Sarah Jones Memorial: ‘Midnight Rider’ Crew Member Remembered for ‘Spirit’ and ‘Spunk’

Sarah Jones Midnight Rider

ATLANTASarah Elizabeth Jones, the camera assistant killed in a train accident on the set of “Midnight Rider,” was remembered for her adventurous spirit and her spunk, and a kindness that was reflected in the hundreds who showed up at a memorial service on Sunday at Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Outside, cars passed yellow production crew signs with black lettering, reading “Sarah Jones Is All of Us.” The Georgia-based productions of “Hunger Games” and “The Vampire Diaries” supplied the signs, according to an organizer, and they will be placed around the city as the tight-knit community of Atlanta crew members mobilize an enduring campaign to improve on-set safety.

Inside, in a meeting room painted cream-colored green and faux flower petals covering overhead lights, some 800 crew members sat and stood as fellow crew members and friends shared stories of Jones and the love she had for her profession and those she worked with.

Bruce Doering, national executive director of the Intl. Cinematographers Guild IATSE Local 600, recalled that Lloyd Ahern, director of photography on “Army Wives,” found that if ever there was tension on a set, “If Sarah was nearby her presence was like sprinkling pixie dust and everything would cool down.”

Jones came on “Army Wives” as an intern, and “within two weeks she as the most popular person on the crew,” Doering said.

Robert Robinson, camera operator on “The Vampire Diaries,” where Jones once worked, noted that the set shut down 20 minutes after they learned of Jones’ death. Robinson quoted Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

“That was Sarah,” he said.

Those at the memorial wore black armbands, and buttons with the message, “We are Sarah Jones!” were handed out by Chris Clark, a friend and key grip who is among those organizing the safety awareness campaign. There were several references to the effort to include Jones in the In Memoriam segment at Sunday night’s Oscars, and Doering noted that even IATSE Intl. President Matthew Loeb sent an email urging that she be included, along with influential Academy members.

Local 600 is planning a scholarship in her name, but also a candlelight vigil on Friday to highlight the issue on on-set safety. A message is that production crews shouldn’t have to be put in harm’s way, or even fear reprisals should they speak up about an unsafe working condition.

“What I know and what I can tell you is that since this terrible accident happened, the IATSE and all of the members and all of the members in Local 600, including staff in our offices, have been trying to figure out how this happened,” Doering told the crowd. “We are absolutely committed to taking the issue of unsafe conditions as far as we can take it, and we will take care of it just like Sarah did it: Full on. The way you have lived your life has inspired all of us. No son or daughter should ever suffer this kind of fate in our industry again.”

The three-hour service included a prelude of some of Jones’ favorite songs, include Adele Wilson’s version of “Singing In the Rain,” and the Rev. John Strickland read a poem by Carol Mirkel, “Afterglow.”

Her father, Richard Jones, recalled his final conversation with his daughter, the day before the Feb. 20 accident. Via Facetime, she showed him the Savannah home were she would be living for six weeks while “Midnight Rider” was to be in production.

“I almost didn’t say it, but I did, ‘I love you,'” he said of their conversation.

After thanking the crowd, he added, “I ask you to see to it our daughter’s life is not lost in vain, that you see to it that this does not happen to someone else’s daughter or son.”

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  1. stopandcare says:

    I was there and a lovely Memorial it was. Meeting Sarah’s parents Richard and Elizabeth was the high light to my evening. The chance to look Richard in the eyes and tell him how much Sarah meant to us as a friend and that she was well respected for her ability in her craft.
    Seeing our community swell in numbers due to the tax incentives here in Georgia brings all sorts of filmmakers. Our info-structure has grown. We have fine technicians here but most above liners come from elsewhere . The film business can be compared to the ranks of any military operation . Well planed . Drawn out on paper. Technical support for various duties. Production Offices with many assistant to the Field operations and its various technicians. There are those in charge. Sometimes to many in charge! The young ones follow the older ones and so forth.
    Back to the service. In meeting Richard and Elizabeth. I introduced them to my sonJamie. 29 who is a 2nd camera assistant who not only knew Sarah, but had been in contact with her days leading up to the accident. This Ted, truly hit close to home and my heart. I’m a 24 year film technician. I know the inherit dangers we face. Been there, done that ! Thanks for you articles ad interest in the truth!

  2. Randy G Herbert says:

    Thank you to Ted and Variety – your words mean much to the many members of Sarah’s extended film family as they mourn her loss and work to move forward on making sure this never happens again.

  3. KP Hendry says:

    Nice meeting you today Ted. Variety is spot on sending you in to cover this tragic accident. Getting to the bottom of “who knew what when” is the nut that needs cracking. I’m sure the “spin doctors” are tap dancing on how to justify this tragedy and point the finger, where ?? Insanely inefficient safety protocol in place this day.. The “Run for Your Life Camera Test Dream Sequence” that became a surrealistic horror story, killing Sarah and changing the lives of so many more. She will not be forgotten and change is going to come!

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