Filmmaker Interview

POV: What is your motivation as a filmmaker? Why did you choose documentary in this case?

Jim Schermbeck and Mark Birnbaum: To do justice to the compelling stories we see happening around us. Most of the time, truth is more interesting than fiction. In the case of this story, central casting could have not done any better than real life did in providing the characters in the conflict.

POV: What generally inspires your interest?

Schermbeck and Birnbaum: 1) Conflicts or controversies that are more complicated than first appearances might seem; 2) great stories about "big ideas;" 3) subjects that we feel need more exploration than they've received to date.

POV: What inspired you to make Larry v. Lockney?

Schermbeck and Birnbaum: It's just a great story, with national implications, that was happening down the road from Jim. He kept reading about it, and after speaking to Larry, was determined to make a film. Jim got in touch with Mark, who was immediately sold on the story. We have both described it as a kind of "High Noon" in the War on Drugs.

POV: What were your goals in making Larry v. Lockney? And what would you like to see happen with it?

Schermbeck and Birnbaum:

Our Goals:

1) To tell a good story — the story we saw; that got us interested in making the film in the first place.

2) To make sure that both sides of the controversy felt they'd gotten a fair shot at explaining their positions.

3) To leave the viewer with a good sense of place about Lockney and West Texas.

Fate: Obviously, we'd like to have it as widely seen as possible, especially by kids and their parents who are facing the very same decisions Larry and Brady Tannahill were facing. But we also think the film has a message about the larger trade-offs between individual liberty and collective security that seems particularly timely.

POV: What was the most surprising thing to you in making Larry v. Lockney?

Schermbeck and Birnbaum: For Mark, it was experiencing life in small town Texas for the first time despite living in the state since the early 1970s. For Jim, it was Larry's total lack of self-consciousness about his advocacy role.

POV: What are you currently working on or what would you like to be working on?

Schermbeck and Birnbaum: Mark and I are trying to develop a couple of projects: one concerns nuclear bomb-making and the other the extraordinary story of what has been happening in another Drug War front in Tulia, Texas, only a short drive from Lockney.

POV: What are your favorite websites?

Schermbeck and Birnbaum: The Texas Observer ( — For anyone interested in understanding what's really going on in Texas politics or culture, this is an essential resource. They covered Larry's case well, and they have been on the frontlines of the Tulia story.