View Full Version : Paranoia?

12-03-2004, 03:33 PM
I'm just finishing editing a 90 min. doc about a polygamous community and their widespread welfare fraud and abuse of women and children. I've shown a short version at a few film festivals and private screenings, mostly to gauge audience response. I'm no Michael Moore (and don't want to be), but the reactions of people to this film have been shock and outrage at politicians' lack of interest or action.

Here's my question. Attorneys General from 2 states have asked for private screenings of the film. What's that about? I've asked them in the past for interviews, but never got any response. Now they seem to be interested. My first thought was, "I'll show you the film if you let me film you watching it, then answer questions after seeing it". But I'm verging on paranoia because of death threats from the church's prophet ("blood atonement") and too many close calls while filming in the town. I've lost all objectivity.

What do you folks think their request is all about? Would you show them the film? Should I be cautious? Should I leave my 350 magnum at home? G

As a newbie filmmaker, I'll appreciate any and all advice from more rational people.

12-05-2004, 01:42 AM
hmm, intresting. I would love to see this doc you did. My advice would probably be submitting this to a film festival. See where it then takes you. You may get lots of supporters. I don't think you should be too paranoid about this. Now you said you've gotten death treats if I'm not mistaken. Then I would be trippin. Hmm, I really don't know what to say till I see what it is youre talking about. I'n the mean time carry your glock and have your homies with you. And if you're introuble call 911. You should go ahead and show it to the attoney gens but make sure you have your people with you.

12-05-2004, 08:57 AM
Thanks very much for your advice. I'm leaving tomorrow to do the last shoot there, this time with a crew of four (usually, because of the danger, only two of us go). Three of us are armed. We film with hidden cameras in the town, but get busted anyway within 30 minutes because the men recognize a strange vehicle in town. They won't do anything to us while we're there, but could do us harm after we leave.

This is a cult of 10,000 polygamists whose prophet has $400,000,000 in the bank. He rules with an iron fist and is very successful at bilking the welfare system and extorting his followers. The incidents of rape, child abuse, child deaths, and disability (from incest) are staggering. The government knows all about it, but has been sweeping it under the rug for an incredible 50 years.

12-05-2004, 09:03 AM
BTW, this town is so remote that cell phones don't work there. Once you're there, you're totally isolated. The police in the town are all appointed by the prophet

12-05-2004, 11:52 AM
The world is a crazy place. Good luck with your mission. :) It's dangerous but you are doing the right thing.

12-06-2004, 08:33 AM
Sounds like you are amidst of fine progect. You are brave. I would use the requests as leverage for interviews. You have them comming to you, and it will enhance your doc. The worst they could do is turn you down, but right now you hold the ball. Sorry for the cliche. Good luck. I am looking forward to seeing this.

12-07-2004, 10:25 AM
If you show them to attorney generals, it would be wise to invest in a lawyer to be present. You never know...

You are very brave. All the best to you. We have some polygamous communities in Canada (BC and Alberta). I thought about doing a doc on them for a while, but I gave it up. (I don't like getting death threads ;))

12-07-2004, 08:55 PM
Hey Pixel, I just wanted to shout out some encouragement to you on your project. You're in the middle of something tough, but it should be an amazing doc when you're done. I pray you'll make it back okay and that your work will call attention to this ongoing travesty.


12-08-2004, 08:01 PM

don't allow them to see it. if it casts their state in an unfavorable light (or whatever) they might take offensive action to prohibit. if it is already screened, they are on defense; you have the advantage of public support and 1st amendment on your side. of course you have 1st amendment anyway but much better to have them on defense than open up an offensive opportunity to them. must be CCAZ.

12-09-2004, 07:49 AM
An interesting (and valid) point - that's why I said bring a lawyer to a screening with the AG.

What's CCAZ?

12-10-2004, 01:51 AM

I don't want to scare you but I know of an author who wrote a book called, The Rape of Nanking, Iris Chang. She was making a documentary about the Japanese atrocities in China.

