| Director Notes
“Abused” started two years ago as a result of my wife Marilyn's volunteer work at the California Institute for Women (Prison). After a couple of visits, she suggested we film several women who had interesting stories. We filmed six women over several days and began to correspond with them through the mail not knowing if there was a documentary to be made. When Susan Greenberg's hearing suddenly came up, Marilyn insisted we travel to Northern California to film what we thought would be a three day event.
We financed the film ourselves without a commitment from anyone. There were no grants, commissioning editors, or suits looking over our shoulders as we shot and cut the film.
The court hearing lasted three weeks and we did not know if we had a film until the last dramatic days as each twist and turn became more dramatic than we could have imagined. As we brought the hi def video back to our editor, Rob King, we devised a unique technique to tell the long complicated story in a short form. We decided to try and inter-cut all the participants with Susan's testimony being the glue that held it together. We started to make a short demo and it escalated to 20 minutes. We were very encouraged by the early results. The inter-cutting turned out to be a very effective way to show all the various characters and an efficient way to tell the story. We needed to get out of the courtroom from time to time and we had filmed several very good sessions with the defense attorneys in private conferences.
After we had a fine cut, I asked my younger son Max Braverman ( www.skopic.com ), who just graduated from Berklee College of Music, to write some original music for the opening and close of the film. I also licensed music from Brian Keane and Phillip Glass. We rushed to finish in August in order to qualify the film for the upcoming Academy Awards in the documentary short category.
We always want to be as objective as possible as we try to tell the true story of the events. But by the last day of the hearing, I must admit I was crying as I filmed Susan in the courtroom as the judge announced his findings.
What I like best about the film is that it is pure cinema verité documentary filmmaking without any narrator telling you what you are watching. And yet, through our unique non-linear inter-cutting, we were able to tell a long complicated emotional story in a tight 38 minutes.
|Producer Marilyn Braverman working as a location sound person takes a break between filming with Susan Greenberg on the grounds of California Institute for Women (Chino prison) when the project started in August of 2004. Photo by Chuck Braverman, also running the video camera.
When the film was near completion we sent out the 20 minute demo version to a couple of networks and immediately got an offer from the leading pay cable network. It was the end of August and because many executives were on vacation, no one else had gotten back to us. But the first offer was too low for what we thought the film was worth. We went to the IFP Market in mid September with another film and suddenly we had four offers on “Abused” from different networks. We sold the film to A&E and it has aired.
In the dvd which we will give some interesting new details. For example, the two main defense attorneys who were working for free, had never before tried a criminal case. Since the hearing we have subsequently filmed long interviews with Susan, the attorneys, and we plan to film the prosecutor and some of the other principals.
We would love to hear your feedback if you have seen the film.