Friday, February 21, 2014


  As most of you have heard by now, a young member of the Atlanta film community, 27 year-old Sarah Jones was killed yesterday when a train struck her while she was working on a film called Midnight Rider.
  Unfortunately, I didn't know Sarah as well as I could have. I seem to be saying this a lot lately  about those taken too young. She came in often as an additional second AC on several jobs I was working on. I would say "Hi," she would say "Hi" back and we would each head toward our respective labors. I can distinctly remember two things, which aren't much, but are all I have: I remember meeting her, and I remember the bacon. We were on a darkened stage when we met, and I noticed the new girl with a large toolbelt. I walked up (apparently I was in a rare social mood), stuck out my hand and introduced myself. She said, "Hi I'm Sarah." She was friendly, and full of the promise we all had at that age, starting an adventure that she expected never to end. Then there was the bacon thing which I noticed but never asked about. She had a shirt that said Bacon is nature's candy or something along those lines. I thought it was funny as I have often called barbecued ribs nature's candy, which they are. Then on the last job we were on together I noticed that she had a sticker on her toolbelt that also mentioned bacon with a picture of two pigs. That's it. That's all I have. One thing that is apparent over the last two days, though, is the love that the Atlanta film community has for her. Our hearts are broken.

  I don't know all the details of what happened, and try to reserve judgement until the facts are in. I do know that, according to the lead detective on the investigation, the company did not have permission to be on the tracks. I have done countless train shoots. I've rigged cameras on trains, done dolly shots next to the tracks, crane shots of approaching trains and pushed Peewees down the aisles of passenger cars. I do know one thing, you never shoot on a live track without a representative of the train company there. You don't approach the tracks or a train unless they know you are there and you have permission to do it. These situations are tightly controlled. And I suspect one other thing. No one said "No." In this business, we are put in a lot of dangerous situations. A certain amount of risk comes with the job. We regularly shoot in caves, mines, boats, high speed cars, helicopters, and any other dangerous situation a writer can dream up. In these situations we trust that the groundwork has been laid, discussions have been had and meetings held by the higher ups who we often call "the adults" or the "grownups." We call them that for a reason. We count on them to worry about the details of making us safe while we focus on making the movie. All we ask is that if we are put in a situation, that we know the risks. ALL of them. And sometimes, someone has to say "No." As a Dolly Grip, the safety of the immediate camera crew on any given shot is my responsibility. I've earned that through experience, as has my Key Grip. No one said "No" for this girl and those injured in this senseless tragedy. Instead, corners were cut and permissions were broken and a 27 year-old girl who just wanted to do a good job was put in a position from which there was no escape. To get a freaking shot. And that's why we are here, guys:  To say "No" for those who don't know they can. As a forty something Dolly Grip who's been around the block a few times, I would have said, Hell no to being on that trestle on a live track without a rep or permission. As a twenty-something young grip with something to prove and trying to make an impression on "The Adults," however, you can bet your ass I would have moved the camera up there myself and stood by it to yank it out of the way if a train came. It's up to us not to let the creative minds override common sense just to get a cool shot. It's up to us to look out for each other and for those who haven't been around as long. To say "No" for them. Because often they don't know they can. When the time came, no one said "No," for her.  Now, all that's left is an endless sadness and anger, and lawsuits, and finger-pointing and we are still without a friend and co-worker who was doing what she was told, trusting the adults that it was OK.

 To a young lady with a bright future cut short, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't make it a point to get to know you. I thought I had more time. I'm sorry that no one was there to look out for you. I'm sorry for your parents. I can't imagine losing a child, especially to something as ultimately meaningless and stupid as a movie. I'm sorry for my colleagues who were lucky enough to know you better than I did. I wish you could see how much they loved you. I'm sorry for all that was taken from you because no one said, "No." You deserved better. From all of us.

PS: For those of you who knew and loved her, please leave any good memories you have here in the comments. I didn't take the time when she was here, but I can do it now.


Anonymous said...

I worked with Sarah for two seasons. She is what folks say. A bright light full of life!!

Her work ethic would have made you proud. Her smile and laugh (a chortle really) are what I will remember the most.

Day in and day she had a smile and a zest for life!

A light lost to soon is cliché at best.

She was life and it was full.

The world should mourn.

I know will!!

Darryl Wilson
Season 3&4
The Vampire Diaries

David said...

Beautifully written Darryl. And you are so right. I didn't know her, but the whole thing is so unnecessarily heartbreaking. Thanks for writing this.

Wick said...

What you said, D., and what David said. A tragedy a waste and an easily preventable, unacceptable accident.


Thom Shepard said...

I can not remember a day I worked with Sarah that she was not making someone laugh or smile.

She had that remarkable energy to pull everyone together as a family, even if you were tired, not in the mood, reclusive or whatever.

Sarah made you realize every day was awesome and you were going to be part of having fun with her even if it seemed like the suckiest day ever.

When you talked to her, watched how she lived and for me talking about our mutual love to travel, see, look or wander ... you felt like a light would turn on inside of you and wake up things you love that you might have forgotten or that you were not spending enough time on.

The last conversation we had I asked her about her trip to Europe and her eyes were glowing as she told me a few brief things and I wish we were not so busy we could talk more. She asked me if I was still going on my trip to Kalu Yala and I didn't even realize she knew. She was like that. You would think ... "Sarah has so many friends, is so busy with so many cool adventures, that film sets are so busy you can hardly ever finish a conversation" ... and yet she seemed to know about something that you really loved and wanted to know if you were doing it.

In fact I was trying to decide if I was going on the trip to NYC or the Republic of Panama, and Sarah basically said if these two things are so important to you, you will find a way to do them both, and I walked off knowing it was so.

You could not help but embrace and appreciate the beauty of life and friends and family when you were around Sarah.

If we can all just do a tiny bit of what Sarah did every day the world will be a much much better place, every day will have a lot of smiles and laughter, more people will chase the dreams that are in their heart and more people will stop to smell the roses all around them that they did not even realize were there.


David Morrison said...

