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Interview with the Director
Q: How did you come to choose Elayn Hunt Correctional Center?
Our reasons for shooting this film in a large prison farm in Louisiana and one that included a large maximum security section were somewhat circumstantial. We visited many facilities and spent time with many missionary groups before settling on Elayn Hunt.
We wanted to work with administrative wardens and yard wardens that would and could allow us full contact with prisoners. We came up against access issues and personalities of wardens. There were many details that we couldn’t have anticipated: where wardens were in the arc of their career, the Department of Correction, federal agencies and county specific rules and regulations.
In Elayn Hunt we were granted full freedom of movement, minus the ward for the mentally ill that was excluded due to HIPPA privacy restrictions. The Chaplain had recently resigned from the nations largest national evangelical ministry and was proud of his newly built chapel and his custom re-parenting approach to faith-based work.
Through a blanket style outreach campaign we located a prison ministry organization in Missouri that was delighted to expand their proselytizing outside of the state. They invited prison ministers from New Orleans and Baton Rouge to join them in ministering to the men of Elayn Hunt. The Assistant Warden was salty but welcoming and super well-organized, a production managers dream, and the Warden wary but after several months of negotiating we were invited in, mostly on our terms.
Q: Did you ever feel you got behind the scenes?
I have slept in prisons during the shooting of another prison film. For Faith, I parked in a donated double wide RV with an extractable living room as a production office. Being on site helps build relationships.
I always wore a suit jacket in prison even when it was 100 degrees out. The intent being if there was a riot I would never be mistaken for an inmate. Likewise, it was a little personal reminder that I could only scrape the surface with the inmates. That they would always, to a large extent, be telling me what I wanted to hear, or what the performer would say in a reality TV show in some sort of art imitates life routine. An outsider in prison is just that, and even years of camaraderie and trust cannot produce a truly honest interview in prison, just an approximation of one.
Q: How did you find the right voices to be in the film?
There was a large pool of interesting individuals in which to draw from. By and large, prisoners are a fairly articulate lot with an above average self-awareness. They aren’t spending a lot of time in a place like Elayn Hunt acquiring material possessions, there are few to be had. The tools for showmanship become the ability to tell stories, be persuasive, charismatic, or a fine athlete or musician.
As we got to know the prisoners and the prison, we were introduced by some to their friends and inmates they thought appropriate, most because of their resistance to faith-based or Christian teachings. Then you thin the herd intuitively. Over time, in pre-production, a sense for who is authentic and who is simply talking for the camera becomes sharper. The Assistant Warden, Hooper, helped enormously.
In an atmosphere where everyone, by definition, lies, it is important to identify the people that are closer to having some capacity for honest revelation. The success of the film depends on it.
Q: To what extent were you concerned with balancing the views of proponents and opponents of prison ministries during the process?
It wasn’t a great strain for us to tap into prison ministry proponents and opponents. Amongst the inmates that were detained, there were those who were cynical about religion, those who considered themselves burned, or shorted, by religious cliques or individuals in prison, people who had been religious and then became not so, the variations in the prison population were endless. We at Interlock Media- the crew and myself, found merit in what both the proponents and detractors of religious outreach in prison had to say, whatever our religious beliefs or affiliations going into the project.