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Shooting Three Time Periods
When it came to the visual design of CONVICTION, Tony Goldwyn wanted all the emphasis put on the emotional connection between the characters and the audience. To that end, the photography, production design and costumes are all kept starkly real, while reflecting the changes the world goes through over the two decades that Betty Anne Waters fought to free her brother.

Goldwyn worked closely with director of photography Adriano Goldman, a native of Brazil, whose award-winning work includes Cary Joji Fukunaga‘s SIN NOMBRE and the high-energy CITY OF MEN, the follow-up to CITY OF GOD.

Goldman says he and the director talked about how to shoot the cast in a way "that would show them as normal people with heroic purposes," he explains. Using the sinuous, handheld camerawork he is renowned for, Goldman was able to keep things palpably real as well as intimate.

"For the scenes where we wanted to be closer to the characters and their feelings we always went handheld," Goldman explains. "I like to operate the handheld camera for its style. It gives me the chance to reframe all the time and to create a direct connection between the acting and the camera behavior. I like to say that the camera dances with the actors. Only in the courthouse scenes did we choose to use a dolly to be more classic and neutral.

Production designer Mark Ricker, whose recent films include JULIE & JULIA and the HBO feature YOU DON‘T KNOW JACK, had the task of creating Betty Anne and Kenny‘s surroundings in three different periods: the mid `60s (when they were children), the early `80s (when the murder and Kenny‘s conviction occurred) and the mid `90s (when Betty Anne went to law school and Kenny‘s legal appeal unfolded). His main directive from Goldwyn was to always keep it real.

"There could be no artifice in this," Ricker says, "not only because it‘s a true story, but because we wanted to feel very immediate"

For Ricker, this meant getting the details right without ever being showy. "Even recreating 1995 can be challenging it‘s fifteen years ago, but you have to get all the computers, all the cell phones, all the everyday items, right because that stuff changes so quickly," he notes. "But all of our choices were made from an emotional point of view in terms of picking the patterns, textures and colors."

Shooting in Michigan, Ricker also had to create a lot of different kinds of locations, from diners and bars to courthouses, police stations and law libraries, all with a Massachusetts touch. "We took a mini-tour of Massachusetts to really soak up the flavor of the environment that Betty Anne and Kenny lived in," he explains. "That was paramount to what we were trying to do."

Whenever possible, items that belonged to the real characters were used as well, lending an even greater authenticity to the set.

"Actual wood carvings, trays and boxes that Kenny made became props," says Ricker. "We used real photographs of Kenny and Betty Anne as children. She sent us her law books, her textbooks, her notebooks. Even Aidan's Pub in Bristol sent us photographs from the bar. It was great."

Costume designer Wendy Chuck, who recently created the costumes for the runaway vampire hit TWILIGHT, also focused on authenticity. She contacted Betty Anne and Abra Rice to discuss what they actually wore during the time period covered in the film. She also used photographs of Betty Anne and Kenny to find vintage outfits in LA and Ann Arbor thrift stores.

She then worked closely with Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell and the rest of the ensemble cast to create looks that would embody their character‘s personalities. "For each of them, we considered where they would shop, what would they choose to wear and how they would move in those clothes," she explains.

Reality influenced the designs at every turn. "For example," she says, "I learned from Betty Anne that she had put on about 10 pounds over time, so that was a clue as to how we could show the passage of time. We incorporated that by making a light 'fat suit' for Hilary, subtle but I think it helps reveal the changes and helped Hilary also."

All of the film‘s design elements were important to Goldwyn, who says: "Every creative department on the film worked with limited resources, yet were able to achieve a kind of creative flow that was extraordinary. I think that‘s because everyone was so emotionally connected to the story."

The intensity of devotion continued into post-production, where Goldwyn collaborated with editor Jay Cassidy to cut the film into its final shape. The director picked Cassidy after seeing his work on another true story with a non-linear structure: Sean Penn‘s INTO THE WILD, for which Cassidy garnered an Oscar® nomination. The two looked for ways to piece together the puzzle of the story so that it would keep audiences both at the edge of their seats and emotionally engaged. "This story spans eighteen years between the time of Kenny's incarceration and release. Add to that the flashbacks of Kenny and Betty Anne's childhood – and the big challenge in the editing room was to keep an emotional through-line for these characters over such a long time span," says Cassidy. "Tony was determined to manage the time jumps in the story without resorting to the conventions like titles with dates - convenient benchmarks for the audience – and we achieved that. INNOCENCE

While Kenneth Waters would never have been freed without his sister‘s remarkable determination and belief, she also received vital assistance from a real organization that has helped to save many lives. This is The Innocence Project, which was founded in 1992 by attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld to assist prisoners who could possibly be proven innocent by DNA testing.

To date, some 258 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 17 who served time on Death Row in spite of their innocence. These people served an average of 13 years in prison before their release – and about 70% of those exonerated by DNA testing have been minorities. The Innocence Project maintains that the sheer numbers of innocent people freed to date suggests there are serious systemic defects in the legal system, defects that continue to allow innocent men and women to be punished for crimes they never committed.

When Betty Anne Waters discovered blood evidence that could exonerate her brother Kenny, she made an impassioned plea to Barry Scheck, asking for his help. The Innocence Project is inundated with hundreds of requests for help every year, but when Scheck heard Betty Anne‘s story he knew this was something different.

"It‘s not every day that you get a call from someone who says, 'I‘m a lawyer representing my brother and I just got out of law school,‘" he laughs: "She was completely passionate and sincere. One had to respect the fact that here‘s a mom with two kids who gets her GED, goes to college, runs a bar, and graduates from law school all for the purposes of getting her brother out of jail. I knew that she was special and we wanted to help her. We started reading the transcripts, and to say this was a thin case is an understatement. It was pretty clear to me this was an innocent man."

Scheck also got to know Kenny as the case finally wrapped up. "He was one of the more interesting and funny people I‘ve gotten to know" he says. "He was really smart, a great storyteller and he had such a special relationship with Betty Anne. He was a dynamic guy to be around. "

With Scheck‘s assistance, Betty Anne Waters was able to witness her brother be exonerated by the DNA evidence in March of


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