AS a DP I've taken chances and gotten lost in the romance and the adventure of the moment. I've been lucky, your words will be a measure from this moment forward. Thank you. This was senseless and avoidable, any department head could have stopped this. It's the last line of defense we have against lazy or negligent producing. On another note in my years I've noticed that Day One on any film is a calamity of accidents and other mis-fortunes. I read that this was the first day of the shoot. I always try and guide our schedule into something that's less tricky in terms of logistics on any Day 1.

Alexa Hiramitsu said...

Thank you so much for this Darryl. I didn't know Sarah but I still felt pain when I heard this story. You are so right and no ones life is worth a shot in a movie. Peace and love.

DW said...

This death has received a lot of buzz around the internet and on sets, and rightly so. So many people have talked about it, posted about it, written about it, linked to reports on social media sites, etc., etc., etc. Everyone seems to be responding to this in the right way.

Well, almost everyone.

I have yet to hear a PEEP out of the studio, the execs, Open Road, etc. (save for one standard, boilerplate, bullshit PR statement along the lines of "our thoughts and prayers go out to..."). Not a WORD that has anything to do with anything specific. Nothing regarding a change in any sort of policy, work guidelines, a change in regulations, the enforcement of safety measures, concessions, NOTHING. To the EP's in LA, this is undoubtedly "business as usual." And frankly, it's disgusting.

Just my take (but yeah, it should be EVERYONE'S).


vickster said...

I suspect there's a very simple reason there has been little if anything said from Open Road, execs, and producers regarding the incident. Everyone is "lawyering up," as I anticipate criminal charges will be forthcoming. I'm a location manager with 20+ years experience and have managed multiple shoots with all kinds of trains on small private rail carriers and the big ones like CSX and Norfolk Southern. The simple fact that there was no CSX rep there tells me that they were on those tracks without permission, whether it was a premeditated "we're gonna steal this shot" or whether it "evolved" once they got to the location? Either way, there are going to be serious repurcussions for some individuals.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking the time to write this Darryl. And I did not know her, but have known of senseless accidents like this in our business that could have been avoided. Indeed, this couldnt be more heartbreaking...Extremely preventable, perhaps it will create an overwhelming awareness...we ALL have to be aware of everyone's safety on the set...
Sending Peace.

Anonymous said...

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

Art Hindle

Mark Karavite, SOC said...

As I sit here on the morning of my birthday, just finished coaching my 9 year old's basketball games, followed by a pancake breakfast, you'd think it'd be a happy time, but it can't be. I think I'm still in shock and disbelief that a friend has been lost so unnecessarily. I'm sure I'll move on to angry, but for now, it's just sadness.

Darryl has given a beautifully written account of what should have happened for Sarah, and what should happen on every shoot. The "adults" clearly don't give a damn about what is best for us. Not only financially, but apparently our safety is secondary to them. It's the responsibility of senior members of the crew to stand up for the entire crew's safety, as the younger members are often afraid of being replaced if they speak up. We have to question everything from now on.

As an A Camera / Steadicam Operator, I have been put in harms way many times. I have never done anything that I felt unsafe about, because I have always referred to the most qualified person to insure the crews safety, the Key Grip. Gentleman like Herb Ault, Tony Marra, Bruce Lawson, Ray Brown, etc... These men, and their top notch crews, always have a safe plan for us before we ever step on set.

So many things went wrong last Thursday. First of all, principal photography wasn't to start until Monday. This current habit of using "Test" days to get actual shots for the movie is a dangerous one. Obviously, they didn't have the entire crew on site. Where was locations & their communication with the railroad company? What was the AD thinking? Why would the producers put a crew on active railroad tracks? Rumors now are afloat that they didn't even have permission to be on the tracks. That would take this situation from negligent to criminal.

None of it really matters now for Sarah. If only one person had stepped forward, this wonderful young woman would be at home with her friends this weekend, probably heading to kettle ball class. Now her friends and family are mourning the loss of someone truly special. It's beyond sad, beyond tragic.

Our film crew is our 2nd family. Be kind to each other, watch out for each other and say a prayer for the many friends and family who are really hurting over this tragedy.

Mark Karavite, SOC

mbdeane said...

Well said. Coincidentally I just finished reading Haskell Wexler's FB post and photos about his 12 On/12 Off group and I'm reminded that we are only making images and creating some form of content--none of this is worth risking life or limb for. As a producer who has done some fairly risky things (a 770 ft bungee jump, suspending cars from helicopters or planes/trains/automobiles in the Namibian desert)--all after being fully vetted and completely analyzed by all the key players--I'm stunned that folks could be so negligent as to allow this to happen. I have my suspicions as I suspect we all do but will wait for the facts to emerge. It is sad and completely preventable. Speak up out there!

Anonymous said...

I am the wife of a DP with 40 years in the industry, still wring on major TV series. Thank you for bringing up the notion that crews cannot depend on the above-the-line types to have our backs. The responsibility comes down to the seasoned crew members to protect the whole unit. The person with the most power is the DP. S/he can reason with the director and suggest other options. (Why was the bed on the trestle bridge? Might the director have had to compromise his vision a bit by putting it on an open part of the tracks?) When the director doesn't put the crew's safety first, the DP needs to refuse to do the shot, as my husband has many times. He has never been fired for refusing a shot, but he would walk if he had to. Don't tie people to cars. Don't operate cranes in high winds. Etc. Just say no. These tragedies are avoidable.

Anonymous said...

Sarah let me borrow some clean socks one day...i never was able to give them back to her, i washed them and they are in my truck of my car...have been there for close to almost 2 years now.

you will be missed sarah

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear this sad story... Lots of love from all the Dolly Grips in Vancouver, BC... Peace James Salberg IATSE 891

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing another touching blog piece, Darryl. I was able to work with Sarah recently. As a women entering this industry it is comforting to find others who are just as hard working, enthusiastic and strong. Sarah had it all and was someone I often found myself looking up to and admiring. If you needed a laugh- she was there and if you needed someone to laugh at you- she was there. Your beautiful smile was contagious and sometimes that's all it takes to make one's day better. May you rest in peace, Sarah.

Anonymous said...

I have been out of the business for many years now but I still feel this loss. I hope and pray that this tragic loss will give crew members the time to stop and question production when a dangerous situation is apparent by saying, "I'm just remembering Sarah."

