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The father of Sarah Jones, the 27-year-old camera assistant who died when she was struck by a train in Georgia while filming the Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider, sent the below letter, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, to American Society of Cinematographers president Richard Crudo, calling Crudo’s letter on the ASC website “heartfelt and well said.”
In his letter, Crudo wrote that the death of Sarah Jones is a symptom of an industry that is in trouble “spiritually” and called on filmmakers to pay tribute to the young camera assistant by being “more decent and caring” to crews.
Richard Jones wrote in his letter: “The industry apparently needs safer film sets, which, as you so elegantly pointed out, needs to start with a rediscovery of its spirituality.… If we truly properly regard one another, should the safety issues not take care of themselves? If the people in charge of Midnight Rider had properly regarded the lives they controlled on February 20th, would they have placed them on that railroad trestle without proper safety measures?”
He continued: “I do hope and pray that Sarah’s death, in some small way, leads to the cure of the spiritual sickness you so artfully describe.”
The death of Jones has sparked a movement for safer sets and the slogan “Never Forget. Never Again.”
The complete letter is below.
Mr. Richard Crudo,
I am Sarah Jones’ father. Thank you for writing from The ASC’s President’s Desk, ‘On the death of Sarah Jones’. It is heartfelt and well said.
As I read this I am reminded of why Sarah was so excited about entering your world of making films. I recall our routine talks of hearing of her new experiences of the day. We talked about lighting color temperatures, how certain actors required certain filters due to the “negative effects” of HD (but I guess that’s supposed to be a secret) and so forth. She would tell me about all kinds of fascinating details of what it took to get a good shot. Even the night before she died we talked of such things. I so miss those talks.
Following her death I heard stories of how, on the first days of working in the world of cinematography that Sarah was like an excited child in a candy store, doing what she so loved to do. And I heard stories of how, four years later, her unabridged enthusiasm remained intact. She loved the art of cinematography, and yes … even as a 2nd AC with all the tape, markers, measuring tapes, carrying heavy equipment, etc. This young lady had captured the romance of filmmaking, something I think that those who were blessed to work alongside her will attest to. Perhaps Sarah possessed some of the spirit of your Mr. Fraker. (It’s a shame that a few moments of apparent negligence robbed your industry of this young talent.)
The last thing I want to do as Sarah’s father is to tear apart the industry that she fell in love with. Yes, the industry apparently needs safer film sets, which, as you so elegantly pointed out, needs to start with a rediscovery of its spirituality. If we truly properly regard one another, should the safety issues not take care of themselves? If the people in charge of “Midnight Rider” had properly regarded the lives they controlled on February 20th, would they have placed them on that railroad trestle without proper safety measures?
Safety should not be an afterthought that gets in the way of a good shot, but rather, safety should be a culture, woven into the fabric of the industry. It should be part of the planning process from day one of the project. If this is done, I don’t believe that it will be a hindrance to “getting that shot,” but rather part of re-instilling the spirituality into the film industry.
I do hope and pray that Sarah’s death, in some small way, leads to the cure of the spiritual sickness you so artfully describe. Yes … it does matter to Sarah’s family that the ultimate price she paid improves and strengthens the industry that she so loved. May the “good old days” be in front of us.
Never Forget, Never Again,
Safety for Sarah,
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