Midnight Rider–The Accident that Shook the Industry"I saw the light of that train. It was like the train was right there, so you had seconds to figure out what you were going to do."
-Joyce Gilliard, hair stylist.
Randy Thompson Photography, thanks to THR
The Dream Sequence that Turned into a Nightmare
On the morning of February 20, 2014, the crew of a Gregg Allman biopic, Midnight Rider, arrived in Wayne County, Georgia to do an apparent camera test. They were located high above the Altamaha River, on a 110-year old trestle bridge to shoot a dream sequence, where Allman (played by William Hurt) lay on a hospital bed. He sees his brother opposite of the bridge, and ultimately decides not to follow him to a pre-mature death.
Footage from Allman Film, LLC
Joyce Gilliard, hairstylist for Midnight Rider, arrived that day nervous. "As soon as I got to the location, I started to feel funny," she said.
Second camera assistant Sarah Jones had similar intuitions. The day before, while at the studio, she told her father via text message that she was surprised that it was low-budget.
"She made a comment that some of the people asking her questions should have known more than her and she thought that was odd," her father, Richard Jones recalls. She was, however, excited to work with William Hurt, and brought to set the cheerfulness she was known for in the local film community.
Like Gilliard, she did not share her concerns with her co-workers.
Still from McCall Photography and Cinematography 2016. Jones image Courtesy of A.M.P.A.S.
By late-afternoon, the crew finally started shooting on the bridge itself. Director Randall Miller had a heavy metal hospital bed put perpendicular to the tracks, about 100 to 150 feet onto the bridge.
The wood and metal bridge had little room to work with, and the crew stood north of the bed to stay out of frame of the camera.
The blustery wind rang through the girders, making it hard to stay steady, said Gilliard. It was 25 to 30 feet to the water below them.
While setting up, William Hurt, the lead actor, asked if any trains were to be expected on the live tracks. Everyone looked to the first assistant director. Two trains were expected that day, they were told, and two had already gone by.
"Is it safe?" he asked.
Hillary Schwartz, the 1st AD assured him, "Yes."
There was someone dedicated on crew looking for hikers and automobiles who might make noise or wander onto the set. If they happened to see a train, they would tell the crew.
How long would they have if a train was seen?
One minute, they were told.
When Gilliard heard that, she started praying. “Lord, please protect us on these tracks,” murmured Gilliard. “Surround us with your angels and help us, Lord.”
Still, she did not say anything.
Around 4:30pm, a train whistle was heard.
Photo courtesy of Deadline
By the time they heard it, the train was already barreling towards them at 58 miles per hour.
What you are hearing is the actual audio from footage just before the crash.
The crew's only escape route was toward the oncoming train. The metal bed stood between them and safety. Expensive equipment was staged all around the tracks.
Jones, with heavy bags on each shoulder, asked what to with the camera equipment. Gilliard and other crew members told her to drop it, "just drop it!".
Director Miller tried pulling the bed off the tracks with other crew members, fearing it might derail the train. But with the train seconds from impact, they eventually abandoned their efforts.
Not everyone made it off the trestle. Gilliard pushed herself up against the metal of the trestle, head high over the river below. The train was almost as wide as the trestle, flying inches behind her. The surge of wind pulled her towards it. The train caught her arm and snapped it like a twig. She used a piece of the bed sheet to wrap the bone sticking out from her sweater and shut her eyes again, thinking it was the end.
The next thing she saw, after the train had passed, was camera assistant Sarah Jones. Dead.
Photo courtesy of Deadline
Footage courtesy of ABC 20/20
In the words of Karen Keyes, set costumer.
Sarah Jones (1986-2014)
Debris from the bed and mattress sent Jones onto the tracks. She died instantly.
Within hours, message of grief poured in from across the industry. Sarah's name became a rallying call for the safety and wellness of below-the-line crew members; to remind everyone that no shot, no scene, no stunt, no film, is worth more than someone's life.
Messages were accompanied with viral hashtags–
Rest in Peace, Sarah Elizabeth Jones.
Image Courtesy of A.M.P.A.S.