Anonymous said...

i am an italian cameraman. i m very sorry for this young girl. security in the work is the first thing could that tragedy happen?

i cry for you little sarah

Anonymous said...

The poor guy driving the train has to go to sleep everyday remembering what she did.
He had a front row seat that day. I hope he gets over it.

JB Bruno said...

"As a forty something Dolly Grip who's been around the block a few times, I would have said, Hell no to being on that trestle on a live track without a rep or permission. As a twenty-something young grip with something to prove and trying to make an impression on "The Adults," however, you can bet your ass I would have moved the camera up there myself and stood by it to yank it out of the way if a train came."

That's the scariest part; that we all know that those coming up don't want a reputation for being "hard to work with" or that they "Can't handle it." It's easy to say everyone needs to look out for themselves, but you really nail it right there.

Thank you for a beautiful post. I can't get this out of my head today.

Unknown said...

My sincere condolences to Sarah's family, friends, and coworkers. My brother passed away almost a year ago to this day on the job. I've spoken with many in the industry since then and we need to be standing up for the safety of our coworkers militantly.
I just published this article on the subject:

You all are in my thoughts and prayers.
Peter Driftmier

Niall said...

This is something that I have been dreading would happen one day. The fact that this is just another person needlessly killed for a movie rips at my core. The industry has taken a real step back in set safety over the years as the memory of the tragic accident of the Twilight Zone Movie has faded.

She deserved better than to die confused and terrified. I'm 29 and have been an advocate for set safety for 6 years now. People have labeled me a "hard to work with". This sense of being a friend to producers that are pushing us into an early grave is twisted; and goes against every thing our forebears fought for when IATSE, or Unions for that matter, where created.

We need to make this right. If not for Sarah's memory, then at least for the next person that might die senselessly.

"Little Joe" Cacciotti said...

Thank you Darryl for putting into words what everyone has thought about this tragedy. I pray for her parents and siblings for their loss. I also pray that no crew member will ever be afraid to speak up with their safety concerns.

As an Assistant Director and also a Location Manager, Safety is my #1 concern and I can care less if Production wants to fire me because I do care about the crew and their safety

Unknown said...

Darryl, I'm a 44 year grip, and you have read my mind and spoken my thoughts.. Thank you. I am moved by your words, which echo my own. I had friends, brothers and sisters on the "Twilight Zone" killings years ago, and today I feel the same sense of loss. A senseless killing of a fellow worker. People who are so wound up in the process/finances/politics have taken this young girls' life. They are in the entertainment business. Is this entertaining? Production people who think that they can walk on water and that they are above the law. Rules don't apply to them. What a terrible, terrible, shame.

Anonymous said...

Love you, Darryl. Local 479 mourns. This cant happen ever again.
EMjay, Grip.

Anonymous said...

Very saddened to hear of the loss. Several have voiced that refusing a dangerous task won't bring about reprecussions. NOT so. You'll be marked a trouble maker and not rehired. Plain and simple, we are ALL day players. We regularly sign contracts and deal memos that protect the production company but do not protect us. I remember working on a NYC series for Universal. On a follow up call during the season hiatus from a safety officer with Universal inquiring about a minor injury I'd had we discussed other unsafe aspects of my job....excessive splinter units with NO KEYS, excessive and abusive use of LUNCH PENALTIES, long work periods without a break, excessively long WORK HOURS, no reasonable weekend turnaround. Weeks before the next season was to startup I received a call from my boss saying production wanted a change and I'd not be other reason was given to him and he was unable to get an answer when he asked.
I'll spell it out, we are expendable, young inexperienced workers are always in the wings more than happy to do whatever is asked to get a foot in the door, including dangerous tasks, no questions asked. It isn't getting better out there, either. I started in this business because I felt a certain degree of creativity that satisfied me MORE than the, what was then decent, paycheck. Now, at 61 and 30+ years in the biz, I feel abused and now know the reality, I am a laborer in the eyes of those that sign that paycheck. The excessive hours continue, the logistical conditions deteriorate, the hours without a break get longer, the pay is less and the benefits worse. NEVER expect production to have your back.

Anonymous said...

I also only knew Sarah as a smiling face and a "Hi" on set. I wish I had known her better.

I whole heartedly agree that we must all take more personal responsibility for saying "NO" when things don't feel right, but Sarah and I have another hurdle to being listened to - our gender. I don't want to get into a big discussion about this, except to say that I have had more medical and safety training than most people on any given set, yet I can express a concern and it labels me as a "worry wart" a "nag" or a "trouble maker." If I can get a man to take the same concern to the higher ups, they listen. It makes me doubt myself and debate saying things that I know I should. Perhaps Sarah was also uncomfortable with being labeled in such a way, and kept her mouth shut. I am sure the sexism is unconscious, and at times my delivery of the information could be phrased better, but it is a real phenomenon -- ask any woman on set with you.

Please be aware of it the next time a woman says something doesn't feel right. Don’t dismiss her. Your life may depend on it.

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to intrude into anybody's personal space or appear morbid, but does anybody know the extent of injuries or current conditions of the other crew members who were injured in the accident?

Condolences, love and light to all of Sarah's friends, co-workers and family. Prayers for those injured.


Anonymous said...

Knew her, worked with her a little, always happy to be around her. Thought there would be many more times to get to know her. She was one of the friendliest people on any set, and as appreciative and excited to be working as I was. At this point, I want some sort of justice to be meted out to those responsible. Don't know how else to feel but angry. And sad. And a huge sense of loss of someone who made me feel good about working in this business. Hope her loss can remind "the grown-ups" to maintain a safe and healthy work environment from now on...

Old Geezer said...

The dark side of the film/video biz is the fact that it is so attractive a realm in which to work that sometimes common sense safety is bypassed in order to "be on the team" and "get the shot".

For an example, Google "Twilight Zone Movie".

Much of the work that is done these days is non-union because "union" means "expense". "Expense" is anathema. But "union" can also mean "experience" and "experience" can mean "safe", if properly done. But, anyone can be co-opted. There are injuries and deaths on union shoots as well.

Sadly, most of us start in non-union shoots. We don't get the safety drill from the start, as we should. The emphasis is on the details of the craft itself. By the time we have sufficient credits, bad habits have already crept in.

