Sarah Jones

arah Jones Didn't Have To Die

As someone who has worked in the film industry for nearly 30 years, I've been on lots of sets all around the world. And don't get any of us wrong, film sets can be and are places with increased opportunity for things to go wrong. It can be something as simple as tripping over a cable, to having a light explode over your head, to lightning suddenly crashing all around you, to filming in a helicopter a foot off the deck which suddenly flips. That's why you don't cut corners and you don't take unnecessary chances! And that's why Sarah Jones died.

As the investigation continues, the facts coming out are almost unbelievable for today's film industry. We are so past all of what took place that terrible day. A friend of mine worked on the original Logan's Run movie and as they were about to shoot a scene where everyone has to run out of the building being blown apart, the director gathered the hundreds of extras and principles together, explained the scene, but then said, "remember, this is only a one should get hurt doing a movie."

Making movies can be dangerous especially with bigger and flashier special effects. So greater precautions must, MUST be taken and most of the times are. I am a certified emergency first responder and have acted as Safety Officer on many sets over the years. I've advised on others. I've given lectures on snakes while filming in the jungles of central Florida, and I've coached northerners on how much water they need to drink during a hot summer day outside and the benefits of sun screen. I've also worked inherently dangerous jobs like COPS where high speed chases and gun battles were not unusual.

There were times when we were shooting a commercial outside on a street in Orlando and had dozens of large lights up and down the street with exposed cabling and distribution boxes. Even though these boxes were elevated on apple boxes and covered by plastic, a sudden storm came up and the road began to fill with water. I was next to the gaffer when he shut down the set and pulled all power. It was his responsibility and he did his job for the safety of the crew. Even though this delayed the shoot which translates into costing more money, the producer and director totally supported his decision and we all went to a long lunch. The road had dried out by the time we got back from lunch and we continued to shoot with no injuries. I've also been on sets where we were shooting out on a golf course with numerous high steel light stands around the set, just waiting to get hit by the lightning that was quickly approaching. Finally, one of the co-producers asked me if it was dangerous and I said "YES, and you're about to lose your crew over it if you don't call it NOW". He was still reluctant because we were filming a BIG STAR who was really a nightmare to shoot and once on set didn't want to stop until he was done. They finally did call it and we just had enough time to run to a shelter before the rain hit. Fortunately, we weren't trespassing on a train trestle where 60 mph trains had no idea a film crew was going to be there.

And now as the investigation unfolds, even though we can't yet cast all of the stones at those responsible, it was a tragedy that was asking to happen and one that could have easily been prevented.

The movie Sarah was working on was low budget. I've done many of those. I actually specialize in them. We always had medics, doctors, safety personnel, police, paramedics, even on these very low budget movies. On Fireproof, a low budget faith-based movie shot by a church in Georgia, we shot a couple of days on and around a train track with a train. The same kind of train that killed Sarah. But with our film, the track was closed while we were shooting. We had police, firefighters, and PERMISSION! The fact that the production company shooting this movie had been turned down when they applied for permission to shoot on the trestle is the key to this terrible loss of a life. They did it anyway. They broke the law. They trespassed. They told no one they were going to be there. And they put materials like a bed and frame on the track that could have been dangerous to a train hitting it and derailing. They were reckless and that recklessness and lawlessness is what has set the stage for those in charge potentially being charged with negligent homicide. This was no accident! This could have been avoided.

If they didn't have permission to shoot on the trestle, then you don't shoot there! It's that simple! In today's atmosphere of reality television, some young producers/directors are so charged up with pushing the envelope that safety many times is the dirty word that prevents them from "getting the shot." And it's these directors and producers who are making their way into low budget movies bringing their dangerous work attitudes and behavior with them. The problem for crew members is when you are hired to do a job, you are very reluctant to say something on set about what you are uncomfortable with. And even less likely to cause trouble, lest you get "labeled" and then don't get hired again in the future. I've almost walked the set twice in my career, but it wasn't over safety. Yet I would have if something like this had come up and then after asking important questions, got the wrong answers. The article by the Hollywood Reporter goes into great detail about what happened that awful day. A beautiful life cut short because of the selfish recklessness of her superiors. I encourage everyone in the business to take the time and read it. And when you are on set and you see a very dangerous situation start to unfold and nothing is done about it, for your own safety and the safety of your friends...SAY SOMETHING! Your career is not worth a life.

Sarah's memorial at the Oscars

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