Never Forget. Never Again.And yet, accidents still happen all the time.
The Associated Press found that between 1990 and 2014, there were at least 194 serious film and television set accidents in United States. That is over eight per year, and only the ones we know about.
In that same period– 43 deaths. In the United States alone. Almost 2 per year.
Carpenters and stunt workers were most at risk.
Twenty-five amputations recorded by OSHA.
"This was no accident," said Ray Brown, president of the Motion Picture Studio Mechanics union local 479 in Atlanta, of Jones's death.
Almost every 'accident' that comes out of Hollywood is followed by experts who say they were preventable.
So what went wrong?
Photo from Nice Headquarters
The Doctortown TrestleWayne County, Georgia
A live railroad bridge used by freight train company CSX Transportation near Jesup, Georgia.
Photo: Mike McCall 2008, Video: Google Earth
January 2014 – Acquiring the Location
In order to shoot on any of the CSX railroad tracks, Baxter, the location manager, would be in charge of requesting permission from the freight company. His initial email request for use of any of their properties was denied by CSX stating,
"In accordance with our company protocol, CSX does not permit filming on our property. This is based on concern for the safety of those accessing and working on our railroad, security considerations, and our commitment to ensuring on-schedule train operations for the customers we serve."
The area surrounding the bridge is owned by Rayonier Performance Fibers, which was sought to be used as a staging area for crew and equipment. An employee confirmed that the tracks running through the property belonged to CSX Transportation.
Photo: Mike McCall 2008,
Mugshots courtesy of Deadline
February 2014 – Lying for the Location
On February 14, 2014 an email, written by Baxter and reviewed by Schwartz and Sedrish, was sent requesting use of the Doctortown site. In this email, it was stated, "Specifically we would like permission to access CSX tracks with 5 people and no vehicles on Thursday February 20, 2014 for 20 minutes between 4 PM and 6 PM. We will have 15 people with us; however, only 5 will need access to the tracks."
The film management deliberately misstated in this email the amount of people and time needed on the tracks– they knew they needed twenty or so people on the track. They also stated that they were requesting the section of track directly south of the trestle, not on the bridge itself.
The deliberate falsification was used in hopes that CSX would be more likely to agree upon these terms.
February 2014 – Steal the Shot, Guerilla-style
Even without a response from CSX, management on the film proceeded as if they had permission. Only vague discussions were held in case they were denied the location. They were aware of ideas such as re-writing the scene or 'cheating' the shot–making it look like it was on the trestle, when it was not.
Miller and Savin, who are married and filmmaking partners, have worked on films before where they practiced "guerilla-style" filmmaking, regularly "stealing the shot"–when you trespass on someone else’s property and take a picture or video without their permission to be on the site.
Another bridge was considered in Macon, GA. However the distance of the location made it too expensive to transport the crew. This idea was cancelled.
OSHA reported that this location was chosen "in order to satisfy the Director’s vision of the scene for the movie".
They also noted a reason why some crew members may have not spoken up about the location, "the Director can control who is hired to work on a film. If an employee cannot deliver what the director wants...word would get out that you are not a person that can deliver what the movie calls for."
February 2014 – Saving Money
On February 12, 2014, the crew did a series of 'technical scouts' where the director and the heads of each department walk through the locations to assess how and where to set up each shot. One of the main purposes of the technical scout is to assess how to achieve each shot safely.
The crew did not visit the Doctortown trestle, nor was any tech scout for that location planned.
The reason they rejected the idea of a Doctortown tech scout? Sedrich testified, “[I]t was an hour and a half away and...we had about 30 people on the tech scout...[b]eing paid $20 an hour, some $40 an hour... It was probably a financial reason we didn’t go there.”
OSHA's report stated that the company was saving money and time by not visiting the site and discussing safety issues.
February 19, 2014 – Crew Left in the Dark
The evening before shooting was to begin on the Doctortown trestle, Baxter had still not heard back from CSX. The rest of the team was prepared to continue with the planned shoot regardless.