I've never been involved in a railroad shot, but I've seen a few "indy" lighting setups that would have a real electrician in apoplexy. Nothing went bad happened, so no harm, no foul -- right? Let's do it next week.

I hear that the AD is chief of safety but how often do low-budget shoots even have an AD? How often are the newcomers to our craft willing to walk off the set to protest a bad situation? Not often, I'll bet.

I've been lucky so far that when I've pointed out a potential problem, it has been addressed, and without negative reflection on me as a "team player". I would wish for everyone in the game, but I fear it won't happen.

My heart goes out to Sarah's memory, and to her friends and family.

Alexa🐺Penn said...

my parents were in the theater end of the business and my dad always talked about Equity -

so i was angrily thinking as i read these beautiful, dispirited comments, "Where was the union rep in all this?" now i know from the comment from 'old geezer'.

we are a bad state in this country and i'm sorry that people had to suffer because of it. my heart to Sarah's friends and to the other people who were hurt; i hope they will be okay.

Milk Machine Mom said...

Thank you for this post, and to everyone that has left a comment so far. I didn't know Sarah, but have felt her death, hard. I worked in the film industry for over ten years, and my husband continues to do so. We both love film, but this incident points to so many of the issues that need serious attention in this industry. The safety of a crew member should never be put in jeopardy. I know accidents do happen on sets, and often they are just that, accidents. This was gross negligence.

Many of my non-industry friends resort to comments along the lines of: if it's long hours and your safety's on the line, don't do it. Do something else. I don't think anyone should have to choose another career based on the negligence of people who don't put their crew's wellbeing first. I loved my work in film. We're making movies. When it's going well, there's nothing better.

I am trying to spread this story far and wide so that a dialogue is established and some real changes can occur. Until then, as many have already mentioned, if you're a "veteran" of the industry, please continue to use your voice to speak up for the younger crowd (and as one commenter mentioned, especially women - that is another issue entirely, but she is correct when she says women are frequently brushed off when expressing concern - not only has this happened to me, I've seen it happen time and time again to others, too).

Be safe, film family. Take care of each other.

Anonymous said...

I suppose many friends may wonder why I have taken such an interest in the tragic events surrounding Sarah Jones' death while she was part of a crew filming a segment for an upcoming feature film yesterday. Well, in 1978, when I was near her age, I worked at WXIA in Atlanta and lost a good friend to a similar accident. Jimmy Harmon had been shooting and producing a documentary about the Southern Crescent...a train that went through Savannah. He went out one day to do some pick up shots, alone for whatever reason, and set two a lock off and the other a low angle shot that required a last minute "trigger" to capture the train passby. He misjudged the trains trajectory based on a previous pass-by and was fatally injured. Lesson learned - Someone should have your back...period.
Three years later another cameraman friend, John Stansbury, was killed while filming a cropduster sequence for TBS, (
Lesson learned - a) No shot or film is worth risking your life and, most important b) You DO have the right to question the safety of a situation - despite all the legal forms we, as production personnel, are asked to sign before taking a job.
I hope all my friends and brothers/sisters in the film biz will join together in maintaining a safe set.

Unknown said...

Every Film and TV set in N America (if not the world) should stop work for 5 minutes this Monday in memory and hold vigil for Sarah Jones!

Thank you, David Jean Schweitzer, SOC

Anonymous said...

It's kinda hard to get hit by a train these days. How do you NOT instinctively get out of the way of a loud, large moving object like that? There has to be a certain amount of personal responsibility here. Did somebody push her, what are the details? Sounds like a game of train chicken with a camera. They make remote controlled cameras these days.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you said that. Playing chicken? She was working doing the job she was told to do. They were on a bridge and she couldn't immediately get off, hit by flying debris from props that were struck by the train and then she fell onto the tracks.

Anonymous said...

I knew Sarah as a fun-loving college kid at the College of Charleston, as a hard-working crew member on Army Wives and other projects in the Charleston area, and as a wonderful and faithful friend to my son. I'll never forget seeing her after she had been fishing on our boat with our son. So much life. So much integrity. So great a loss.....

Roy Sydiaha said...

Please remove comment from 6:43 regarding playing chicken. That's really mean and heartless at this time. Roy IA 300 Saskatoon

Unknown said...

25 years ago I was lucky that in my first year of making commercials I worked with a top draw company with experienced crew. Safety first was drummed into me and as I rose to department head and beyond I passed those lessons on to younger crew members and taught them to say no and to be aware of what was going on around them. Head in the game at all times. There is no shot worth risking your life for, and these kids try so hard to please. Its a real heartbreaker. Crew is family. All crews. So it hurts us all.

I have shot in and around Atlanta many times. Great people and my heart goes out to all my great friends there as well as this young person's family and friends.

Be safe

Stephen Sinclair

Peter Jensen said...

If the shot is dangerous enough that you need a grip to be ready to pull you away, it's too dangerous.
In the last several years there have been gruesome accidents. How many people reading this blog have heard about them?
Do not rely on department heads - especially the 1st AD - to pull the plug on a dangerous shot.
If you are injured in an accident don't expect a very long "moment of silence". Do expect the production team to see you as a poor unfortunate schmuck.
And if you are badly maimed get ready for bankruptcy because workers comp will probably only partly cover you, and the Doctors who are assigned to you are not the best doctors.
And above all, do not expect medical technology to fix you up - in the first few hours heroic measures will be taken to keep you alive, but beyond that it's anybody's guess.

Anonymous said...

"It's kinda hard to get hit by a train these days. How do you NOT instinctively get out of the way of a loud, large moving object like that? "

It's obvious you have never spent much time around trains. I spent four months working on set on Unstoppable. The one thing that surprised most of the crew is how quite an approaching train can be.
People talking into your walkie earpiece, fighting for space to keep the equipment close and trying not to run into fellow crew members in a confined space are just some of the things that distract crew members. When that happens, you would be amazed how easy it is for a train to sneak up on you. Once it's close, panic can set in so simple tasks become difficult. Do I run, do I have enough time to save the equipment... too late.
I don't know exactly how this poor woman got killed, but it is painfully obvious that the proper safety precautions were not taken.
Your intimation that she is in any way responsible for her tragic death is in very poor taste.

