Turning the camera back on the television media created a strange image that some might find difficult to look at.
S. Kramer Herzog's Eye of the Storm takes a harshly real view of the media and the circus that it can create. The documentary was shot during the hours leading up to the 2005 execution of Crips founder Stanley "Tookie" Williams at San Quentin State Prison.
"It's not the type of film where you walk away feeling good. You have to think about both sides back and forth," said Herzog, a resident of San Quentin Village.
Herzog, with editor Scott Calhoun and KTVU news anchor Pam Cook, presented the documentary Saturday at The Lark Theater. The audience included several of Herzog's neighbors. Money raised from the $25 per ticket event went to benefit Meals of Marin, which delivers meals to cancer and AIDs patients.
"My eye would see what a lot of people just don't know about. One thing is how the media take over a small village of 65 people. Money rolls. They come in with cash and hand you $1,000 to park on your lawn. I've worked with Fox National News before and I thought it would be good to produce a film about how the media comes in and takes over."
Herzog rented his home to a Fox News crew during its coverage of the execution. The crew needed a space to rest away from the frenzy outside, as Herzog described it "in the eye of the storm."
San Quentin Village is a small neighborhood of homes with one main road and its own post office overlooking the bay. The residents, many of whom are artists and writers, enjoy and the small beach and the generally quiet community.
Herzog's camera caught how not just the media can take over the quaint community outside the prison gates, but also how the demonstrators can get swept up in the frenzy.
Herzog said, "There are a lot of very calm people, but you turn the cameras on and you get Christians screaming at Christians. People tried to disrupt Fox, violence broke out, protesters knocked a producer and his assistant producer down to the ground."
During that fracas which was caught on film, anti-execution demonstrators tried to shout down a Fox News broadcast. When the news team tried to re-establish its position, the demonstrators shouted louder, claiming Fox was interfering with their freedom of speech. The showdown escalated from just a shouting match to shoving and hitting.
"He said 'lights, camera, action' and people started performing," Herzog said. "About 10 percent were quiet and the rest were really loud and getting into arguments. Even I was assaulted a few times. … There was lots of anger out there."
Herzog says he didn't make the film with any opinion about the death penalty, but admits he now supports Proposition 34, which would halt executions in California in favor of life sentences.
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