The day before shooting it is customary in the business to distribute a 'call sheet', which lists the locations and shot schedule for that day. It also lists safety issues, weather conditions, and nearby medical facilities. It is prepared by the 2nd Assistant Director and approved by the 1st Assistant Director and Unit Production Manager.
The call sheet that was released to the crew did not have any safety-related information.
Additionally, safety bulletins from non-profit Contract Services Administration Trust Fund are usually attached to the call sheet in speciality cases regarding safety. Bulletin #28 concerns Guidelines for Railroad Safety.
When the 2nd AD inquired about attaching the bulletin, Schwartz said not to. When Sedrich was consulted, he replied with a, "NO, no, no, no. It looks good, send it."
The call sheet went out without the bulletin.
February 20, 2014 – Crew Left in the Dark
At 10:47 a.m. on Thursday, February 20, Baxter received an email from CSX. They had again denied the request to film. They suggested contacting short-line railways in the area that routinely support filming.
(In October 2014, ABC did an episode of 20/20 where reenactments were done on a bridge less than a mile away. They received permission from a short-line railway which diverted traffic from the bridge for the duration of their shoot.)
At 10:59 a.m., Baxter forwarded this email to Miller, Savin, Sedrish, Schwartz, and two other employees on the film. They all understood they did not have permission and no one from CSX would be monitoring train traffic.
Baxter repeatedly discussed with the film's management that they did not have permission. He stated that if they were going to film anyway, that he would not be a part of it. One crew member insinuated he did not want to go because he was 'chicken'.
Baxter did not show up to the shoot that day.
February 20, 2014 – Crew Left in the Dark
The crew was shuttled to the location in three vans from the studio. At least one crew member did not know she was going to be near a train trestle. According to Gilliard and others, they were told previously this was to be a camera test. Upon arrival they learned they would be shooting a scene.
Hillary Schwartz spread the information about the 'two trains' coming by that day. She testified that she heard the information from an assistant location manager over walkie-talkie. She did not try and verify the accuracy of the information. Upon further investigation, no one knows where the original source of the 'two trains' theory was, and no one tried to verify the information.
The information led the crew to believe they had permission to be on the tracks following the second train. Set costumer Karen Keyes stated she believed the film's management knew the train schedule. "I had no idea that we weren’t in the loop completely,” she said.
February 20, 2014 – Indifference to Safety
As 1st AD, Hillary Schwartz is in charge of running the set. One of the key responsibilities of that job is the safety of cast and crew. One detail of that responsibility is to hold a safety meeting at the beginning of the day, and before any potentially hazardous shots. Schwartz had worked on films as a 1st AD for over seven years, conducting hundreds of these meetings.
Crew members who had worked on railroads for films before stated that usually the safety meeting includes a briefing from a railroad representative about the 'do's and don'ts'.
No formal safety meeting was held that day.
No evacuation plan was set up in the case of an emergency.
They requested with 5 people on the tracks, and a total crew of 15. This was denied.
They brought between 20 to 23 crew members on the train trestle that day.
In July 2014, Miller, Savin and Sedrish were charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass. They pleaded not guilty. In September, Schwartz was charged of the same.
In March 2015, shortly before their trials, Miller and Sedrish pleaded guilty. Miller's wife, Jody Savin, had her charges dropped as a part of Miller's plea bargain.
Schwartz, who also pleaded guilty, and Sedrish received ten years probation, and were barred from working as a director or assistant director or other capacity involving employee safety.
Miller was charged with ten years, two in prison and the rest on probation, along with community service and a fine. He is also not allowed to work in any capacity on a film involving safety. He was released in 2016 after serving one year.
Prior, only two cases of deaths on film sets have led to indictments. In both cases, the charges eventually dropped or they were acquitted. Miller was the first person to be convicted and serve jail time for a death on a film set.
Sarah Jones – A Movement
In the wake of Jones's death, her name became the rallying call for film crew members around the world.
Through vigils, memorials, episode tributes, online campaigns, people were raising awareness to the dangers of filmmaking– dangers met especially when above-the-line creatives cut corners, like on Midnight Rider, to save money.
Since the death of Jones in 2014, awareness of set safety has risen dramatically, especially in the United States. But accidents still happen.
