PALESTINE, Texas (KLTV) - Lights, camera, action: The city of Palestine has attracted the attention of another filmmaker. This time, it was the old Anderson County Jail, which set to the stage for a cautionary tale involving three friends and the prison system.
Written and produced by actor-director Joshua Moody, “Four My Brothers” is a contemporary drama, chronicling three high school friends who go to prison for murder. The film reflects on each path they take during their time behind bars.
“I was contacted in December by Josh Moody ... he was looking for a film location to shoot a prison movie," said Sonia Martinez, owner and operator of Texas Jail. “He was having some trouble with some red tape with the local Texas prisons, and my building ended up being a great opportunity for them to create the cinematic scenes they needed.”
Martinez said the idea behind purchasing the old jail building was to become a film-friendly location. Little did she know at the time, the city of Palestine itself would eventually become part of the Film Friendly Texas program, which means it’s certified as a filming destination.
“We registered our building, and we got a few calls,” Martinez said. "We’ve done some short films, a rap video or two, and some TV shows have come in and shot a few episodes.
“By word of mouth, it got to Josh Moody that we had a jail," Martinez said.
Moody said the inspiration for “Four My Brothers” came from his own brother, who was incarcerated nearly 12 years ago, and his family thought he was headed down the same path.
“This film is a passion project of mine,” Moody said. “We all want to make a success to make a success out of ourselves, but we all want to save some souls in the process. And, just to prove to my family members that yeah, that happened to my older brother, but we’re two different people.”
Not to say Moody’s older brother wasn’t someone he didn’t look up to; Moody described his brother as the “most powerful in high school and as outgoing and best dressed. To see his older brother shut down during Moody’s first visit to see him was troubling, but it made him think about life inside.
“It motivated me to start writing a script,” Moody explained. "Some of the scenes are based on my older brother. Some of the scenes are from fights I’ve seen in high school. My uncle has been in and out of the [penitentiary] I just want to make a movie that motivates people to stay out of jail and out of prison.”
Moody said his grandmother was another inspiration; he said she worked hard to keep her grandchildren in youth clubs to keep them busy and off of the streets.
“Looking back on it, we would travel to different museums and go to different states, and I hated it. They would teach us like table etiquette; where your fork and where your spoon was supposed to be. We couldn’t stand it,” Moody said. “But looking back on it, it was helpful.”
After running into red tape while browsing spots to shoot his film in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Moody said he heard about the old Anderson County Jail in a film friendly-community in Anderson County.
“Here, Sonia and Jeremy, they own the jail; so instead of going through the state, the county, I’m going through individual owners. That’s much more easier to work with,” Moody explained.
Martinez said finding help to get the project started wasn’t a problem; she had a community of volunteers who were more than happy to pitch in, whether they got screen time or not.
“Our community has been fantastic. We’ve had extras who just came on a whim. They saw it on social media, and they’ve been cast," she explained. “So, it’s been a really great opportunity for locals who are interested in film to become a part of it and learn the process.”
“People out of Dallas were asking me, ‘Why are you going all the way to Palestine to film this movie?'” Moody said. “I just felt like it was ordained; everything I needed was out here. We’re getting free background. It was put on the radio not too long ago. The community kind of embraced it, and I’m just so grateful.”
Moody said while shooting and post-production work wraps up on “Four My Brothers," he’s got another idea for a film in the works, another of which he’s been considering Palestine as the primary shooting location.
“It’s been nothing but positivity the whole time we’ve been out here. It’s been absolutely beautiful,” Moody said.