Don't forget the train engineer(s). They must be heartbroken over this.

Anonymous said...

sorry to hear about this. yesterday this was published relating media-worker´s safety in canada:

Anonymous said...

I am saddened to hear about the loss of a technicians life! a similar thing happened a few weeks ago in South Africa. A few questions, where was the safety officer? why was there no spotter to warn of an on coming train? Why was the production not aware of the train schedule on the train line?
All i see, with all due respect, is gross negligence! So who are they going to finger

steady tracking in the film set in the sky hope you meet up with Greg awsome grip he was think the two of you will have a blast.

Anonymous said...

So e of the crew members of that crew I know professionally and personally. They, as I am, come from a certain school down south. We are all taught safety. The practice though is rarely exercised or enforced. Some of those people on the set have even been earned about being unsafe while receiving their training. It's eerie that the same person was on that set in that situation.

The higher ups, "grown ups," during their training turned a blind eye. Unless their job is at risk, nothing ever comes from a safety infraction. Nothing. I did not know Sarah but I know a few people who got hurt. They all deserve better. I can't point fingers but I think if some people had been disciplined while they were students, none of this may have happened. So sad.

Anonymous said...

Great reflections and a some very sound viewpoints. Sarah Jones should be remembered always and the decisions that were made that cost her her life should never be made again on a motion picture set. Bless your soul eternal

Anonymous said...

Ignore this ignorant jagoff. You have no concept of what hapened. No one wants to hear your misguided opinion.

Anonymous said...

sorry the above comment was meant in responce to the "camera chicken" jagoff person. thought it would post directly below his/her comment

Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure of working with Sarah on Fast and Furious this past winter. She was smart, witty, friendly, always energetic and hard working; And as any good 2nd AC does, always hustling her butt off, putting the project before herself because that's the kind of person she was. Tragedy of this magnitude is always hard to stomach, but when it comes as the result of negligence and blatant disregard for proper safety precautions it is absolutely unacceptable. There are no re-shoots in life, a shot is never worth the risk of human life and we have lost a beloved and valuable member of our tight knit film community. May the memory of Sarah Jones serve to remind us all the importance of making every single crew member's individual safety the absolute top priority on set each and every day. I like to imagine there is a sequel for her somewhere beyond the clouds with a permanent call time to watch over us all as we go about our day. My thoughts and prayers are with Sarah's family during this trying time. RIP

D said...

To Anonymous about the "Train Chicken " comment- She was struck by a piece of sett dressing as she was running away. It knocked her onto the tracks and she was struck by the train. These details aren't hard to find on the web.

Thom Shepard said...

Every one of us will be safer on set from this day forward with Sarah looking over us.

When Sarah whispers in your ear, listen carefully, do not hesitate, speak up, tell the right person, act, pick up that damn water bottle that is a trip hazzard, don't ignore the smallest of saftey hazzards as on a film set there are no small saftey hazzards.

If it is your first day on set, know who the Key Grip, DP and 1st AD are. If there is an emergency you will not have time to ask who to go to to stop something. I don't care if you are a stand in or a PA with a remote lock up, you might be the one person who has the down time to keep an eye on things when everyone else is busy or 10-1 or out of eye sight of the danger.

Do not stand by and allow any danger to any crew or cast member on your set.

It is your set, it is your responsiblity, you are the line.

Listen to Sarah ...

... and make sure everyone is having a good day, make people smile, make people laugh, because the tighter the family, the better everyone feels on the tough hard days, the more we can look out for each other.

Unknown said...

So sad to hear that... How many sacrifices we do to work in this field. And how much passion we put into every single action we take... She had not to die working on her dream. ... May her rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

First, condolences and thoughts to Sarah's family and friends... that is where the hurt is.
Having been in the biz for 30 years... and sorry to pass sudden judgement, but the safety of the set is the AD's responsibility (along with line producer, UPM, etc).
Location Dept is also somewhat responsible for crew safety - they should have every angle of train activity covered here. What to get out of this is where mistakes were made and NEVER let this happen again... or any other tragedy like this! Safety FIRST!!

Chuck Moran said...

You have a valid point. I was on a shoot some time ago where the dolly track was set on a steep slope so that the track on the end of the shot was on the ground, but the start of the shot had the track several feet off the ground. The move in was very fast. After several takes, the wardrobe girl asked me if the cribbing holding up the track looked loose. I trusted that the dolly grip knew his business and dismissed what she said. The next take, the whole thing fell apart and the DP and 1st AC were thrown from the dolly. Luckily, no one was hurt. Since then, I have always been more cognizant when people mention things that appear unsafe. I also apologized to the wardrobe girl for not paying attention to her warning and I promised not to do that again. Anyone can make a mistake, just as anyone can notice that mistake and speak up. We all have to look out for each other and take safety seriously.

Anonymous said...

This tragedy has again focused us all on the risks often associated with our business. Darryl's comments sum it up better than I can say. The problem is that in one month….six months…our emotions will have subsided and somewhere a similar situation will rise again. Perhaps with a crew that won't have a friend of Sarah's on it; with no reminder of the risk. It seems one way we can help prevent this is with something we wear every day on the set; a T-shirt designed as a safety reminder using Sarah's name as the acronym and her picture as a reminder of the light lost. S-Safety A-Above R-Recklessness A-And H-Hazard… to better versions, I am not a writer. This should be approved by her family so I am just suggesting this to the Atlanta area community who knows the family, as a way to help remind those that need to be reminded. Perhaps profits could go to a scholarship in Sarah's name or a fund in her name to send her brother or sister to college (if she has any)…….just trying to help
RC IA 600

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, safety, like most regulations meant to protect workers or the public comes about AFTER something tragic and avoidable happens. Permission to film on live tracks is likely to not be granted again for a while, and crew members will remember this and say NO if anyone tries again to circumvent common sense. Camera crews won't allow guns to be shot towards anyone without safety glass after the death of Brandon Lee. Stunts drivers driving blind without rehearsal towards camera might get that rehearsal and safety advisory after the DP and Dolly Grip were hit by the car. Fuller's Earth is banned after a camera operator suffers severe lung damage on an unventilated set. Rushed stunts as the sun is setting will hopefully be left for another day after I was struck in the throat by a prop thrown from a moving car. We can hope that Sarah's legacy is that the crew will stand up and say NO to life threatening situations just to get that shot. --Former camera assistant

Paul said...

