Hollywood Remembers Sarah Jones One Year After 'Midnight Rider' Accident

Filmmakers urge on-set safety as trial date approaches.
Courtesy of A.M.P.A.S

One year ago on Feb. 20, Sarah Jones, an enthusiastic, 27-year-old camera assistant, was killed when she was struck by a train in Georgia while filming Midnight Rider.

By now everyone in Hollywood knows the tragic story of how the crew was shooting on a train trestle and ran for their lives when a train approached, leading to Jones’ death and additional crew injuries. The incident sparked a widespread cry for on-set safety, while a criminal trial set to begin next month.

On Friday, production crews around the world took a moment of silence for Jones before making the first production shot of the day, now known as “the Jonesy.”

This is part of a memorial campaign launched this week by the International Cinematographers Guild (Local 600) and Local 479 (Studio Mechanics). Relatedly, Sarah’s parents, Richard and Elizabeth Jones, issued a video statement remembering their daughter and urging filmmakers to “not let this happen to another father, sister, brother, friend or co-worker.”

In the year since the incident, other safety efforts have included ICG’s SOS: Safety on Set initiative to communicate established safety practices and training programs through member communications including its website, internal publications and an ICG Safety app.

Read more Sarah Jones' Parents on 'Midnight Rider' Lawsuit: 'We Don't Want Our Daughter's Death to Be in Vain'

In the case of Jones, investigators believe certain filmmakers on Midnight Rider disregarded safety practices. The film's director Randall Miller, producer Jody Savin, executive producer Jay Sedrish and first assistant director Hillary Schwartz are scheduled to face involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass charges related to the incident at a trial that is scheduled to begin on March 9.

Last November Jones’ parents reached a confidential settlement in a related civil lawsuit with several of the defendants, including the four aforementioned names.

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter on Friday, ICG president Steven Poster noted an outpouring of support for the Jones family and the increased emphasis on keeping sets safe. “ICG constantly encourages members to watch each other's backs, and if they see something, say something," he said, adding that this isn't just the responsibility of a few guilds. He related that sets can be "dangerous" and "everyday incidents can become tragic accidents. Everyone in the industry should be their own safety officer.”

"I think there's a little bit of Sarah Jones in all of us, especially her enthusiasm and the joy she found in doing the work we do. We owe it to her memory to not just be aware of our own safety as we work but to always watch out for one another," Richard Crudo, president of the American Society of Cinematographers, told THR. “There is no imaginable reason that explains why she isn't here with us now. We must be sure that circumstances such as those that led to her death are never allowed to occur again."

That was a message that producer Gale Anne Hurd shared on Feb. 8 when she accepted a distinguished service award at the Society of Camera Operators' Lifetime Achievement Awards. “There are no excuses for what happened to Sarah Jones," she said, emphasizing that "human lives have to come first."

Last weekend at the ASC Awards, Lifetime Achievement Award winner John Bailey also remembered Jones as "an extraordinary woman who was taken from us," during his acceptance speech.

Email: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com

Twitter: @CGinLA

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