Postcards from Polygamy, USA
PART2 PICTURES: Talia, how did you begin working at Part2 Pictures?
Talia Sawyer: I first heard about Part2 Pictures after doing a series of “informational interviews” with people working in the film and TV industry in New York City. During one of these meetings, I mentioned that I was looking for a small production company with a lot of personality that made high quality, socially responsible programming. Without hesitation, the guy I was talking to said that Part2 would be “right up my alley.” I was a big fan of Part2′s work on “Hard Time” and “The Redemption of General Butt Naked” so I scheduled a meeting with Greg Henry (co-owner) and it instantly felt like the right fit.
P2: What was your initial reaction when you were assigned to work on a show about a polygamist community in Utah?
TS: My first reaction was total fascination and a lot of excitement. It’s such a rare opportunity to put faces to the names and stories you read about in your college courses. My biggest fear was that I would accidentally offend someone or that I wouldn’t be able to relate to the people in the community, but I was wrong. I met a lot of young women my age who were bright and strong, not the wilting flowers people in the outside world might expect. Although their religious and spiritual beliefs couldn’t be farther from my own liberal-kumbaya upbringing, I developed a deep respect for the conviction and moral fortitude with which the people of Centennial Park live their lives.
P2: There is a wonderful photo of all the women on the crew in long skirts. Was the decision to wear modest clothing made by the crew or did it come from production management? What can you tell me about the importance of dressing for the community?
TS: Ultimately it was the producers decision to wear long skirts and modest clothing. I was proud to be working for people with that degree of respect and I thought it was really cool that they would take that kind of thing into consideration. Despite the difficulties of maneuvering equipment and running around with a heavy lens belt while wearing a long skirt, it was rewarding to hear people say how much they appreciated the gesture. In some cases, I think it helped break down barriers and it made me feel less like an outsider. In fact, once the initial awkwardness wore off, I realized that soft cotton skirts were infinitely more comfortable than pants and I would joke with the women in Centennial Park that “the skirts in New York can’t get any shorter. Might as well start a new trend.”
P2: What did you take away from your experience in this environment?
TS: Filming the Hammon family on Thanksgiving, I was really sad knowing my own family was 2,000 miles away, celebrating without me. After a particularly long shoot day, we were finally able to put the cameras down and eat dinner together. That was the first night I really got to bond with Uncle Arthur’s wives and daughters. We talked and joked a lot about all the differences in our lifestyles– topics ranging from living with sister wives, to the perils of urban dating, to wearing pants. That’s when Uncle Arthur said (in his iconic way), “The best thing that will come out of this whole thing are the relationships you are all forming with each other, and the ones we are all forming together.” I think that sums it up. It was a memorable moment when the camera’s shut off and it became way more than just a job.
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