Well said D, as always. I barely knew her myself, she day played a few times on a show that I was pushing on. Like always I waited to see what kind of person and tech she was before I got to chat with her. Right away I saw she was bright and funny, I remember saying to myself "good, yet another assistant that's going to go far". But as is often the case I never got the time to even say "Hi" let alone get to know her. I can't say in words how much I feel for her family and those close to her that loved her. This must never happen, D makes the excellent point about those of us with more experience speaking up with safety concerns, far too often people see things that aren't right and say nothing because of fear of speaking out. DO! It's the right thing, remember that, and remember Sarah.

Danny Stephens said...

Im so infuriated with what is going on with this.....i have been asking myself "how can this happen?" This is purely my opinion and i will leave it at that. Correct , nobody from the first AD to the key grip said "no" because i feel that they were all told it was safe and the tracks were closed. The producers and or director wanted to get that one "shot" they would never be able to get on live tracks. So, im sure over a very high priced dinner paid for my the production, said "we will just go out there for 20 minutes and grab it. Tell the crew its all been shut down, it will be fine " Thats the only explanation that makes sense to me. Enough is enough people......If any one knows me well and has worked with me and for me, they know that my first concern is my its having water on set or not letting production plan out 2 18 hr days back to back with a forced call....we need to check and double check what we're being told by the people higher up on the callsheet...they do not have our best interests in mind. Be safe everyone!

Anonymous said...

They were on a fucking train bridge. She was running towards basecamp when a piece of debris from a prop the train hit knocked her down and she was run over by the train. IE, the crew had to scramble even when they heard the whistle. They couldn't just get off the track without falling to potential death in the waters below.

D said...

Thanks Paul and Danny

Anonymous said...

A pointless death for a pointless picture about a pointless dope.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...

I am up in Calgary shooting and feel a little removed from my brothers and sisters in the US that are reeling from this tragedy. I did not have the pleasure of working with Sarah but she could have easily be one of the many crew members that I do work with day in and day out. Every one of them should have the safest work environment in any situation.. Like others have posted I have never worked on a Live Track without a representative from the Train company that represents the area. I have even traveled to Spain to shoot a commercial because they had a 10 mile closed track and train. There is no excuse for this oversight and I do blame the 1st AD followed by the Line Producer. This is criminal and should be treated as such.. this is not a car going out of control on a stunt or even wreck-less driving of a Condor , it is someone being trusted with many lives.. that either had no experience or did not care about others.. Both of these traits should not be able to command a position as an Assitant Director..No one should be able to be a DGA AD without constant training in all situations that we as filmmakers put ourselves in.
We crew members need to start coming together as a regular practice and having our own meetings about the events we will be involved in, not just in our own departments but collectively with all the crafts. We never do this.. this should be part of our regular work and if we have to have a paid meeting after lunch to discuss the dangers and concerns WE have as a crew, mandatory acceptance by the producers .. should be a must.. We should not have to put our trust in PRODUCTION as they have a different set of rules they normally live by. Money and Bottom line.. I am not saying every production team is like this but MANY are.. Just like the Safety classes we have to attend ( Which I think are great) All ADs and Line Producers should have to learn and understand all the risks that any production is going to be involved in.. If this means Tailored safety classes for the type of movie that will be attempted.. then so be it.. continued education and awareness will only save lives..
Even with all this more people will die in the film industry but if we could have saved just one life like Sarah's we will be in a safer work environment.

Dana Gonzales
Local 600

vin said...

To me - it is unbelievable that this has happened on a union film in the USA - where i thought crew safety was held high in priority compared to India.

Years ago, on a film shoot, on the very first day of the shoot, first shot, a girl was hit by a train and i believe she died on the spot although she was rushed to emergency in a hospital nearby and declared dead.

The DOP and me (class mates from film school) were the ONLY ones who stayed with our statements to the police and in court - that it was totally the fault of the director cum producer who did not bother about crew safety and put them in harm's way by choosing to start the shoot well before they had permission to do so. This meant there were NO police or personnel from the Railways on the site.

My DOP friend and I had to go through tremendous stress from the time of the incident until years later when we finally testified in a higher court of law and were cross-examined by the other side, etc etc... but we did it and saw it through.

This guy - the director/producer was initially jailed for a few weeks and then let out. I believe the case was closed sometime in 2008...

Just goes to say - shit can happen anywhere and in any country, regardless. Maybe my opinion about high standards of crew safety in the US is moot. After seeing a part of Haskell Wexler's documentary - i felt there is no greener grass on the other side... Maybe US unions are not doing their work as they should overall...

My thoughts are out with those who are in hospital and the family of the deceased...

sound mixer and sound designer
Bombay, India

Anonymous said...

I am a DGA 1st AD with over 20 years experience. While I don't know the true specifics about this tragedy, and I have contacted 2 DGA reps about this incident, the 1st AD is the Safety Officer on set. Above the 1st AD, the UPM is the Safety Program Director. You can raise concerns with any of these two employers at any time and we are REQUIRED by state law to stop what we are doing and hold another safety meeting. I want the specifics on this incident. Can anyone get them?

Anonymous said...

This breaks my heart. I never had the pleasure of meeting Sarah . If we can learn one thing from this is we all need to start banding together as a crew. Production companies are NOT getting our backs. I have been shoved by an AD they did nothing , I have been yelled at and treated like crap by talent and once again they did nothing. How are we suppose to trust our lives to these people? We do get put in dangerous situations daily. We have new people breaking in the industry undercutting so they can work and now we have crews who are afraid to say no cause they will lose their jobs.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Sympathies to Sarah and her family.
As to blame, permissions, etc, be careful about assumptions: "According to Det. Joe Gardner of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, Unclaimed Freight HAD permission from CSX to film at the location. They had been provided with the existing train schedule." From Connect Savannah News, Feb 21.

Nathan said...

More than anything, I'm angry about this. I'll withhold judgement until more facts come out about who I'm angry with. Ultimately, someone should be prosecuted for criminal negligence for this, if not some other charge.

