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"How can they reintegrate if they don't have any help?"

Dean Radcliffe-Lynes, a fellow in the Zaentz Innovation Fund in Film and Media, brings the difficult tales of previously incarcerated women to light in "It's Not Who I Am"
Posted October 9, 2016
Dean Radcliffe-Lynes Dean Radcliffe-Lynes

Dean Radcliffe-Lynes isn't ashamed to admit it: She's probably the oldest member of the Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund in Film and Media incubator's inaugural cohort. She's had a noteworthy career in television, winning Emmy Awards for nationally distributed specials and documentaries. But "It's Not Who I Am," the documentary she plans to produce exploring the obstacles formerly incarcerated women face when re-entering society, would be her first solo project. She spoke about the film, one of the Zaentz Fund's ten projects selected for development and production funding, and her experience in the Zaentz incubator with Rising.

Why is the topic of your film important to you?

I'd done some work dealing with re-entry in the past. I learned that there are no real resources for women ex-offenders. When a man goes to prison, if he has children, usually the wife, girlfriend, or family take care of their children. When a woman goes to prison, sometimes the husband, boyfriend, or family will take the children, but many end up in foster care. Depending on the crime she was convicted of, she could be denied the ability to reunite with her children, access to public housing, state benefits like food stamps, and certain licenses. How can they provide for themselves and their children? How can these women reintegrate into society if they don't have any help?

How has the Zaentz incubator helped you move that project forward?

I met two excellent mentors, both women, and one is African American. Not that that matters too much, but it was nice to see someone like me who was in such a powerful position; she's the director of the Sundance Film Fund. They've helped me see where I've struggled to get projects off the ground before. I've always asked myself, "What am I doing wrong? What am I missing?" They're answering those questions, helping me structure my proposals effectively and reconsider how I'm writing and telling the story.

How will the grant you've received from the development and production fund help you?

I'm not a cinematographer or an editor, so I have to hire people to do that. So far, I've used up all my chips in that area. I'm planning to use the funds to film three to five women to help me determine which of them will be included in the longer version, then create a 10-minute sample film to show to potential investors.