One of our favorite films of all time is 1990’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture “Ernest Goes to Jail,” starring Jim Varney. We’re pretty sure he won Best Actor for it, too. Or at least was nominated. (Sorry, we’re not about to fact check that because you can’t ruin our childhood memories.)
We can talk about this pinnacle of filmmaking all day, but that would take away from our own trip to the slammer. Specifically, we went to death row at the Allan B. Polunsky Unit in Polk County, Texas. Our crew shot an intimate and honest interview with death row inmate Brian Davis for a program that was broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK. Since this doesn’t happen every day, we shot it on a Sony FS7 because it records and can output 4k video, so we decided to go all out. We also took advantage of its slow motion capabilities and captured some especially eerie shots of the prison.
For those of you who are wondering how we handled sound, all we had to do was give a single wireless lavalier microphone to a security guard who was always in attendance, and he attached the mic to Brian directly on the other side of the plexiglass. Extra time was spent polishing the plexiglass because all of the extra resolution 4k afforded us meant that it would pick up any streaks or scratches present. A single 4×4 Kino Flo lit the entire shot.
Finally – we’d like to assure you that in the back of our minds, we were playing the “Ernest Goes to Jail” theme song on a continuous loop. The film, we think, won “Best Original Song.”