I always wanted to tell stories that mattered, and I feel like I was able to do exactly that here. I pitched the idea of creating a short documentary about a prison reentry center, which essentially helps people adjust back into society after getting released from incarceration. It started off slow. The initial reentry program that I was going to base my film around conveniently bailed on me the day after the pitch. After running around Philly like a chicken with its head cut off trying to find another reentry program to focus on, I ran into The Center for Returning Citizens (TCRC). I was put in contact with a man named John Thompson who was a current employee at TCRC and had been incarcerated. I knew I wanted to include him talking about his life, wrapping up with reentry programs helping released prisoners.

After we established a date to meet up in person and film, I decided I wanted to take John to the neighborhood he grew up in. He told me it was going to be his fourth time back in his old neighborhood since being locked up for 37 years. Other interns, Chris and Viveka, joined me to help create the film. We began the day with an interview at his office. I chose not to record video the interview to avoid ever using any “talking head” footage (this was a questionable choice, but I’m glad I made the decision). I believed that it would take away from the story. After the interview, just shy of 50 minutes, we began to film him in his office, in Center City and finally in his old neighborhood in North Philadelphia.

As we filmed, I was able to talk to John 1-on-1 more about what it was like for him to grow up, serve time and now help people who are released from prison as well. We connected and I learned to appreciate his story and his personal growth. After we said our goodbyes, we gathered our last bit of broll of Philadelphia to move onto the next phase; editing.

My first cut of the film that I showed to JTWO was five minutes long. That didn’t go well. There was a cycle: I got feedback, I improvised my own edits, my improvisions didn’t work, got more feedback, made more improvisions, improvisions still didn’t work and repeat. Eventually I ended up at a 3 minute 22 second cut that myself and the company agreed on. I created 18 different sequences on premiere and spent the last week staying after and coming in on my day off until the cut was done. It’s just part of the grind.

In the end, I am happy with the outcome of my project. I was able to capture an important story of someone who was given a second chance and able to turn his life around. These are the stories that I want to tell, and I was glad I was able to do exactly that through this internship.

Overall, this has not been what I was expecting. The whole time we were all very handsfree and on our own to complete our projects (minus the times we showed cuts and got feedback on our films). Everything was in our control and I was happy about that because it allowed us to be the creators that we are. I already want to get going on the next.

What’s next for me is working with JTWO on their sets and learning more about their style of filmmaking. I was able to hop on one set already and it was a great experience. I loved to see how everyone interacted with each other and how even with a small crew, a high quality piece was created. After this summer ends, I’ll be able to go back to college confident with new experiences under my belt that only help me grow as a filmmaker.

Meet the Director

Jordan Brown is a filmmaker from Lebanon, Pennsylvania who is passionate about social justice. He creates narrative and documentary films that address issues across the spectrum. Jordan is currently studying film at Ithaca College and plans to write and direct his own films which he considers to be realistic fiction.

This project was created as part of the JTWO [INC]ubator Project. A semester long internship program built from the ground up to give young filmmakers, content creators, and all around hungry for a challenge individuals a place to stretch their creative minds while preparing them for the road ahead.

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Director – Jordan Brown
Cinematographer – Chris Tocchet
Sound – Steven Layton 
Story Supervisor – Omar Alqahtani
PA – Viveka Galindez