(Screenshot via YouTube)
El Sawyer will always remember DC-3617. For the eight years the filmmaker was in prison, DC-3617 was both his name and his identity.
When the Media In Neighborhoods Group (MING) cofounder was 17, he was sentenced to eight to 20 years in prison for a drug-related shooting. Sawyer explained how nothing could have prepared him for prison during a talk he gave at TEDxCuraçao earlier this year.
“It was aggressive. People were angry, depressed. It was violent,” Sawyer said. “I’ve seen people commit suicide. I had friends that were stabbed and killed. I myself was stabbed. There was a time in prison that I literally thought I was never coming home again.”
He did come home, but not before taking a prison program that taught him how to make films.
With the support of his MING cofounder Jon Kaufman, both graduates of the City of Philadelphia’s FastFWD incubator program, Sawyer has escaped what he’s dubbed the pull of gravity and is making moves toward becoming the public face of incarceration reform in Philadelphia.