Director Savanah Leaf, Art Camp Team On ARC/Imagine Justice PSA Depicting The Incarcerated's Pandemic Plight

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Robert Goldrich
Wednesday, May. 13, 2020

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Director Savanah Leaf and executive producer Cody Ryder of Park Pictures shed light on the dangerous lack of health and safety standards for incarcerated individuals during the COVID-19 crisis in “#WeMatterToo,” an animated PSA created in partnership with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) and Imagine Justice. 

Part of the larger #WeMatterToo campaign of the same name, the short features interviews from current inmates discussing their frightening real experiences living through the outbreak, recounting the lack of social distancing measures and other necessities like masks, sanitizers and more. In close quarters, the subjects understand that an outbreak of COVID-19 in any jail would spread “like wildfire.” The animations blend a monochromatic palate with bold stylized imagery of inmates suffering under living conditions reflected in the interviews, driving home the severity of the situation in graphic detail.

“The last line you hear in the PSA is, ‘Every sentence shouldn’t be a death sentence.’ For me, the statement is a powerful summary of the entire point,” noted Leaf. “Other people often speak on the behalf of incarcerated citizens, and their voices aren’t heard. At a time like this, where people remain in their homes, it’s important to reach them with the truthful experiences of others in need.”

After Leaf’s work directing the Common ft. Daniel Cesar music video “HER LOVE,” Imagine Justice reached out to Leaf to lend her trademark creative style to a broader original PSA. However, once the coronavirus crisis took root, Imagine Justice, ARC and Leaf pivoted their campaign to address a more timely issue: the lack of attention paid to jailed citizens who stand to contract and spread the virus far more easily due to their close quarters. Given social distancing limitations, Leaf connected with defense attorneys and orchestrated phone calls with as many inmates as possible, across approximately 10 states, to ensure their voices were heard and featured first. 

Leaf connected with the animation directors at Art Camp to pair visuals as dramatic as the interviews, a charcoal-esque sketchy style that lent itself both to the raw subject matter of the PSA and to the fast turnaround required for the work. Without the inmates physically filmed for context, the animation took the tenor of the interviews and enhanced the emotions behind each account.

#WeMatterToo comprises 39 activist organizations and will feature dialogues with Kamala Harris, Ayanna Pressley, and Common, among others. Devastating statistics highlighted in the campaign include an Ohio prison where over 70% of inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.

Prison sentencing reform is a related topic Park Pictures’ films have powerfully addressed recently. The company developed and produced the HBO Sundance Audience Award and Primetime Emmy Award-winning documentary The Sentence, directed by Rudy Valdez, which highlights the injustice of mandatory minimum sentencing. As reported in the Washington Post, the film was shown to various key members of Congress and helped spur passage of the First Step Act aiding nonviolent offenders. In the film, Valdez tells the story of his sister, Cindy Shank, a mother of three who was convicted to a shattering minimum of 15 years in prison for crimes committed by her ex-boyfriend. The Sentence is said to “do for unjust sentencing what “An Inconvenient Truth” did for climate change,” according to the Washington Post.

Credits

Client Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) and Imagine Justice  Common, Michael Latt, executive producers for Imagine Justice Production Park Pictures Savanah Leaf, director; Jackie Kelman Bisbee, Cody Ryder, exec producers. Animation Art Camp Britton Korbel, 2D animation & design; Matt Knudsen, 3D animation & design. Sound Design Simon Carroll, sound design. Editorial Arianna Tomasettig, additional editing.

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