Andy Goes In, a compelling 10-minute documentary short about a Mercy For Animals undercover investigator, is set to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival next month.
The vast majority of undercover investigations are focused on exposing animal cruelty and neglect at factory farms, not on the investigators. This new documentary short is taking a slightly different angle, however, giving a voice to the unseen heroes who risk everything to bring animal abusers to justice.
The powerful and heartbreaking film profiles MFA investigator “Andy,” who went to work at a Tyson contract farm in Tennessee. There he uncovered farm owners beating and stabbing chickens using a spiked club, standing on the birds’ necks, and throwing live birds into buckets to suffer and slowly die.
See for yourself:
The owners of the farm, Thomas and Susan Blassingame, were later convicted of animal cruelty and quit the chicken factory farming business for good.
We’re so excited that the documentary was accepted into TIFF. We were also lucky enough to sit down with the director, Josh Polon, to chat about the film.
What first inspired you to make this film and when did the process start?
I've been familiar with Mercy For Animals' undercover videos for a few years, and I've always wondered about the human story behind the news story. What's it like for an investigator to drive to a small town, take one of these brutal farm jobs, wear a hidden camera, and hope they're not discovered? It's the stuff of spy movies.
Last summer I asked MFA if I could track an investigation from up close. They put me in touch with "Andy," and within two weeks he was hired by a chicken farm in rural Tennessee and sending me footage every night. A few weeks later I flew out to join him at the hotel for his final days on the job.
Your film was just accepted into the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival. How does this change the future of the project?
It's an enormous honor. We've decided to piggyback the online release of Andy Goes In with the festival next month so everyone can see it right away.
Do you feel that you have a social responsibility as a filmmaker?
I do. I think there's a responsibility whenever we're telling a person's story to do it carefully and conscientiously.
There are a few shocking moments in your film. Which had the greatest effect on you?
The first chicken that Susie killed in front of Andy really got to me. I knew it had to be in the film, and in the early cuts I covered it with a blur effect, like you would see on the local news. But my producer, David, felt strongly that we needed to show the raw footage, and he was right. It's in there at the two-minute mark.
How has your perspective changed since you filmed Andy Goes In?
I've gained an incredible amount of respect for investigators like Andy who bravely risk their physical well-being for the cause. They're literally out there alone on small farms in remote rural settings, working alongside bosses who would be very angry to learn their hidden agenda.
If viewers took away one idea from this film, what would you want it to be? What impact do you hope it has on viewers?
My main goal was to give a sense of how important this work is to Andy and the lengths he's willing to go to for it. And hopefully this inspires people to be a little more courageous in working for the changes they want to see in the world.
What parts of the documentary were the most challenging, emotionally or physically, to film?
The toughest part was combing through Andy's dozens of hours of undercover footage. It was a stomach-turning week of editing, so my hat is off to MFA's video staff who wade through this type of footage all year long, case after case.
Once Andy Goes In premieres next month, where will people be able to see it?
On the Mercy For Animals Facebook page.