Saturday, March 6, 2010
It Had to End with a Cheesesteak
So I'm back home on Cape Cod for a few days after wrapping up our shoot in Philly. Our final day was one of the more authentic, more improvised days of the entire week.
First we went to prison. Then we got let out of prison. It usually isn't that easy. Really though, going through all that security, all those gates and locked doors really makes you think about what it must be like to be incarcerated. I don't know whether the prison system works or not. I learned, after this shoot, that 85 percent of released inmates end up back in jail. So I don't know what the answer is there, I do know, however, that I never want to be in jail.
The Philly prison system is extensive, and we saw the inside of two of their facilities. We interviewed the prison commissioner, just to get some details about the Philly prison system before meeting with an inmate. We were shooting at the prison because the Augustinians have a very strong ministry program for inmates. Fr. Paul, our guide for the day, spends quite a bit of time behind bars, talking with men who keep finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.
The inmate we interviewed was an incredibly intelligent and articulate man who got caught up with drugs and spent most of his life in and out of jail. Everything he said was so real, emotional, honest, that it was hard to pay attention to the sound quality of the interview. He's someone who really has been positively influenced by Fr. Paul and his work, and you could see the gratitude he felt.
After we wrapped up the interview and packed up our gear, it was time to leave the prison. We'd been filming in a visitation room and all the doors locked from the outside. For a brief moment, we all got a sense of what it's like to be locked up, and it wasn't a great feeling.
We eventually busted out (were let out by guards).
The final interview and B-roll we needed was of a man named Steve. Steve was the guy we followed on the subway to the ex-inmate meeting, but we didn't have a chance to interview him. So we did what any intrepid filmmakers would do, we found him at his son's rec basketball game. It was the perfect place to get some B-roll of him with his wife. The whole family was incredibly open and accepting of us filming them, and essentially invading their time together. Steve is someone whose life has been changed drastically by the Augustinians. He's out of jail, clean and reunited with his family. I think that's why he was so willing to help us get the footage we needed. After the game, we went back to their house for the interview. It was perfect, with his family in the background he spoke passionately about how Fr. Paul had truly changed his life.
Before leaving, we got one more thing we needed from Steve: directions to the best cheesesteak joint in the neighborhood. As usual, Steve did not disappoint.
Tony Luke's is apparently pretty famous for their sandwiches. I haven't had many cheesesteaks in my life, but this one was definitely the best. It tasted better knowing we had just wrapped a fantastic week of shooting in Philly, and we had a few days to rest at home before jetting to Africa.
Here's to you, Philadelphia. Onward to South Africa.