Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

How the Oscar 'in memoriam' segment is decided

By Anthony Breznican,
updated 12:08 PM EST, Thu February 27, 2014
Sarah Elizabeth Jones died doing the job she loved. The South Carolina native was working as a second camera assistant when she was <a href=';pid=169841050' target='_blank'>killed</a> on set February 20. Her friends and the film community are rallying to remember Jones in a movement called <a href='' target='_blank'>Slates for Sarah</a>. Hundreds have shared photo tributes since the group started days after her death. Sarah Elizabeth Jones died doing the job she loved. The South Carolina native was working as a second camera assistant when she was killed on set February 20. Her friends and the film community are rallying to remember Jones in a movement called Slates for Sarah. Hundreds have shared photo tributes since the group started days after her death.
Slates for Sarah
Slates for Sarah
'The Vampire Diaries'
'The Vampire Diaries'
Full Sail University
Worldwide tributes
'The Americans'
Del Mar Theater
'Downton Abbey'
'Brooklyn Nine-Nine'
'Sharknado 2'
  • Two deaths are being petitioned for inclusion in this year's Oscars "in memoriam"
  • The process of listing actors in this segment takes place weeks in advance
  • A list of roughly 300 submissions often gets whittled down to around 40
  • The producers don't get to decide, but rather an Academy committee

( -- The film industry was devastated by two recent deaths that have led to a movement to alter this Sunday's "in memoriam" segment of the Oscars telecast: One was the natural causes passing of comedy filmmaker Harold Ramis, 69, and the other was the accidental death of camera assistant Sarah Jones, 27, who was struck by a train in Georgia while working on a biopic of rock musician Gregg Allman.

Ramis, the star of "Ghostbusters" and "Stripes," and director of "Vacation," "Caddyshack" and "Groundhog Day," died on Monday at his home in Chicago, while Jones, whose credits include "Midnight Rider" (the film that led to her death) and the TV series "The Vampire Diaries," was killed last Thursday while filming on a bridge that authorities said was supposed to be off-limits to the production.

Due to the questions surrounding her death, her name has become a rallying cry for behind-the-scenes workers calling for more scrutiny of on-set safety, and it has also led to a movement. Many are signing petitions and making telephone calls asking the producers of the Oscars to include her in the telecast's tribute. But ... that effort misunderstands how that part of the show is created.

Film crew worker's tragic death prompts Hollywood movement

Under most circumstances, a film worker in Jones' position would not be included in the telecast's tribute. That's not meant as a dismissal of her, or her job, but there are many thousands of people employed by the entertainment industry, and — for better or worse — the Oscars tend to focus only on the deaths of those who are familiar to the public at large.

If not, you could expect the "in memoriam" segment to take up the entire 3-and-a-half-hour running time of the telecast.

But yes, there certainly have been times when exceptions were made. At the 83rd annual ceremony, publicist Ronni Chasen was included after being gunned down while driving home from a movie premiere, even though her name was only well-known within the film industry.

There's no question the Academy could make a change if it wanted — particularly if it was a matter of sending a message about on-set safety. But the decision is not up to the producers — this year, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron — so efforts to flood their offices with letters, emails, phone calls, and a bombardment of tweets is simply taking the argument to the wrong people. (The producers themselves did not immediately return a call for comment.)

While they control much of the content of the telecast, there are two elements of the Oscars over which they have no say: the "in memoriam" reel and tickets to the show. This is partly designed to protect whomever is producing the show — a way of preventing them from getting deluged by requests for either.

Oscars 2014: A Vegas oddsmaker ranks the races

So who decides? That would be a committee made up from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who sift through a list of about 300 submissions and decide yea or nay on who makes the cut, depending on their contribution to filmmaking. Roughly 40 end up being included in the film, which is created weeks in advance of the Oscars.

The producers are given the list, and then commission the film. And almost every year, the names of those left out tend to cause an uproar.

