It is not often one has a profound effect on someone else’s life. But this is what happened when we took a group of the world’s greatest musicians into San Quentin to do a concert in honor of Frank Morgan for the film Sound of Redemption, and met inmate # B57661 Reggie Austin. We didn’t know who he was, didn’t even know he existed. He didn’t know we were coming, but he knew Frank Morgan and showed up at the concert. Then, urged by a prison official, he mounted the stage and played a tune with the band. From that moment on, we were linked.
My deepest passions are stirred by human rights violations, whether at the hands of dictators or as a result of systemic injustice in the U.S.A. The problem of mass incarceration in the U.S., racist at its root, is so huge it often feels overwhelming. Reggie’s story is a path into the deepest complexities of the issue. He is articulate about both the mistakes he made in his own life and the inequities of our criminal justice system. He also defies expectations and easy categorizations, which has led me to careful reflection on the issues and deeper moral questions. To what degree do our prisons exist to punish perpetrators, protect the public, or reform those incarcerated? What should justice look like? Reggie can never bring back the life he took, but if he can help bring change, that might be a redemption of its own.
Inspired by the serendipity of our meeting, Reggie’s long struggle to right his wrong, and the many lifers I’ve met since I began this, I want to make Life Crime thought-provoking, compelling, revelatory and, most of all, a film that will carve out a significant place in the critical national debate on criminal justice.
While filming the Frank Morgan tribute concert in San Quentin for Sound of Redemption, I met inmate Reginald Austin # B57661, a fellow musician who knew Frank when they were in the Q together. By then, Reggie had been in jail for 33 years for second-degree murder. He was not sure he’d ever get out. But he was sure of two things: his own guilt, and the inadequacies of the criminal justice system.
That night in 2012, something special happened. Reggie got onstage to play a tune with the all-star band (George Cables, Ron Carter, Delfeayo Marsalis, Mark Gross, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, and Grace Kelly), and by his own account, it changed his life. Life Crime is about what happened from there and how that moment led to Mr. Austin’s parole after 12 previous unsuccessful attempts. It delves into the heart of our mass incarceration problem and touches on a whole range of issues about social justice, racism, inequality, violence, drug addiction, rehabilitation, forgiveness and redemption.
We are shooting the last scenes for the film and that’s what this Kickstarter campaign will fund. We’ve been able to document Reggie’s progress since 2012 which will culminate at this year’s Frank Morgan Jazz Festival in Taos, New Mexico, where Reggie has been invited to play. Performing at the Frank Morgan Jazz Festival takes Reggie's story full circle. It was too good an opportunity to be missed, but we absolutely must raise money to pay for travel, crew, production assistants, car rentals, plane fares and other expenses of production for this two-week shoot.
Director - NC Heikin began her career at La Mama Experimental Theatre Club in New York and went on to work on and off Broadway as an actress, singer, dancer, writer and director. She has written screenplays for Disney and Paramount as well as French TV networks. In 2004, she made her directing debut with her prize-winning short, mañana, available on Indiepix. Her first documentary, Kimjongilia, (www.kimjongiliathemovie.com) about North Korean refugees, premiered at Sundance, won the One World Human Rights Best Film 2010, and has been seen by millions of people around the world, including on The Documentary Channel and Netflix. Her most recent film, Sound of Redemption, The Frank Morgan Story (http://frankmorganstory.com/) about a troubled jazz musician, was produced by bestselling author Michael Connelly and premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2014 and theatrically in NY and LA in 2015. It has a “100% Fresh” Five Star rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and recently won the Best Biographical Documentary at the Sound on Screen Festival, South Africa. NC is a Sundance and Film Independent Fellow. www.NCHeikin.com
Co-Producer - Marcia Jarmel has been producing and directing documentaries for PatchWorks Films for 20+ years (http://www.patchworksfilms.net). She was consultant to Academy Award nominee LAST DAY OF FREEDOM, consulting producer on HBO’s Emmy-nominated 50 CHILDREN, and IFP Mentor to THE LAST SEASON. Jarmel co-founded PatchWorks with husband, editor, and collaborator, Ken Schneider (kenschneidereditor.net). Her current projects include: EVOLUTION CUBA about Cuban artists navigating the island’s transformation, and RE:BIRTH, following a homeless mom on the path to stability. PatchWorks’ prior work: Havana Curveball, (Best Documentary, Boston and Seattle Children’s film festivals; Special Jury Prize, Olympia ,Greece International Film Festival; Speaking In Tongues (ITVS, CAAM, LPB, PBS) , Born in the U.S. (ITVS, Independent Lens); The Return of Sarah’s Daughters, The F Word, and Collateral Damage.
