San Quentin Film School
“San Quentin Film School” is a groundbreaking documentary series that follows a group of nine inmates at California’s San Quentin State Prison as they learn the basics of filmmaking, providing an unprecedented view of life on the inside. For the first time inmates are permitted to use video cameras within the walls, giving viewers fascinating, ground-level glimpses into daily life in prison through the eyes of the inmates that live it.
The series, first aired on the Discovery Channel, is an immensely watchable and moving portrait of life behind bars and a window on the potential for inmates to change through creative expression.
The full series is presented below in seven parts. It was originally a cable TV production so there’s some sensationalizing of prison life, but compared to COPS and CSI this show is a ray of light. The producers of the series shopped the idea to two dozen prisons before San Quentin officials expressed interest. If programs like this were replicated in prisons and jails across the country, it could hep reduce recidivism by showing prisoners there are countless paths to creative expression and productive work.
Check out “San Quentin Film School.” If you like it, write to your state’s Department of Corrections and ask them if they do anything like it. Pressure from the outside can make things happen behind bars.