In 2015, two helicopters crashed in Argentina for a French reality show, killing ten, including two French Olympians.
In 2016, a subcontracter was killed while dismantling a set for Blade Runner 2049 in Hungary.
Later that year, a crew member was crushed to death by a Hummer while filming Resident Evil: The Final Chapter in South Africa.
Footage courtesy of Martinbrox7
Independents, reality shows, foreign locations?
In the past decade–
Kick-Ass 2, Chloe Moretz's stunt double was thrown into a wall and cracked her head open. She was 13, and recovered.
The Dark Knight, cameraman Conway Wickliffe was killed while filming a car chase, when the car missed a turn and hit a tree.
The Lone Ranger, 48-year-old diver Michael Bridger drowned while cleaning a 24-foot-deep water tank to be used in an underwater scene.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon , 24 year-old extra Gabriella Cedillo was left partially paralyzed and her eye surgically shut after metal became dislodged from a stunt car and struck her head.
Just to name a few.
Video from Collecticon
Accidents don't always have to be fatal to stop someone's career in their tracks either.
In 2009, David Holmes, the stunt double for Daniel Radcliffe on the Harry Potter films was broke his neck while rehearsing a scene with an explosion, leaving him paralyzed.
While filming The Hangover: Part II in 2010, Austrialian stuntman Scott McLean suffered permanent brain and physical injuries and has "ongoing seizures, speech impediments, physical impediments and brain trauma" from a high-speed car chase gone wrong.
In the aforementioned 2016 Resident Evil film, stunt double Olivia Jackson crashed into a piece of camera equipment, leaving her in a medically induced coma for two weeks. She wrote upon awakening, "2 weeks in a coma, brain bleed, brain swelling, severed main artery in the neck, crushed & degloved face, several broken ribs, paralyzed arm, shattered scapula, broken clavicle, broken humerus, broken radius & ulna, with an open wound and a 7.5 piece of bone missing, amputated thumb, torn fingers, 5 nerves torn out of the spinal cord…" Her paralyzed arm was later amputated.
Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix Production stills © 2007 Warner Bros. Pictures
The summer of 2017 saw the death of "Walking Dead” stuntman John Bernecker, who fell 20 stories onto the concrete floor after just missing the mat that was supposed to cushion his fall.
Less than one month later, rookie stuntwoman “SJ” Harris died during a motorcycle stunt gone wrong on the set of Deadpool 2. It was her first film.
Both deaths were criticized for being preventable.
Veteran stunt coordinator Conrad Palmisano said of Harris's death, “She was a highly qualified motorcyclist racer, but not an experienced stunt person.”
Another stunt coordinator said, "She should have never been put in that position...Joi was just a girl from Brooklyn who liked to road race—which was not remotely similar to what was required for the shots. She didn’t have the experience or skills for the job they brought her in for.”
Some believe that Harris was hired over experienced white performers because her skin tone was a closer match to character she was doubling for.
At the time of her death, Harris was not wearing a helmet, presumably because the character doesn’t wear one in the film. Stunt workers have noted that normally a production of this level would have a helmet crafted with hair on the exterior, to protect the performer.
Footage courtesy of William Byrd and Scarves fell
Not always during stunts either–
While filming Thor: The Dark World, Jaimie Alexander slipped a disc in her thoracic spine and chipped 11 of her vertebrae when she slipped off a metal staircase during a rainy morning on the set. She also dislocated her left shoulder and tore a rhomboid on her right side.
While shooting 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens a hydraulic door fell on Harrison Ford, requiring a plate and screws in his ankle. Director JJ Abrams broke his back while helping lift the door off Ford.
Even in the 2007 romantic-comedy P.S. I Love You, Hillary Swank required stitches after Gerald Butler's suspender snapped.
Thor: The Dark World Production stills © 2013 Marvel
Those are just accidents in the last decade.