Director of Photography - Mike Seely has photographed and directed dozens of cross-cultural and international documentaries. Recent cinematography credit highlights include: Hard Earned, produced by Kartemquin Films, Al Jazeera America broadcast 2015, winner of 2016 DuPont-Columbia Award; Code: Debugging the Gender Gap, premiere Tribeca 2015; and Daughters of the Forest, ITVS/PBS broadcast 2015. His work has been broadcast in the US and screened at festivals internationally including Slamdance, Tribeca, Toronto International Film Festival, and the San Francisco International Film Festival. His 2010 film The Most Distant Places about an innovative rural hospital project in Ecuador is in educational distribution through New Day Films. As a director of photography, he works with independent directors, foundations, corporate and broadcast clients, including National Geographic, MTV2, Facebook, Williams Sonoma, Frontline World, Stanford University and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In 2005, he completed his MA in documentary film production at Stanford University, and in 2010 worked in Poland as a Fulbright scholar.
Sound - Emile Bokaer is a filmmaker and third generation arts entrepreneur. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he owns and operates the production company Dogpatch Films, which has produced original documentary content featured at the South by Southwest Film Festival, and New York Times Op-Docs among other venues. Emile has worked on the feature documentaries INFORMANT, TRUE SON, and TRUE CONVICTION, and his authored work has received awards and screened internationally, including at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Media That Matters, DocPoint Helsinki and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. A graduate of Stanford University’s MFA Program in Documentary Film & Video, Emile is committed to producing thoughtful and honest work in a changing media landscape. He is proud to work with the Bay Area crew of LIFE CRIME.
Production Assistant - Justine Armen began interning and PA’ing for documentary projects in 2012. In 2013, she became an integral part of Telling Pictures, acting as Executive Assistant and Office Manager in addition to Bookkeeper, Assistant Editor, Production Assistant and Production Coordinator. Justine worked as Assistant to the Directors on And the Oscar Goes To… (TCM/AMPAS, 2014) and “The Hell-Raiser” (Amazon, 2016), and Assistant to the Producers on Killing the Colorado (Discovery Communications, 2016). She has worked with many other award-winning Bay Area filmmakers including Elizabeth Thompson, Ellen Bruno, Dawn Logsdon and Rebekah Fergusson. Justine is passionate about social equality, civil rights, and supporting people of color and women in the arts. Her other interests include watching films, reading, listening to podcasts, riding her bike, and online shopping.
Consultant - Kate Amend
Kate Amend is the editor of two Academy Award Winning Documentary features-- INTO THE ARMS OF STRANGERS and THE LONG WAY HOME--and is the recipient of the International Documentary Association’s inaugural award for Outstanding Achievement in Editing. Amend also received the 2001 American Cinema Editors’ Eddie award for INTO THE ARMS OF STRANGERS, and edited the 2001 Oscar-nominated documentary short ON TIPTOE: Gentle Steps to Freedom (HBO.)
Kate was nominated for an Emmy for THE CASE AGAINST 8, a film that was an award-winner at the 2014 Sundance, South by Southwest, Vail, and RiverRun Film Festivals.
THE SOUND OF REDEMPTION: THE FRANK MORGAN STORY premiered at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival and was named “Best of Fest” at the 2015 Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Consultant - Patricia Kogan Producer, director, writer Pat Kogan (http://www.pkpmedia.com) has created award-winning documentaries, branded media and educational programming for 25+ years. She was as Executive in Charge of Production on FREDERICK REMINGTON: GALLOPING THROUGH THE AGES (Metropolitan Museum of Art) and BRAHAMS QUARTETS AND SEXTETS starring Isaac Stern and Yo-Yo Ma (Sony Music), produced AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL a Ford Foundation educational DVD featuring composer Joan Towers, and Executive Produced and Directed ROUTE 66:The ROAD WEST (A&E and NHK) a 3-part musical voyage along the historic “Mother Road”. She has been a jurist for the UN film festival, was on the Emmy awards selection committee, served as Business and Development consultant for a French Indie film TV network and L’Europe Autour de L’Europe Film Festival, and script doctored television and feature film projects. Pat is currently developing “SCIENCE ON MY PLATE” an educational animated series for children.
Consulting Producer - Jenise Morgan's credits include THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING (CNN), DARK NET (Showtime), and the forthcoming SCENE OF THE CRIME WITH TONY HARRIS (Investigation Discovery).
Risks and challenges
Our biggest challenge will be timing. We want to make this film and tell this story as soon as we possibly can, but there may be production delays along the way because of interview scheduling and rights issues.
That all said, based on years of experience with film and documentary production, we are confident we will overcome any obstacles we face.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)