Monday, May 28, 2012

The Abandoned Prison

It's interesting to see what happens to our creations after only a few years of neglect. Nature doesn't take long to reclaim itself. After only being abandoned for 8 years, this minimum security institution is showing some obvious signs of neglect. The paint is peeling off of almost every surface inside and out, the shingles on the roofs have seen better days, ceilings are caving in, from moisture leaking in through from the unkept roofs, and mold is finding a new home throughout the buildings.

The grounds are still kept up here, in fact the grass was cut on the morning that the video was taken, but the buildings themselves are left to the elements.  It's strange for me to think that this place has been left alone for less than a decade.  Whenever I see movies about prisons, you always see inmates taking care of the jail.  Cleaning, mopping, painting, yard work, and all of that.  So it's surprising to see so much mold growing all around.  You can clearly see marks on the walls of the inmate bunks where their heads were touching the walls as they slept.  The grease that was left on the hard concrete walls from the inmates hair really seemed to attract the mold as time passed.  So instead of being something abstract, those bunks bring home the reality that people were incarcerated here.

On the grounds themselves, the basketball court and the baseball diamond are starting to get in rough shape, but not so rough that it'd be hard to think of people playing a quick game or two on a sunny summer day.  Locks have been cut out of the doors and replaced with some kind of gunk and most of the stuff that filled the rooms and halls have been gutted.  The mess hall is emptied out of the tables and chairs that used to fill it and the kitchen is nothing more than an empty room, save for the few exhaust fans leading to the roof.  Some of the buildings have dates on them of when they were constructed, and surprisingly, they say 1985.  1985.  That's less than 30 years old.  This was a more modern facility and again, I'm surprised at how quickly it's disintegrating.

Filming such a large area poses a problem.  What was the best way?  Tripod to set up shots for filming or a tour of the prison?  What shows the most best?  My thought is both ways.  I could see some great shots coming out of spending time at each location and locking it down, but to show the scope of the neglect, and the creepiness of the place, nothing can beat motion for that sense of discovery that you're bringing the audience along for the ride.  When the camera's in motion it makes it seem like the viewer is there.  Locking off the shot breaks that feeling, and so you don't get the beauty shots you'd otherwise get, you get something else.  So filming was done here on a Glidecam, without any static shots.

Not many of us see the inside walls of the prison system (thankfully) and it's an interesting experience.  Not only because it's open access to places the public wouldn't normally see, but also to see how quickly things can turn into a state of disrepair if not looked after.  About an hour and a half of exploring was done to create the video below and I've also added a gallery of stills taken from the raw footage of some shots that didn't make the final film.

Gallery from the abandoned prison (click to view)

Watch the video!

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