Even before I saw the news today that there was no permit to be on the tracks, I was certain that would be the case. I"ve done a fair amount of train work and CSX has an almost blanket policy against making their property available for filming. The one time I was able to secure a location on CSX property, it was because someone in the MN Governor's Office had stepped in on our behalf.

Once we got permission to operate a train on their tracks, they closed the line to traffic for the entire day we were there and they had 4 representatives on site who radioed in to their dispatcher every time our train moved --- on a closed track.

I don't know who lied or withheld information or just plain bullied people into accepting this mind-numbingly dangerous situation, but somebody did. And they're culpable.

You're absolutely right, D...saying NO when its warranted is a responsibility. I've never been fired for it, but I suspect there are people who haven't hired me a second time because of it. I can live with that.

Nathan said...

P.S. If anyone knows who the other injured crew members were, I'd appreciate hearing. I just looked over the show's crew listings on IMDB and it turns out I worked with the Sound Mixer a number of times in the 90's.

Vincent Oliver said...

So sorry to hear this news, any life that is lost is tragic. I have read on other forums that Mr X?? should have been responsible, whilst other say the Mr Y?? has the duty of crew care. Not sure if this is a crew title, but a "Safety Officer" should be appointed on all film sets. If any extra safety measures can result from this tragedy then her life will not have been in vain.

Anonymous said...

Sorry if this seems obvious to those close to the situation, for the rest of us, was this a union job?

David Morrissey said...

I worked with Sarah last year on the pilot Line Of Sight. She was so wonderful. It was a hectic job but she always had a smile on her face and was a joy to work with. This is such a terrible thing to have happened. I have heard of too many accidents that could have been avoided happening latley.
God bless her.

D said...

Yes, although there has been some talk that since it was a "splinter unit" that they weren't actually supposed to be shooting yet that the union wasn't involved yet. Don't know for sure, just what I've heard.Techs were under local 491 of the Carolinas.

Anonymous said...

Very Sad. I was an aspiring female AC in my early twenties, and if I was lucky enough to have the job, I did whatever I could to stand out and earn stock with my crew. My last gig was with my mentor who had 20+ years experience, and he told me that by the end of it I would either be the best AC around or I would want to quit the business. During my short time in the film business I was never confronted with such a dangerous situation, but I would hope that in such a case my dept. head would stand up for our safety. I so much appreciate the notion that the older crew members should take a stand in these types of situations. I can remember a few instances where folks took a stand, but it was often a hard choice to make since their livelihood depended on it. My prayers and thoughts go out to Sarah and her friends and family.

Niall said...


most recent Varity report has stated along with the local Sheriffs Dept. that OSHA, NTSB, 600, & 491 are investigating as well. It also stated that investigators found emails between CSX and the locations manager that CSX denied the request to shoot on the track.

Rae said...

I'd just like to second what another poster mentioned. I don't want to make make a memorial post into Issue Time, but as long as we're all asking "what went wrong"- it is absolutely true that as female crewmembers, especially young ones, we feel less able to speak up about safety concerns because we may be labeled "afraid" or unable to deal with tough conditions on set. Also, if we do speak up, our concerns are often disregarded. I don't know what happened on those tracks- very few of us do- but if we want to protect our crew, we need to make sure that everyone has an equal voice in safety concerns.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the beautiful post...I found my way here and then to Slates For Sarah. Seeing the outpouring of support from our brothers and sisters in the business has been so heartwarming. I was brought to tears many times today.

I didn't know Sarah -- I'm from the "stepchild" branch of the industry (reality TV) -- but she sounds exactly like so many AC's, AP's, PA's and A2's I've known. The young ones on set who hump gear and hustle but who always have a smile because they are working their way up in a business they love.

I find it astounding that an accident like this could happen on a scripted project -- one that has unions, AD's and key grips all there keeping the safety of the crew in mind. In reality TV we have none of the above. We also don't have medical crews on location, turnaround, overtime, drivers, AD's or many of the other aspects that scripted has. However, we all, whether working in scripted or unscripted, need to get better about speaking up for our own safety. 2 years ago I almost died in a boat accident while shooting a History Channel show. I am only just now recovered from spine and shoulder surgery, and have returned to work to find that nothing has changed in my absence. The same negligence and ignorance is there. The only difference is I can no longer pretend not to see it and I speak up now for those who don't or can't. But it's not enough.

I truly hope that this accident creates the groundswell needed for some serious changes in our business.

Anonymous said...

Hey "Anonymous 6:43 PM" I got something for ya'. "It's kinda hard to understand a tragedy these days. How do I NOT instinctively get the picture after so many loud, moving comments like these? There has to be a certain amount of disappointment in my personal life here. What can I say? I'm an ignorant asshole who has the ol' "who gives a shit about life we're all dying anyway" attitude, I want attention! Sounds like I have nothing better to do than to stick my big fat face where it doesn't belong. They should know that I'm completely inconsiderate these days, heck everyday!"

Sweetie, you know that image of the train you have in your head? You know the one that people play "chicken" on thats in the middle of the street and you can just run across really quick? Yea, that's not real. Really Big Trains go on Really Big Bridges and they go WOOT WOOT. You see, people like Sarah go on these dangerous bridges to get a shot (what you see on the tv) so that you feel like your really there! I know, "cooooolll" but thats not real life. You want details?? Not every train is identical, dick. Sounds like someone just tuning in on the story who has no clue what people do to make the movies and TV shows you loose yourself in because of your sad sad little life. Go back to looking in the mirror, im sure thats the only person happy to see you. Hey Sarah, just laugh this one off.

Unknown said...

