“Abused” started two years ago as a result of my wife Marilyn's
volunteer work at the California Institute for Women (Prison). After
a couple of visits, she suggested we film several women who had
interesting stories. We filmed six women over several days and began
to correspond with them through the mail not knowing if there was a
documentary to be made. When Susan Greenberg's hearing suddenly came
up, Marilyn insisted we travel to Northern California to film what
we thought would be a three day event.
We financed the film ourselves without a commitment from anyone.
There were no grants, commissioning editors, or suits looking over
our shoulders as we shot and cut the film.
Producer Marilyn Braverman working as a
location sound person takes a break between filming with Susan
Greenberg on the grounds of California Institute for Women
(Chino prison) when the project started in August of 2004. Photo
by Chuck Braverman, also running the video camera.
The court hearing lasted three weeks and we did not know if we had a
film until the last dramatic days as each twist and turn became more
dramatic than we could have imagined. As we brought the hi def video
back to our editor, Rob King, we devised a unique technique to tell
the long complicated story in a short form. We decided to try and
inter-cut all the participants with Susan's testimony being the glue
that held it together. We started to make a short demo and it
escalated to 20 minutes. We were very encouraged by the early
results. The inter-cutting turned out to be a very effective way to
show all the various characters and an efficient way to tell the
story. We needed to get out of the courtroom from time to time and
we had filmed several very good sessions with the defense attorneys
in private conferences.
After we had a fine cut, I asked my younger son
Max Braverman, who just
graduated from Berklee College of Music, to write some original
music for the opening and close of the film. I also licensed music
from Brian Keane and Phillip Glass. We rushed to finish in August in
order to qualify the film for the upcoming Academy Awards in the
documentary short category.
always want to be as objective as possible as we try to tell the
true story of the events. But by the last day of the hearing, I must
admit I was crying as I filmed Susan in the courtroom as the judge
announced his findings.
What I like best about the film is that it is pure cinema verité
documentary filmmaking without any narrator telling you what you are
watching. And yet, through our unique non-linear inter-cutting, we
were able to tell a long complicated emotional story in a tight 38
When the film was near completion we sent out the 20 minute demo
version to a couple of networks and immediately got an offer from
the leading pay cable network. It was the end of August and because
many executives were on vacation, no one else had gotten back to us.
But the first offer was too low for what we thought the film was
worth. We went to the IFP Market in mid September with another film
and suddenly we had four offers on “Abused” from different networks.
We sold the film to A&E and they will release it sometime in 2006.
We are planning a longer version for the DVD which will give some
interesting details. For example, the two main defense attorneys who
were working for free, had never before tried a criminal case. Since
the hearing we have subsequently filmed long interviews with Susan,
the attorneys, and we plan to film the prosecutor and some of the
We would love to hear your feedback if you have seen the film.