The film can be re-edited at the last minute, and that is very likely going to be the case with Ramis — a decades-long presence in the TV and film business, responsible for some of the most memorable and thoughtful comedies of the past 30 years. But if he does make the cut, it is those achievements that are being commemorated, not just his demise. And his last-minute addition will come at the behest of the Academy, not the producers.

In the case of Sarah Jones, it's very possible that all the film crews who are galvanized to action by her death could make a compelling case for her inclusion in the broadcast. But that case has to be made to the Academy, and not the producers, who can do nothing but refer such requests to AMPAS. (All while trying to put a show on this Sunday.)

Those who hope the Oscars will take a stand on this issue should be sure to make their request in the right direction. It may be too late for this year, but those who believe in this cause could also benefit from making sure it's remembered a year from now.

See the original story at

CLICK HERE to Try 2 RISK FREE issues of Entertainment Weekly

© 2011 Entertainment Weekly and Time Inc. All rights reserved.

Part of complete coverage on
Which movies received the most accolades this year? Use our interactive to keep track.
updated 7:39 AM EST, Mon March 3, 2014
The 86th Academy Awards are in the record books. Here are five things that struck us about Sunday's broadcast:
updated 8:20 AM EST, Tue March 4, 2014
WTH John Travolta?
updated 10:10 AM EST, Mon March 3, 2014
The searing drama "12 Years a Slave" was named best picture at the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday night.
updated 7:35 AM EST, Mon March 3, 2014
Hollywood's brightest stars converged at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced this year's Oscars winners.
updated 4:51 PM EDT, Sun March 9, 2014
Ellen DeGeneres' star-studded selfie sets Twitter record and "12 Years a Slave" is named best picture.
updated 7:40 AM EST, Mon March 3, 2014
Mayor Rob Ford's surprise appearance in Hollywood may be the biggest thing from Toronto since Justin Bieber.
updated 4:45 PM EDT, Sun March 9, 2014
Lupita Nyong'o accepts the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in "12 Years Slave."
updated 12:49 AM EST, Mon March 3, 2014
See the best of the red carpet looks with our gallery.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Tue March 4, 2014
Ellen DeGeneres, #Busted.
updated 5:43 PM EST, Tue March 4, 2014
If he looked gobstruck when he walked onstage at the Oscars, he had good reason.
updated 11:07 PM EST, Sat March 1, 2014
Behind the cream of Hollywood's stars will be an army of nominees whose craft is just as vital to the creation of the industry's feted films.
updated 8:20 AM EST, Tue March 4, 2014
This year's Academy Awards could be called The Year of the Mom. Many of Hollywood's hottest award contenders brought Mom along to share in their Oscar glory.
updated 7:54 PM EST, Mon March 3, 2014
Matthew McConaughey talks to the press after winning the Oscar for best actor in a leading role.
updated 3:10 PM EST, Fri February 28, 2014
Here is a look back at all of the best actress winners, listed by the year in which they received their Oscar.
updated 3:17 PM EST, Thu February 20, 2014
Find out which legends took home Oscars in the past -- from the first awards ceremony in 1929 to 2013.
updated 7:37 PM EST, Mon March 3, 2014
The 86th annual Academy Awards will be televised live from Hollywood. Here are ten killer facts about the Oscars.
updated 3:08 PM EST, Fri February 28, 2014
Some of the winners have become classics, others forgotten by all but trivia diehards. Do you recognize all of these films?
updated 12:49 PM EST, Sun February 23, 2014
Us Weekly's Bradley Jacobs shares his picks for the Best Picture nominees you should watch before the Academy Awards.
updated 3:11 PM EST, Fri February 28, 2014
When people talk about the cinematic geniuses of the 1980s, one name invariably comes up -- John Hughes.
updated 5:41 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Whether they held their own or cracked jokes that made us cringe, the Oscar hosts have created some memorable moments.