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Posted Friday August, 14th 2020

Thinking Inside the Box: “16 Bars” Director Sam Bathrick on Producing in a Jail

Screen Shot 2020 08 14 at 8 32 32 AM

“The box,” we have been told, is just a state of mind. The common wisdom says we should think outside of it, transcend it, shuck its limitations. But what happens to the creative process when that box is a very real and permanent concrete structure that surrounds and defines your world?

This is the question I carried, as I and a filmmaking team from Resonant Pictures followed a Grammy-winning recording artist into a Virginia jail to document the making of an album behind bars.

In documentary, we’re drawn to the idea of rare access, to capture a glimpse at something rarely seen. As each high-security door opened before us and closed behind us, I felt that access materializing, while at the same time, I sensed my own freedom of movement physically narrowing.

Two years later, we would complete 16 Bars, a music documentary and soundtrack album recorded almost entirely behind the walls of this jail. Getting there would become an exercise in patience and flexibility, redefining for many of us involved the creative process itself.

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