Fish the Feature Film!
Based on the book, Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison.
Fish tells the story of a 17-year-old boy sent to an adult prison for robbing a photomat with a toy gun. Fish is a coming of age story set inside the very prison Director T.J. Parsell was housed in over thirty years ago.
Late adolescence is a period when teens struggle with issues of identity, sexuality, separation from family and figuring out where and how they'll fit in the world. Inside a maximum security prison, many of those definitions are greatly distorted. FISH is a survival story, about how a boy learns to become a man inside the psycho-sexual power dynamics of a U.S. male prison.
Teens housed in adult prisons are at greater risk of suicide, sexual assault, and of being groomed to become more violent criminals. Yet T.J. Parsell found love, self-acceptance, and ultimately redemption.
Fish is a story of hope, love and transcendence of the human spirit. It's about finding freedom and liberation in the most unlikely place.
I am an NYU Graduate film student working on my thesis project. I will be shooting this film on location at Jackson Prison, the very prison I was housed in over thirty years ago. Much of the crew will be made up of fellow NYU graduate film students and alumni. This will be a SAG film project.
For me, this project represents my life's work. To be able to go back to the very prison I was incarcerated in over thirty years and to shoot my first feature there is very empowering. It's a stand on the table - pound my chest - "I made fire!" kind of moment. That prison did not destroy me. The sexual abuse I suffered there as a teenager did not destroy who I am. Now it will be used as an instrument of change.
Fish is not the kind of movie that the typical hollywood system would fund, which is why I need your support. Fish is the kind of film that can change the world. That is my hope for it. To generate the ongoing political will to change the system. My work will not be finished, until we no longer send juveniles to adult prisons in this country. We have a lot of work to do. But film can capture hearts and minds, and generate a public outcry necessary to affect policy decisions.
I wrote my book to put a human face on the issue of what happens to juveniles sent to adult prisons. My intent with Fish the feature film is to bring action-oriented awareness on a national and/or global scale. But in order to do this, I need to make the best possible film I can - which is precisely why I've been at NYU for the last three years - learning from some of the best independent filmmakers in the world.
Much of the advocacy work I've been doing for the last decade has been raising awareness of the plight of teenagers housed in adult jails and prisons. Fish the feature film is a tremendous opportunity to tell my story to the world and to humanize an issue in a way that only film can do. It's easy to say that teenagers who mess up - who make mistakes - get what they deserve if they're sent to prison, but it's another thing to see it dramatized and to identify with a human being that this is happening to. On any given day in the United States, we house over 100,000 teenagers in adult jails and prisons. This film is about what happens to them. This film is about the painful compromises one has to make to survive in there. This is a story about liberation and enlightenment in the most unlikely place. What happened, what it was like, and how I survived it. I hope you'll help me tell this story.
For more information about my work, please visit my website at TJParsell.com.
This is not just about making a film - it's about changing the world through film. Only together, can make a difference. Please, make a contribution right now! Help me bring a spotlight onto a dark corner of the American justice system.
Prison sexual violence effects everyone - not just those who are directly victimized. In order to avoid sexual violence, young men must become hyper-masculine and hyper-violent just to avoid it. It's important to note that 95% of all prisoners are eventually released from prison. These young men are coming back into our communities, indelibly marked by what they've experienced. After having to adopt a hyper-violent persona, and to live that way for many months or years - it's not so unreasonable that they'll have a hard time adjusting to values and social norms of the free world. This is one of the many reasons why I think it's a bad idea to place juveniles in adult prisons. Again, we can affect policy change if we have the on-going political will to change the system.
We have over 2.2 million prisoners in the United States. More than any other country in the world. And another 10 Million pass through the criminal justice system each year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, at the end of 2010, over 7.1 million people, or 1 in 33 adults, were under the supervision of adult correctional authorities in the U.S. (either in custody, on probation or parole).
If just one in 10 people who have experienced the U.S. criminal justice system donated one dollar to this project - we could make this movie many times over. This is a grassroots opportunity unlike any other. If you or someone you know has experience with the U.S. prison or juvenile justice system - please encourage them to support this project. I have spent many years working with lawmakers, policy makers, and human rights advocates, but there is nothing like the power of film. Please help me put a human face on one of the most neglected human rights travesties in our U.S. prison system.
"The degree of a nation’s civilization can be seen in the way it treats its prisoners". - Fyodor Dostoyevsky.