Of course in an article such as this, one has to mention the Twilight Zone accident, where actor Vic Morrow and two children were killed in a helicopter accident. The two children were hired illegally and paid 'under the table' because child labor laws would not allow them to work late at night. Waivers were not sought out because the director knew they would not be granted for children so young to be in a scene with explosions. The children were kept hidden from firefighters and welfare workers on set. Former Los Angeles County Deputy D.A. Lea Purwin D’Agostino refuses to call what happened an accident.
(Due to the nature of filmmaking, many of these accidents are caught on film, including the Twilight Zone incident (warning: graphic). Some minor injuries– like in the case of Leonardo Dicaprio slamming his hand so hard on a table that he broke a glass and cut his hand in Django Unchained (2012)– the footage is still included in the final cut of the film.)
Things are getting better all the time, however. No one should have to sacrifice their life in order for others to realize the importance of safety, but it seems with every major death, there is an upheaval and subsequent improvement in safety.
For example, in the early days of Hollywood filmmaking death and injuries were almost an occupational hazard. "Between 1925 and 1930, nearly 11,000 people were injured during Californian film productions; 55 died."
In comparison, between 2005 and 2010, there were 54 injuries and 5 deaths internationally, with most injuries minimal. Even when compensating the underreporting of accidents, the difference is stark.
Considering the Los Angeles area alone has 40,000 shooting days per year– that's over 100 productions shooting just in LA on any given day of the year– and the entertainment industry employs over two million people in the United States, the amount of accidents that happen are minimal.
But to the injured, dead, and their loved ones,
even one is too many.
Photo: Columbia Pictures.
A Dangerous Career
As aforementioned, many of the injuries documented are minor, and it can be estimated that many of the unreported injuries are minor as well. The fact is, when working on a film set, employees are in very dangerous conditions, even when not working on stunts or special effects.
“Film sets are inherently dangerous,” says a producer of several blockbusters who doesn’t want to be named. “Even when it’s just a scene of two people walking across a set, there will be tremendous amounts of electricity, hot lights, ladders, heavy suspended equipment, power tools and trip hazards like cabling and carpentry everywhere...when you add in weapons, explosives, chemicals, loud noises, cranes, helicopters. Factor in the constant time and money pressures, the fact that nearly everyone is freelance and working on a temporary structure, and it’s surprising more disasters don’t happen.”
Job security is a big reason why many workers don't file complaints against unsafe working conditions. Most workers are treated a contractors for each gig. Television offers a little more stability, depending on the show, but films are almost always just a few weeks of work until it's over.
Like observed in OSHA's report on Midnight Rider, workers who stall or slow production for safety concerns might be seen as overly-cautious or "chicken", and if they can't or won't contribute to the process of getting the director's vision cheaply and efficiently, they could risk not being hired on a new project. Considering Hollywood's vast community of workers, it is surprising to realize how close-knit the group is, and that reputation really does matter.
Workers do not want their name on a 'list'.
Photo from Art of the Title, Will Perkins.
The off-set accidents–
Midnight Rider, Twilight Zone, Deadpool...
We've seen what happens when management cuts corners on rules and regulations, attempts to save time, to save money, to achieve the vision.
But not all accidents happen during working hours. Sometimes it's the working hours themselves. Film and TV routinely work their crews long hours of physical labor at odd hours of the day (or night).
The standard for most shoots is a twelve-hour day; eight hours at standard pay, four hours at 'time-and-a-half' overtime pay, or 150% of the hourly rate.
That's right. The standard protocol calls for overtime pay already accounted for.
Photo: New York Film Academy
In 2017, twenty year-old KJ Apa, star of CW's "Riverdale", fell asleep at the wheel during a 45-minute drive home after a 14.5 hour day on set.
His car crashed into a light pole, and he miraculously walk away unscathed while his destroyed car was deemed inoperable.
Apa took responsibility for the crash, and the production company was quick to remind that, while it is still policy for cast to transport themselves to and from set, they can get a taxi or stay in a nearby hotel on the company's dime.
"Which is fair enough," Apa responded, "The crew works longer than we do, and they have to drive back and forth to work every day.”
While cast may have long days, like this day for Apa, most of the cast only needs to be on set while preparing or acting for their scenes. The previous day Apa worked 2.2 hours, and 7 hours the day before that. If they aren't main cast, they may not even be called every day, but they still get compensated for days they aren't on set, because they aren't able to take other work.
