July 9, 2018
podcast

How Working Within Extreme Constraints Actually Benefits Your Film

The team who shot two films simultaneously inside an active maximum security prison can teach us something about working within constraints.

My guests on this episode pulled off one of the most amazing behind-the-scenes production stories I've ever heard. Their narrative feature O.G. and documentary It's a Hard Truth Ain't It were both shot simultaneously in an active maximum-security prison. The documentary is co-directed by 13 incarcerated men and the feature was cast with more than 90% real inmates as extras and even as one of the leads. 

O.G. is a scripted narrative starring Jeffrey Wright of Westworld fame as a prisoner about to go on parole after spending his entire adult life inside—and his kind of older brother relationship with a young inmate called Beecher who is played by an actual inmate in the prison where they shot. It's a Hard Truth Ain't It is a partially animated documentary about the real lives of several lifelong prisoners and the events that landed them in jail in the first place.

"{We wanted to be in the cell as much as possible, and it’s a real cell. You can’t move the walls to get the shot you want."

The team here to talk about how they managed these incredible feats of nimble production are Emmy-winning director Madeline Sackler, Cinematographer Wolfgang Held, who is a very experienced shooter known mostly for high-profile documentaries like Walter Murch's Particle Fever and Liz Garbus's The Fourth Estate, and Boyd Holbrook, who you might know as an actor with leading roles in Narcos and Logan. He had a supporting role in O.G. but also helped produce both films.

This conversation and the huge steps these filmmakers had to take to get their project made within extreme constraints—including spending an hour each way going in and out of prison security with all their gear every single day of production—will be an inspiration to anyone who has lofty goals for their independent films. 

 

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This episode was edited by Jon Fusco.

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