Friday, July 23, 2004
Non-Journal, Day Ten

We spent yesterday shooting at the medium-security prison out in Shelby Farms. It was... an experience. We had a whole empty cellblock to ourselves, one in the oldest part of the prison (c. 1920), and a couple of guards assigned to us to help out with anything we needed and escort us around as we moved around the prison. Ironically, while the restaurant that was being paid to help out seemed resentful at best to be involved, the prison was a full-service location. They helped us carry equipment (or got prisoners to help out -- that was simultaneously cool and sorta distasteful), supplied us with uniforms/mattresses/power sources etc. as needed, and worked as grips opening and closing the mechanical door on the cell in which we were shooting.

I'd never seen the inside of a prison before, and I gotta say, barring another film shoot someday, I'd be perfectly happy never to see another one. The guards took a special kind of delight in trying to scare the female members of the crew, recounting the prisoner's game of attempting to time ejaculations to hit female guards as they passed the cells. One of the guards also pointed out a line of bars along the top of the cells, which were littered with shreds of old, ripped bedsheets. These, he told me, were the remnants of attempts at suicide (or murder) by strangulation; when they found a body hanging from that row of bars, they just cut the sheet noose off at the top, but never bothered coming back remove the rest. So the tattered remains served as a kind of growing monument to each of those deaths. And we had to work in there.

It was, suffice to say, not the happiest place I've ever worked. It was also really hot (again), and walking from place to place among the prisoners was pretty intimidating. They always had guards watching over them, looking threatening if anyone attempted to do or say anything untoward to the mostly-female crew, but just being stared at was enough to put me on edge.

We ate in the gymnasium -- a gym that would have looked perfectly at-home in almost any of the high schools I attended -- and shared our lunch with the guards who were helping us. They were very nice, very cordial to us, but I could imagine them being extremely not-nice when called upon. And this was only a medium-security joint; I can't imagine what a maximum-security prison would feel like.

While we were shooting, I could look through the windows opposite the cell doors into the exercise yard. At one point the inmate from the women's prison were out, and I kept watching this one woman who sat off entirely by herself in a corner of the yard, wondering what her life was like. On the one hand, I can imagine that solitude is hard to come by in prison; that may have been the only reason she was alone. For some reason, I hope so.

Anyway, the day's shooting was frustrating, only because one of the two actors we were working with in the afternoon simply could not remember his lines. Every take was a torturous process of coaching him from off-screen, and eventually it became contagious; even DeVere, who usually nails his lines every time, starting getting confused and forgetting where he was in the dialogue. The heat didn't help matters any. Slowly, we dragged our way through the scene, and wrapped it up just as the guards began getting ready for the shift change.

Glad to be done with that one.
1:11 PM ::
Amy :: permalink