By the time the cast arrive for makeup, the makeup artists have been there hours before setting up and getting other ready. Grips and electrictians have been preparing the lighting setup for the day. Catering and craft services got there early enough to feed everyone breakfast and energize the crew through the day. Locations opened up the set and made sure catering had power to start the day. The list goes on.
Photo: Gage Skidmore
For those in the industry a while, Apa's crash was a chilling flashback to 20 years prior.
Just months before Apa was born in 1997, while shooting Oscar-nominated Pleasantville, second-assistant cameraman Brent Hershman was driving home from a 19-hour work day on set when he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a utility pole. He died instantly.
Around the same time, script supervisor Bertha Medina on James Cameron's Titanic fell sleep at the wheel after a 20-hour work day on the film. She spent five days in an Intensive Care Unit for a blood clot in her brain, but walked away with her life.
Hershman's co-workers started a petition called "Brent's Rule" to limit film crew's work days to 14 hours, which gathered over 10,000 signatures and a Screen Actors Guild endorsement.
Soon after, veteran cinematographer Haskell Wexler advocated for "12on, 12off"– referring to a working hour cap of 12 hours, with a 12-hour turnaround before they can be called back to set. Over the years, film sets have gradually started shifting to this format, but still regularly have longer days or earlier calls. Hours after 12 are usually paid "double-time", or double the hourly rate. Less than 12-hour turnaround for actors is a "forced call" and grants the performer a meager penalty bonus. Crews' forced call is at 10 hours, but usually range between 10-12 hours.
Even if 12/12 is the goal, a little cash is all that is needed to break a few rules.
"No other industry would consider a 12- to 14-hour day 'normal,' let alone countenance a work span of 17 or 18 hours," said then-SAG president Richard Masur after Hershman's death.
Photo: Society of Camera Operators
"Who Needs Sleep" (2006)
Documentary Trailer by late cinematographer Haskell Wexler.
"You’re making more money, but it is blood money"
No one wants to go over 12 hours on set. It just seems to happen. Cameras breaking, slower setup times than planned, lack of organization, director egomania...
So why not stop and keep working tomorrow? Well, location rentals, truck rentals, prop and gear rentals, extra hours for everyone; it ultimately comes down to money, as usual.
Producer Gavin Polone says, "The studio sets the budget and the schedule, and you can only meet that with these long hours. I have no power to pull the plug on a day unless the studio tells me to do so," which Polone states is incredibly rare.
Steve D’Amato, a first assistant director recalls, "The worst day I ever worked on a show was 27 hours. It was the very last day of the very last episode of the series. We shot for 24 hours and I was there two hours before and an hour after."
Farah Bunch, in the makeup department, was particularly critical of the business despite continuing to work in it for eighteen years, "I thought only in third-world countries people worked hours like this — a fourteen-hour day is the norm for the makeup department. You’re making more money, but it is blood money, 'cause you’re trading your life. I give up all of my personal life. When I’m in season, I don’t see my friends or family. The weekends I spend recovering."
The ten hour turnaround she received she said was just enough time to drive home, sleep, and drive back. A forced call would give her just $20. A worker can always refuse it, but with the risk of being seen as uncooperative, and putting production behind schedule. Again, the list. No one wants to be on one.
Kirsten Robinson, script supervisor, says of the hours, "Physically, you’re just exhausted. For me, it is very difficult because my job is mental. I never felt the money was worth it. I want to put my best effort forward: Fighting through and drinking as much coffee as possible doesn’t yield the best work.”
Across all industries, researchers have been searching for the perfect number of hours a worker needs to be most productive. Is it the 40-hour week? Less? More? Most everyone agrees that workers have a point of diminishing returns. Past a certain point of hours, workers don't prove enough effective work to warrant the hours put in, and those hours could have been used in other, more productive, ways.
And when you're working in an industry with as many risks and dangers as this one, at what point are the long hours a legitimate safety hazard?
