Suzanne Cohen Filmmaker and Educator

Shooting a documentary inside a prison

It took over four months to secure the access. This involved writing proposals outlining my intentions, meetings with managers and security checks. I was making the film for my MA at Royal Holloway University, which allowed me to present the project as having educational aims. In the end the prison agreed on the basis that I would run free animation workshops for the women.

The access was for one to two days per week over a three-month period. I was not going to be given an officer to look after me, so would have to stay with Leah at all times – she even had to lock me in when I went to the toilet for my own safety. Every time I entered the building I was searched and my fingerprints were scanned. This often took up to an hour.

An excerpt from my article about making ‘Beautiful Sentence’, gaining access to the prison and working with the prisoners. Read more at the Documentary Filmmakers Group website.