About the Filmmakers
Writer/director Tom Anton and his wife, writer/producer Sandi Russell find it thrilling and just a bit miraculous that they have realized their dreams of making feature films. Neither one had any experience in the film business nor any industry contacts until their previous film, At Last, produced in 2005. What they did have was perseverance, faith, and a little help from their friends.
For Anton, the making of At Last served to fan the flames of a burgeoning career in movie making, culminating in the release of the duo’s spectacular new film The Pardon. “I’ve always loved films,” Anton recollects. “I remember taking my little brother to the movies with his friends when I was ten and seeing To Kill a Mockingbird. That did it. I was hooked. I wanted to become a filmmaker. It only took me forty years to actually do it.” A graduate of LSU who spent the next twenty years of his life as an environmental consultant in the oil and gas industry, Anton’s film making career has taken a circuitous route, yet it was certainly worth the wait. After the completion of At Last, the dynamic duo came upon the perfect concept for their new movie. “The story of Toni Jo Henry pretty much fell into our laps,” recalls Anton. Moving forward with a strong vision of their new movie, nothing was going to stop them from making The Pardon.
Toni Jo Henry’s layered story of struggle and crime in 1940s Louisiana lent itself beautifully to narrative film. Actual transcripts of her trial along with newspaper articles from the time period were the basis for Anton and Russell’s retelling of her remarkable tale. As they streamlined the information into The Pardon script, fascinating details about Toni Jo’s life and trials sprang to the page. In fact, much of the courtroom drama comes directly from the actual transcripts.
Assembling the right cast and crew is essential to the success of any film and Anton and Russell feel that theirs was stellar in every way. Jackie George served as line producer on The Pardon, while Russell became the on-set producer. Both put their heart and soul into producing The Pardon. “The film is exceptionally beautiful in every way: cinematically, spiritually, emotionally,” expresses George proudly. Russell adds, “Foremost for me was always to stay focused on the true message of this inspiring film.” The force of dedication that the filmmakers gave to the production resonated throughout the entire cast and crew.