Sarah Jones's LegacyImpact to the Unions and Guilds–
Unions such as SAG-AFTRA (Actors), DGA (Directors), IATSE (Stage Employees/Below-The-Line) all have safety pages on their website and encourage abundance of caution when it comes to being safe on set.
SAG-AFTRA and DGA both have links to the Contract Services Administration Trust Fund's safety bulletins that should be attached to the call sheet, in special circumstances– such as Bulletin #28: Guidelines for Railroad Safety.
The DGA requires that any member categorized as an Assistant Director, Unit Production Manager, Associate Director, or Stage Manager are required to take Safety Pass Training, (details of which are not public). Similarly, IATSE offers a free, online Safety Training to all of its members. The course covers safety orientation, use of personal protection equipment, studio lot & location safety, severe weather, disaster/emergency response, transportation of dangerous goods, electrical safety, among many other things.
Near the one year anniversary of Sarah Jones's death, IATSE announced they would be implementing an anonymous safety hotline for workers to report hazards on the job. The hotline was launched in June 2015. Anonyminity is incredibly important for workers who fear losing their jobs or reputation.
Months prior, in October of 2014, IATSE Local 600 (International Cinematographer's Guild, of which Sarah Jones was a member) launched the "ICG Safety" app which allows members to report set hazards anonymously anywhere in the world. The app also provides access to safety bulletins and guidelines, as well as a quicklist of industry safety hotlines.
Sarah Jones's LegacyBeyond the bureaucratic paperwork–
Safety for Sarah Foundation began to raise awareness and to create accountability in the industry. Safety is everyone's responsibility.
In October 2014, they raised over $34,000 across three cities in 5K Walk-A-Thons organized by cast and crew members from The Vampire Diaries and The Originals to promote film and TV production safety. The events have been held in all three cities in October annually ever since.
The Foundation also oversees the Safety For Sarah End Credits Program, which offers the seal of the Foundation at the end of the credit roll in exchange for strict commitment to ensuring the safety of every participant involved in the making of the film, similar to how a film might get a seal from the American Human Association if 'no animals were harmed'.
Beginning in 2017, three years after Jones's death, the Foundation also awarded the first Sarah Jones Safety Grant, which donates $2,500 to a film student's thesis project to devote to safety related expenses, such as police and fire personnel, stunt coordinators, and safety equipment.
Back in 2015, Warner Bros Television Group, IATSE Local 600, Georgia IATSE Local 479, The Vampire Diaries and SIM Digital teamed up to create "The Sarah Jones Opportunity" which begins with a 20-week paid internship, and offers one month of work on a WBTV show, covered by the Guild, with hours counting towards Guild membership (the initiation fee is waived for graduates of the program), and a spot on the Industry Experience Roster (those eligible to work on union production).
Sarah Jones's LegacyThe Industry as Community–
Tradition in the industry says that the very last shot of the day is called the "martini" shot (because the next shot will be out of a glass). After 2014, a new nickname was born for the very first shot of the day, the "Jones-y" shot. A reminder at the beginning of every day that safety should be the number-one priority.
Within days of Jones's passing, crew members from her previous shows like The Vampire Diaries had dedicated episodes in her honor. Second camera assistants, the ones who clap the slate (the same job as Jones), on films and shows across the country began writing her name on their slates, in her memory. A movement was born, #slatesforsarah.
Thousands of pictures came in, from every major show on air, and many other smaller films and shows. Another surge of photos came in on her birthday that September, and another one year after the accident. To the time of this writing in December of 2017, photos are still being sent in. Slates across the country, and the world, bear Sarah's name on them.
The slate is an ever-changing board. The title of the project, director, scene, roll, take...but not Sarah's name. Safety is a permanent fixture, displayed before the camera at every take; a reminder to everyone the memory of one who should have never been lost.
Photo: The Vampire Diaries
Slates 4 Sarah
"Into the Great Unknown" The Writers Room. KT304. Composers: Zubin Thakkar [SOCAN]. Publishers: Killer Tracks BMI; Photos thanks to Jason Johnson
Sarah Jones–The Camera Assistant Who Changed the Industry.
JRN 267 - Berit Bontems 2017