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Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #4: Amy Berg Explores Brainwashing and Fear in ‘Prophet’s Prey’

Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #4: Amy Berg Explores Brainwashing and Fear in 'Prophet's Prey'

Amy Berg was nominated for an Academy Award for her 2006 documentary “Deliver Us from Evil,” which film tells the true story of Catholic priest Oliver O’Grady, who admitted to having molested and raped approximately 25 children in Northern California between the late 1970s and early 1990s. Her 2012 documentary, “West of Memphis,” examines the story of the West Memphis Three, who were convicted as teenagers of the 1993 murder of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Last year, she premiered “An Open Secret” at DOC NYC, a film that documents the alleged sex abuse scandals in Hollywood.

What it’s about: “
Prophet’s Prey” is the story of Warren Jeffs, the so-called “Prophet” of the FLDS church who leads his group of more than 10,000 followers from a prison cell in Palestine, Texas.
What it’s really about: “Prophet’s Prey” is REALLY about the powerful operatives: brainwashing and fear. The film shows how these tactics can destroy all freedoms and mold a person into a robot. It is about the fundamental issues surrounding dictatorial leadership and how oddly they juxtapose with modern life. And the film shows how two heroes travel to ends of the country helping to track down Jeffs after he disappeared into thin air.
I found myself very concerned with the idea that people have been heavily brainwashed (and medicated) for their whole lives. What happens to them when they finally escape with a very different value system than what is taught and accepted in mainstream society? How might this impact society at large? Its about cycles that needs to be broken and ceased.
Biggest challenge: The deadline! The challenge is always trying to get it right and having enough time to do so…WE had a wealth of material but it was a challenging story to tell. I have to thank my amazing edit team who worked tirelessly to make this better and better each week.
Any films inspire you? Many films inspire me. As it pertains to “Prophet’s Prey,” I was very taken with “The Master.” And just this year we saw one of the greatest depictions of a madman in Steve Carrell’s John DuPont. “A Prophet,” “Fog of War,” “The Power of Nightmares.”
Cameras used: We shot on the Alexa and the Canon C-500 with the Angenieux HR 25-250mm zoom lens as well as our cinema primes.
Did you crowdfund? We did not crowd fund but plan to do so on another project.
Hopes for Sundance audience take-away: Mind control is scary. I hope our audience will have a greater understanding about cult mentality. I also hope, since the followers are largely based in Utah, there will be some greater outpouring of support for the women and children who need to be rescued and re-educated so they can have a greater quality of life.
What’s next? I am finishing a Janis Joplin documentary that I have been working on for 6 years! We are close to the finish line. And I have just finished writing a screenplay about Jonestown.
Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. For profiles go HERE

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