First and foremost, I am a mother/wife/daughter/sister. And as such I send my deepest condolences and prayers to Sarah's family and friends who must be experiencing pain unimaginable. It is, however, my way to find the positive in all situations. While all our hearts are broken over what happened to Sarah Elizabeth Jones, I want to say I am deeply moved by the gift she has left behind for all of us. She has reminded us that we are a family. From all across the world, from South Africa to Argentina, to across Europe and Asia and throughout the United States, we have been reminded that we, in this strange and brutal and wonderful and amazing business called the film industry, we are one. We are a worldwide family. And the loss of Sarah has broken our family's hearts. There will definitely be time for recriminations and judgment, time to improve things that can be made better ... but now is a time to bless Sarah and hold hands and remember today and every day that we are in this together. That the grip in Argentina, the set dresser in Ireland, the Camera Assistant in South Africa, the Production Supervisor in Atlanta, the Line Producer in London, the Office PA in New Orleans ... we are all part of the same family. We are bound together through love and mutual respect. Let us never forget that. Let us never forget Sarah. As part of not forgetting her, I want to say that many, many of us in positions where we are responsible for the well being of the crew, have always, and will always make that our number one responsibility. We do not take that responsibility lightly. We do not cut corners. And we will say no on their behalf. We do take all necessary precautions to ensure that everyone goes home to their friends and family at the end of the day. We care. To that end, I encourage anyone who is reading this chain and is willing to continue that commitment to type your names in and re-share this message.

ProductionGuy said...

All true words, dollygrippery.

But here's the inherent problem in real production life. By nature, the vast majority of people do not believe in the worst case scenario until it actually happens. I could quote many scientific studies that back this up, but let's take this as read for this discussion.

Let's say someone on that set - the 1AD, the UPM, the key grip, whoever - had put his/her foot down and refused to allow that scene to be shot unless proper permits and safety procedures were put in place. Let's even assume that the crew backed him/her up and refused to step onto the tracks (which, as we all know from experience, could easily have gone either way - a lot of younger crew have a tendency to dig this kind of guerilla shit).

So the shot didn't happen. Nobody died, nobody was hurt.

And our hero 1AD/UPM/KG/whoever has just ensured that his/her reputation forever more in the eyes of producers is that of an overly-cautious whining troublemaker.

Do that a few times to a few producers, and your hireability has just nosedived to zero.

Because the unfortunate truth, as you identified, is that 99 times out of 100, that risky shot was pulled off with no harm and no foul.

It's a classic Kobiyashi Maru for safety-conscious department heads - the classic no win scenario.

Make a noise, avoid a POSSIBLE accident, and quickly become 'that guy' who nobody wants to hire.

Or keep silent, and know that sooner or later, statistically, you're going to be 'that guy' who let someone get killed.

The ONLY possible solution for this is CREW UNITY.

If ANYONE, from dept head to PA, has a concern about safety on set, EVERY crewmember BY DEFAULT has to back that concern and down tools until it's resolved.

No matter how crazy, no matter how unlikely the scenario may be, EVERYONE has to get into this default mode of: if one of us is concerned, we're all concerned.

It's a lot easier for a 1AD to speak up if EVERY SINGLE crewmember is behind him/her because then it doesn't look like one grumpy 1AD being a pain in the ass.

We've been working for years to get 12 on 12 off the standard in our business. That hasn't happened yet.

But maybe we can all get to this point:

Safety: one for all and all for one. Period.

If one crewmember has a concern, we ALL do. Regardless of whether we agree with that concern or think it's stupid or far-fetched.

No questions, no personal opinions, no debate.

Safety: one for all and all for one. Period.

zen said...

Darryly~Boo. Thank you for your words. Thoughts of trailer parks past, when we were still young & eager. I want to share more thoughts here, when the spinning slows down. Until then, to you & ALL OF OUR BROTHERS & SISTERS across the planet... MUCHO love & good thoughts are coming your way. Con MUCHO Amor, MIS HERMANOS! <3 XOXO Amanda Z

dougR said...

Production Guy says it well, why safety concerns need to start with producers and the production office. It'll be pretty easy, I think, to establish with pinpoint accuracy who lied, who misrepresented, who said "we need to get the shot, permission be damned." Everybody on the production is going to roll right over on those people, and they should. But contributing to Sarah's situation is everyone in Production who ever said, "let's not hire so-and-so on this picture, he/she's a wuss about that 'safety' BS" or "XYZ Picture lost a day because that asshole raised safety concerns, include him OUT." THAT'S the culture that needs to change, and the best way to start changing it is hang the guilty parties up in criminal charges and lawsuits out the kazootie, make sure there's jail time for everyone culpable, and ensure that people feel PERSONALLY responsible when their carelessness causes these accidents. People who raise safety issues on-set ought to be sought after (other things being equal) rather than blacklisted, and the best way to do that is to A) have the entire crew behind whistleblowers and B) make damn sure to put the fear of God into anyone who slights safety to save a buck. Disclaimer, I'm making a lot of assumptions here that have yet to be proven, true; but Sarah's death, in my opinion, demands a cultural change starting at the top.

ProductionGuy said...

DougR -

Bingo. The problem is, psychologically speaking, an actual accident and its consequences has 100% psychological impact on decision makers going forward. They see it, they feel it, they experience the horror and the consequences.

On the other hand a theoretical, potential accident which is avoided and never comes to pass has like 0.0001% psychological impact. You can't touch it, see it, feel it. This is unavoidable human nature.

This is why the public cries 'never again' when something terrible happens and something is THEN done to prevent it happening again. But the guy who pointed out before the fact what could happen and how to avoid it, is roundly ignored.

We all saw it in the wake of 9/11. The terrorists had free access to the cockpit, now cockpits are secured. A guy tried to use a shoe bomb on a plane, now we have to take our shoes off in the airport. A guy tried to use a liquid bomb, so no more liquids through security. All fixes AFTER the fact. I'd actually have been impressed if these measures were taken BEFORE they were needed.

Similarly the 2008 financial crisis. Congress heard plenty of testimony in the years running up to it that this could happen, but they chose not to act. Again, hard to grasp a theoretical disaster. Once it happened, of course... 'NEVER AGAIN!' and all kinds of laws got passed.

So unless there are serious, real consequences for those responsible for Sarah Jones' death, real consequences that producers see and feel and think 'shit I don't want that to ever happen to me', nothing will change.

Here's hoping....

Tim Naylor - IATSE Local 600 said...

As a DP I stil have to wonder what was the DP's responsibility in this tragedy? I know from experience, a DP can stop a dangerous shot. It can come with some risk. I once refused to do a shot that wasn't properly safetied while the director threw a tantrum. They let me go the next week. But I have no regrets. So I have to wonder, what was the DP's position?

I know it won't help alleviate any of the suffering but perhaps others can understand the protocol and what's expected of them when this situation arises again.

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