In the middle of filming she was found dead in her car. Supposedly it was a suicide...but some believe opposite.

I haven't followed the story much, but I do know that you need to be careful when dealing with sensitive issues. Documentary can be damaging to your itnerviewees...just be careful :)

I'd like to see this as well.

12-10-2004, 02:31 AM
This sounds awesome man. I'm a big time noob and I do this stuff for the emotion that I get out of people, and it's looking like you're doing a great job of that. I'm interested in seeing this as well, good luck with this.

12-10-2004, 12:44 PM
Just got back from the shoot (sorry, bad choice of words) and I want to thank you folks for your advice & words of encouragement. A very scarey three days, including a chase scene out of a monster truck show (we got away), but we secured some great interviews and astounding B Roll.

The advice to bring along a lawyer if I meet with the a.g.s is good. OTOH, I heard from a paralegal this week that if I show the film to the A.G.s, they may figure out a way to issue an injunction and prevent the film from being shown.

BTW, I don't think I menitoned earlier that underlying the whole corruption and abuse story, I'm telling the personal story of one woman who was thrown out last Dec. She lost her children and everything she owned, and is now homeless. Her kids continue to live with the father who is molesting them all, including two who are handicapped. This lady is the most tortured and courageous person I've ever met. No matter what the outcome of this film is, I will see to it that she gets her kids back and has a place to live and some kind of income.

CCAZ, yes.

12-10-2004, 05:21 PM
Her kids continue to live with the father who is molesting them all, including two who are handicapped.

I got my shotgun and my homies ready. When do you want me to take the dude out. I think people like him should belong in hell. That is sad and disturbing and I really feel for her.

12-10-2004, 11:08 PM
My 2 cents....discretly finish your film...get the hell out of dodge...don't grant an audience to the AGs...submit the film to film festivals...notify the local media about your project...once you get the film to the public, let the chips fall...I don't put much stock in the death threats, once the story becomes public the sh*t will hit the fan and these idiots will be running for cover.

12-12-2004, 12:10 AM
I got my remington Boomstick ready BlueS 8)

12-12-2004, 08:50 AM
The attorney's General of Arizona and Utah are both ramping up their investigation and prosecution of the Arizona City and Freedonia folks. They most likely want to see your footage for evidence for their cases, not for the some of the reasons alluded to by others here (paranoia). Terry Goddard lives near me, he is a reasonable and smart AG. It's your call, but their desire to see your footage springs from investigating the subjects of your film, not you. The idea of shooting them viewing the footage is a good one.

Sounds like a great project, be careful.

12-12-2004, 10:18 AM
Call your local television station and tell them what is happening regarding the two attorney generals. They'll fall over themselves to get the story and give you free publicity.

12-13-2004, 03:04 AM
I like that guys idea.

01-05-2005, 07:48 PM
Came to this posting late but I am also intrigued. Please keep this board updated on the progress of your film. If you need any help or feedback clearly a lot of us are ready, willing, and able. ;)

And don't lose too much sleep over the death threats, a person who truely seeks to do you harm will just do it, not threaten first.

01-06-2005, 05:58 AM
Sorry to have to say this Wabbit.
Not always. Not always, my dear friend.

01-07-2005, 05:58 AM
Meant to have "most of the time" or "usually" in there. ???
You are right Peabody.
(still stand by the nothing to lose sleep over) :)

01-07-2005, 08:40 AM
Hi, I hope am not too late, but just a thought, If you could manage to capture footage - video or audio or both, (A/V recording the phone conversation etc.) of the death threats you get (assuming you have not already recorded that ) and incorporate that into the documentary, i think it will add more authenticity to the fact that the organization is organized enough to get out death threats, that means they are doing something wrong and keeping their guard.

Also, if all goes well.... they will REPENT (read as Kick Themselves) to have given you the death threats, as you gave the world one more evidence of their existance. Going a step further you may also provide that evidence (of threats) to the authorities and see what they do about it or dont do about it !

