The Night Market: “What is The Process?” – A chat with Filmmaker Neil Edwards
By: Jay Kay
Perhaps no organization holds more of a mysterious and infamous image then “The Process Church of the Final Judgement” from 1960’s through the 1970’s. Traveling around the world,multiple gods including the Devil, final judgement, unjustified connections to the Son of Sam and the Mansion Family. Shifting through the truth and fiction, one filmmaker has brought light through the darkness with his ever evolving documentary on the organization. “The Night Market” here on “Tom Holland’s Terror Time” welcomes in filmmaker Neil Edwards in the first of a two-part chat.
Terror Time/ Jay Kay: As always great to speak with you about this incredibly crafted retrospective of one of the most infamous movements and organizations in “The Process”. Thank you Neil for taking the time out to enter and speak with me in “The Night Market” on Tom Holland’s Terror Time!
Neil Edwards: You’re very kind, Jay. Always fun to speak to you.
TT: Where did the inspiration come from in taking on an informative project/documentary like “Sympathy for the Devil – The True Story of the Process Church of the Final Judgement” originate from? Was it difficult to actually investigate and acquire information on the organization as well as track down the members who would speak about it?
NE: It’s an amazing story. Both the reality and the myths are equally fascinating to me. I wanted to make the film because I was genuinely interested in and captivated by the story of this ‘out there’ cult. For a group of people in the 60s to be able to the freak out ‘the freaks’, they must have been something quite extraordinary. I guess the ex-members must have sensed that my curiosity was sincere and that I wanted to hear their story, rather than exploit them in order to tell my own. Consequently, they were all extremely helpful and open.
TT: The opening 20 seconds features one question with a variety of members of “The Process Church of the Final Judgement”. It really gives great insight (in so few words) of the confusion and fluid concept of what the organization was for over ten years. Was that introduction for the film the original idea for the documentary or did that develop as you cultivated the film itself?
NE: I really can’t remember if I’d planned to start the film with that question, or end with it, but certainly I must have had some sort of a plan because I asked it of most of the interviewees. Funnily enough, I think I expected them to have a pat answer that they would have developed when they were part of the group, but it did rather seem to stop them in their tracks. I hope it provides a good jumping off point. You use the visual of the comic strip not only as part of the introduction to the film but as a table of contents to give the documentary a framework. Was this the original way to outline the information, visual and interviews? Talk about the process of the animation that brought it to life? The comic strip was featured in one of the original Process magazines. There were a couple of reasons for featuring the comic strip and animating it. Firstly, I thought it summed up the sense of humor many of The Process possessed – and the way they themselves were aware of all the wild ideas the outside world had of them. So, it seemed like the comic strip might work to respond to the film’s content or act as sort of chapter headings. I know some of the members used to love Monty Python, so it felt right to animate them in a simple ‘Gilliamesque’ style. On a practical level, I also thought animations might prevent the film from being too static and from feeling too ‘straight’.
TT: What sort of a mission was it to acquire, borrow, schedule and film the media content including photographs, videos, interviews, audio and more?
NE: At times it feels like a life-long mission! But I’ve been lucky that so many people have been so generous with their time and their personal archival material. The timeline of documentary runs for more than ten years starting in 1967 officially for the organization. That is a lot of time to fit in under two hours. You have to really focus on specific points on the timeline as well a specific events and locations. Was it hard to edit this project and keep it under two hours? What was one of the major storylines that was kept minimal or eliminated? I’m still wrestling with two instincts: Firstly, the compulsion to be completest. This is a historical document and because of that I feel I want to tell as much as I can. Secondly the need to recognize it is a film. It has to be entertaining and cannot contain absolutely every story there is to relate. I’m trying to reign myself in a bit and concentrate on capturing atmosphere rather than overkill. Ideally I’ll get it to 90 mins plus some ‘DVD extras’ as it were. There’s an interesting chapter that I’ve never had time for. In the late 60’s several of the core members traveled through Europe. They took no money or possessions and relied on the kindness and generosity of people they encountered along the way. Rather like wandering monks with German Shepherds. They had some interesting adventures!
Terror Time / Jay Kay: Find out more next week with Part two of this journey into “The Night Market” with “Sympathy for the Devil –
Find out more about me Jay Kay at HorrorHappens.com and @HorrorhappensFF