TelevisionPost-Production

HBO's Hookers at the Point


It’s rare it be part of a definitive ground breaking project. The unique opportunity to both observe and be a critical component in the process of making an important film (and ultimately a franchise). And like any powerful and provocative document to the times there are always intrigues to recount and interesting stories to tell. Such is the case with Brent Owens’s film “Hookers at the Point”.

Brent is perhaps the most important client and friend that American Montage ever had. I remember him coming to the original American Montage (Video Deal) office at 91 Second Avenue back in 1985. Brent always knew what he was doing. Sometime after working together on commercials and music videos around 1987 Brent asked me if I could help him by editing footage he had been shooting of prostitutes in the Hunt’s Point ho stroll in the Bronx. He had shot 16mm and 3/4” with his collaborator Bobby Shepherd. The footage was remarkable. The interviews powerful, gut-wrenching and beautiful.

Over the next eight years for little or no money I would take the tapes film in the light of the late night street lamps and headlights and the early morning sunrise and dutifully weave them into the next rough-cut. The next version of what would eventually become “Hooker’s at the Point”.

Character like Jazz, Angel, Babyface, Miriam and Brandy would flash across the frame telling the sad, funny, sexual and compelling survivor stories. It was not unlike listening to combat veterans that talk about a war. Except this was a war that never ended.

All of this was done on a SONY Rm-440 hooked up to 3/4” 5000 series U-matic VTRs. Both Brent and I thought that the natural home for this film was HBO. At the time HBO’s documentary department had the place. They had the budgets. They had the vision. It was before Michael Moore, Errol Morris and Morgan Spurlock had truly blown the roof off of the documentary box office.

Back in the early 90’s I had done quite a bit of work for Sheila Nevins at HBO, mostly editing and post-producing Real Sex episodes and programs. I had a sense of what she was looking for. What piqued her interest? The goal was to get a 55-minute cut to her sometime in the summer of 1995. Brent and I worked hard to bring the stories and atmosphere of these girls and their world to the screen. Brent would bring in Bobby Shepherd and another good friend Sam Pollard his to screening sessions where their sound advice would be incorporated into the each edit.

When the time came for Brent show the cut to Sheila I had no doubt that she would go for it. It was everything she craved, socially and politically provocative and sexually exploitative with hint of anti-male perspective. Indeed, after screening the film Sheila told Bent it was like watching an archeological dig that revealed a new sub culture. She offered Brent a sizable sum of money on the following conditions:
Replace me as editor (apparently because I was too independent).
Make himself a character with a first person voice over.
Remove any character that managed to leave the world of prostitution (Miriam).

Brent accepted these conditions. The program and subsequent episodes became part of the "America Undercover" series where it lives on today.

Credits
Name: 
Executive Producer: Sheila Nevins
Producer/Director: Brent Owens
Producer/Cinematographer: Bobby Shepherd
Editor: Sam Pollard
Original Editor: Eric Marciano
Music: Jimmy Owens