Good luck and take care! I mean literally - Be Carefull, the world needs more people like you.

01-07-2005, 03:24 PM
Thanks again for your feedback. My nerves are a little calmer now.

The comment that if someone wants to kill me, they will (without warning) is most likely true. I haven't received any phone calls, but was told by a person who has family there (she herself has escaped) that I'm on the prophet's "blood attonement" list. Whoever among his followers kills me will receive eternal salvation. This is no joke. My producer lived in a polygamous colony until she was 16. Her uncle was the prophet and killed at least 28 people this way. In one case, the killer was an 8 months pregnant woman who shot a doctor in his waiting room.

Lately I've noticed vehicles cruising past my house between 1:00 & 3:00 am. I live out in the country, so the events are unusual. The sheriff's dept. has put a watch on the house. I also have all my tapes stored off site and have redundant backups (I'm doing the edit). The good news, maybe, is that the prophet in this film is in hiding right now, so maybe he's too busy to care. But if one of the deputies catches anyone here, I'll get it on film.

The woman I mentioned who's story will be told has been getting threats: "We know you're working with those movie people and if you don't tell them to leave you out, you'll never see your children again." There's no way I'd risk her life by keeping her in the film. It seems the best way to address that issue is by raising money to get her the most kick-ass lawyer I can find, or, even better, get a celebrity lawyer to represent her pro bono. Her case (rape, abuse, committed to a mental hospital, beatings, her children beaten and abused) will be a national sensation. A lot of men will go to jail. She'll get her kids back. She'll get enough money to live in a house and support her kids. All she wants is shelter and her kids.

01-07-2005, 04:44 PM
That's pretty scary, you're a strong person! As far as the Attorney General wanting to view your Documentary. I wouldn't let them view it. You should add in the narration that you contacted them for interviews and they declined. Then mention after the filming was complete that they wanted to view the film.

The Death threats are crazy! I don't know what I'd do if I was in your shoes, maybe move, but that story alone should get the attention at Film Festivals etc..., but then there's the question, is it worth it? If the ladies life is in danger then that's a hard call to make. Did you get a release form from her when you did the filming? Hopefully it will all work out for you and everyone will be safe. These people sound pretty crazy and if this film is shown people will be more aware of it (i know I have never heard of such thing before) and hopefully address the situation that these women and children are in. Good luck and please be safe!!

01-08-2005, 03:13 PM
Good idea about addressing the AGs in the narration. Yes, I was meticulous about getting releases, including hers. The problem is that her story is about 20 min. of the film and really puts it over the top. I can use it regardless of her desires, but it's more of an ethical issue than legal to me. At this point (this morning) she told me she doesn't want to be involved anymore, but has not asked to be pulled. Her concern is her kids' safety and not wanting to be part of something that "slanders" the prophet. She still believes he represents God. If he gets pissed at her, it would be the end of her world. Her reason for agreeing to be interviewed in the first place was to expose the abuse there. She understatnds that my purpose is not to condemn polygamy, but to expose the abuse & fraudgoing on there.

01-08-2005, 08:12 PM
so when do we get to see it?!

01-08-2005, 10:12 PM
Hmmm, thats hard. Legally you can use the footage. and as a filmmaker u want to use the footage. Thats something that will take a lot of thinking. If her life is in danger then I wouldn't do it, but then some poeple will say, she should have known her life was in danger when she agreed to do the film. But still, you have to look beyond that. Have you thought about blurring out her face and messing with the Audio? That could work, but if they know that she's been talking to you, then if they are smart (i doubt they are if they are doing this sort of stuff) they will know it's her.

You said that her footage is around 20 min. That would mean you have 70 min., left which is still a good amount. If she doesn't want you to use her footage, you could use sound bites, or use qoutes. Instead of showing her face you can show parts of the town. It's a way to beat around the bush. It might not be your first idea, but you never know, if you get your thinking cap on I'm sure you can come up with something creative. It might even turn out better then showing the full 20 min! Do you have a rough cut of the Documentary?