Drama Was Filmed Entirely At An Indiana Maximum Security Prison
The HBO Films drama O.G. debuts SATURDAY, FEB. 23 (10:00–11:50 p.m. ET/PT). Starring Jeffrey Wright (Emmy® winner for HBO’s “Angels in America,” two-time Emmy® nominee for HBO’s “Westworld”), the film is directed by Madeleine Sackler (Emmy® winner for HBO’s “Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus”) and written by Stephen Belber (Emmy® nominee for HBO’s “The Laramie Project”).
The film will also be available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and partners’ streaming platforms.
Groundbreaking in that it was filmed in an active prison, with several of the incarcerated men and prison staff appearing as first-time actors, O.G. takes an intimate and unflinching look at the journey of one man at the precipice of freedom.
Also starring Theothus Carter and William Fichtner (“Crash”), O.G. premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, where Wright won the award for Best Actor in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film. It was filmed over a five-week period at Indiana’s maximum-security Pendleton Correctional Facility.
The film is executive produced by Sharon Chang, Kareem “Biggs” Burke, Mark Steele, Nic Marshall; produced by Madeleine Sackler, Boyd Holbrook, Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler, Nick Gordon, Trevor Matthews, Stephen Belber and Ged Dickersin.
O.G. follows Louis (Wright), once the head of a prominent prison gang, in the final weeks of his 24-year sentence. His impending release is upended when he takes new arrival Beecher (Carter), who is being courted by gang leadership, under his wing. Coming to grips with the indelibility of his crime and the challenge of reentering society, Louis finds his freedom hanging in the balance as he struggles to save Beecher.
Director Madeleine Sackler describes the inspiration behind the film’s uniquely realistic approach, noting, “There have been so many prison films that it’s become a genre of its own. To me, when a type of story becomes a genre, it can lose its uniqueness or its specificity in the storytelling.
“My goal was to disregard the prison genre and start from scratch, starting with one character, a man preparing to leave after many years behind bars. To do that as authentically as possible, to truly understand and portray that experience, I wanted to make the film in close collaboration with people going through the experience themselves, so I started calling different departments of correction around the country. And I was very lucky when the state of Indiana called me back.
“This film wouldn’t be what it is if we hadn’t made it as a collaboration with the prison and with hundreds of men incarcerated there. And to have two films come out of the experience, one fiction and one nonfiction, is very exciting. We were able to explore many different themes.”
For Jeffrey Wright, it was a unique experience filming in an active prison, which helped him step inside his character. He explains, “It was absolutely necessary for me to wrap my head and my body around who this character was and what the story was that we were trying to tell. It’s a pretty informative place. It’s an affecting place. There’s an energy inside that place unlike no other, no other. It’s heavy, it’s kind of laden with trauma. It’s just molecularly heavy inside, and it certainly informed our understanding of the story, of the issues, and in my case, the character that I was playing.”
Director Sackler describes her introduction to Theothus Carter, saying, “His audition was incredible. We were watching hundreds of people in one week, and you can’t imagine the array of men who are incarcerated, and the talent and depth that they bring to the dialogue. There’s just no replacement for the real way that people move and interact and talk. And then Theothus came in, and he just blew me and the casting director away. And then he worked harder than anyone else.”
Wright says, “Theothus was all business, and he has a force to him. He has capabilities that we see through this film, that he had never tapped into in a way as constructive as this, perhaps in his lifetime.”
O.G. is an HBO Films and Maven Pictures Presentation in association with Brookstreet Pictures, a Great Curve Films production of a Madeleine Sackler film. The behind-the-scenes team includes director of photography Wolfgang Held; editor Frédéric Thoraval; production designer Michael Bricker; and costume designer Heidi Bivens. Music by Nathaniel Méchaly; casting by Richard Hicks.
After the screenplay for O.G. had been developed and Sackler was prepping to shoot the film, she began collaborating with 13 men incarcerated at the facility on a nonfiction film. In IT’S A HARD TRUTH AIN’T IT, co-directed by Sackler and those men, several of whom were also first-time actors, they study filmmaking as a vehicle to explore their memories and examine how they ended up with decades-long sentences. Animated sequences by Yoni Goodman (“Waltz with Bashir”) bring their stories to life.
Sackler says, “In a way, O.G. and IT’S A HARD TRUTH AIN’T IT are two different sides of the same coin. In O.G., Louis is preparing to leave prison after 24 years of incarceration. In IT’S A HARD TRUTH AIN’T IT, the men look deeper into the paths that got them to prison in the first place. In that sense, neither film is about being in prison, but something deeper.”
HBO acquired the two films following their premieres at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. Discussing HARD TRUTH, Kareem “Biggs” Burke, an executive producer on both projects, says, “To hear these men speak for themselves on what caused them to make so many mistakes, and to hear them express their deep remorse for their victims, was a powerful part of this film.”
IT’S A HARD TRUTH AIN’T IT will be available for streaming SATURDAY, FEB. 23 starting at 11:45 p.m. (ET), following the debut of O.G. earlier that evening, and will debut MONDAY, FEB. 25 at 10:00 p.m. (ET/PT) on the main HBO channel.
IT’S A HARD TRUTH AIN’T IT is an HBO Documentary Films presentation of a Great Curve Films and Stacey Reiss production; a film by Dennis Brown, Marshaun Bugg, Al’Jonon Coleman, James Collins, Franklin Cox, Brandon Crider, Clifford Elswick, Quentis Hardiman, Joseph Henderson, Charles Lawrence, Herb Robertson, Madeleine Sackler, Rushawn Tanksley, Mark Thacker; producers, Madeleine Sackler, Stacey Reiss; executive producers, Kareem “Biggs” Burke, Sharon Chang, Greg Gunn, dream hampton, Lisette Nieves, Marshall Sonenshine, Mark Steele.
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