Five Questions With... Jenifer McShane (ERNIE & JOE)

Two compassionate officers with the San Antonio Police Department's innovative mental health unit divert people away from jail and into proper treatment, one 911 call at a time, in ERNIE & JOE by Jenifer McShane.

Read more with Jenifer below, and see ERNIE & JOE on Wed, June 19 at 3:15pm and Thurs, June 20 at 9:45am!

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NFF: Can you talk a little bit about your relationship to this subject, and/or how you met Ernie and Joe?

JENIFER: While I was researching and making my last film MOTHERS OF BEDFORD it became  painfully clear to me how many people with mental health challenges are sitting behind bars.  When the work of Ernie and Joe and the rest of the SAPD mental health unit came to my attention I felt strongly it was a story that desperately needed to be told. I initially visited San Antonio and rode along with Ernie and Joe with no camera to get a clearer sense of the their work and who they were as people. I felt that these two officers were characters that an audience could connect with and their perspective would be a compelling way to reveal the wider story of our mental health crisis. 

NFF: How did you and EJ approach filming to capture what you wanted/needed while remaining respectful of your subjects?

JENIFER: From day one I wanted the experience to feel immersive without being exploitive. I wanted to illustrate how personal and intimate the rapport can be without intruding on the process or ruining the connection being developed between Ernie, Joe and the person in crisis. This was done in large part by getting excellent sound coverage and shooting from a respectful distance. 

NFF: Was anything off limits while filming was happening, or in your editing/assembly?

JENIFER: No, the access was excellent. I returned to ride with Ernie and Joe again and again over a 2 1/2 year period. The access made a huge impact on the intimacy of the story.

NFF: What are you working on currently, and/or where can we see more of your work?

JENIFER: I am researching a story about mental health treatment. ERNIE & JOE reveals the importance of decriminalizing mental illness and training law enforcement to recognize people in crisis and deescalate situations.  Now we need to find better treatments.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

JENIFER: I am absolutely thrilled to be screening in Nantucket FF!  Several filmmakers have told me how wonderful the experience is. I have a never been to Nantucket before.  As a kid I hoped to visit some day and that day has finally arrived in the best possible way.