Monday, April 27, 2009

San Quentin Film School

There is a show Friday nights on Discovery Channel called San Quentin Film School that I absolutely love. The show, as you might imagine, follows a group of inmates in San Quentin who have been chosen to attend an inclusive film school course. They make a series of shorts where they learn the basics of cinematography, writing, editing and sound. At the end of the class they create a six-minute final project that represents what they've learned.

Occasionally the director of the school brings in a film professional. They've had visits from writers, directors, and actors like David Arquette and Delroy Lindo. As if I needed another reason to adore Delroy Lindo, he was so cool in helping these guys.

This is by far one of my favorite shows on the air right now. It's almost over for the season, but hopefully there will be another season to follow.

What is so great about this show is not only how you get to watch these guys become filmmakers by learning the craft, but you get to see them grow as men. Several of them are now seriously considering careers in film when they get out.

One kid is so young and has a terrific eye. He's got the gift, but he's lazy. So every week you hope to God this is the week he figures it out and puts in the effort to back up his talent. That's sort of what my job is like some days.

It's just about the most beautiful thing on television. I've seen a lot of shows about prison and they're usually either sob stories or a look at how hard life is an how full of assholes a prison is. But this is downright heart warming. These guys don't sit around making excuses or professing their innocence. One has obvious meth lab explosion scars on his face. One beat the shit out of his wife. They all did something stupid, something they regret, something they take full responsibility for. Two of them are old-timers.

The other thing I like is how their stories aren't all about how sad prison life is. A couple of them are, but one is about the decline of salmon and how it's hurting the local Indian population. One is about creative cooking within the cells. One is about a student massacre in Mexico. They all have these really interesting angles on life.

I see it in my job. Encouraging a kid in a hobby he loves is the best way to keep him from heading down the wrong path. Most of the guys in this group have never been good at anything in their lives, and they have completely embraced film as a way out of the cycle.

I just thought you guys should know about this. If you haven't seen it, check it out.


  1. no, I didn't hear about this... how the hell did this show fly by my radar? I'll be sure to check it out. Sounds heart-warming and fantastic. I absolutely can't stand people who think it's funny to make prison rape jokes and to mock prisoners. Shit pisses me off.

  2. DIMA

    Depends on the prisoner. Some guy that just made a bad choice, or was in the wrong place at the wrong time, I don't make fun of. could happen to anybody, could happen to me.

    But rapists? Child molestors? Serious violent offenders? Fuck 'em. Right up the ass by their 300 pound cellmate.

    This show does sound incredibly interesting.

  3. Yea, I caught this show totally by accident a couple weeks ago. Wish I'd known about it from the beginning, but enjoying what I've seen so far.

    I have a particular fondness to the show for two reasons: 1) the filmmaking school aspect of it and 2) my dad works at San Quentin :)

  4. Matt, oh yeah, gotcha. One of my very good friends is in prison right now and he tells me that everyone HATES chomos (a nickname for paedophiles or child molesters). I have no sympathy for those bastards, either. But ordinary guys who got in trouble for drugs or stupid shit (like MY friend), well, you know, I'm always worried about them :(


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