Oscars memorial attracts controversy

Death of Sarah Jones raises awareness of dangers of film production

Josh Gross

Last night’s Oscars broadcast made news in all of the typical ways, with glamorous folks accepting high honors for their artistic achievements and naysayers grumbling about the overlooked genius of those that didn’t win.

But a minor scandal emerged in an unexpected place: the recap of film industry folks that passed away in the last year.

Film Production Assistant Sarah Jones was killed in an accident on the set of Midnight Rider, a Duane Allman biopic, on February 20. Jones was struck by a train when a film crew was set up on a train bridge that they thought was clear.

Her death brought much attention to the inherent and often disregarded danger that can come with certain elements of film production.

“On equally big sets, I’ve fallen, burned myself on lights, received
decent-sized shocks from improperly grounded power, and had stands
topple over on me more times than I can remember,” blogger BigWaah wrote. “On less professional
ones, I’ve run backwards in traffic with nobody spotting me, I’ve lain
on the floor of a moving car holding a microphone, or been asked to ride
in a trunk.”

Industry people lobbied to get her name into the Oscars in memoriam.

An online petition for her name to be added got more than 61,000 signatures and a Facebook group called “Slates for Sarah,” featuring pictures of film industry people putting memorial messages to Jones on their production slates gathered more than 64,000 followers.

A small tribute to Jones appeared on the program, and her picture is on the Oscars website.

But many felt it was a token effort, and not enough to account for the institutional failures that lead to Jones’ death.

“They tossed her into the same spot usually reserved for corporate
sponsors, plastered over a pan of movie stars getting up to go to the
bathroom. Rest in peace!,” Chloe Stillwell wrote on DeathAndTaxes.com.

Whether or not there will be any longer range attention paid to the dangers of film production due to the tragedy remains to be seen.