it is to be a PA.) There’s not a lot of opportunity to speak up for themselves and express concerns because they’re in an industry full of perpetually graduating film students who would kill for that shitty, dangerous job, and it’s really easy to get your name on someone’s “do not hire” list.

There are a lot of accusations flying right now over who’s to blame for Jones’ death. CSX, the company that operates the train line, has said that the Midnight Rider team did not have permission to be on the bridge. The production company claims they did. Either way, it’s clear there was some serious negligence here. To be operating in such dangerous conditions without a proper escape plan (and, according to some, without a medic present) is outrageous.

Jones’ horrific death has received little press coverage. A Facebook page called Slates for Sarah was set up as a place where others in the entertainment industry could leave a small tribute.

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However, not every response from inside the industry has been so positive. Executive Producer and Reigning D-Bag Extraordinaire, Nick Gant offered this statement, amounting to a big “get over it.”

We are spending too much time trying to place blame on a horrific accident… Sarah and every crew member were friends, family and professionals at what they did. We need to celebrate their accomplishments, their lives and support their families as we move forward.

Additionally, according to a Page Six piece, Gant went full cretin on his own Facebook page on Thursday.

I didn’t see Gant’s post, but a source who did said, “He wrote that young women die of a lot of things. He linked to a Huffington Post article about a woman dying after a bikini wax. So many people told him how sick and stupid it was that he took it down within an hour.”

So yes, it’s a good step forward to have Jones’ name included in the In Memoriam, even as an afterthought, when THIS is the attitude from the people of power, the decision makers, it makes me want to boycott movies forever.

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