Women on the Outside

: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Production


An intimate portrait of family life, Women on the Outside follows 29-year-old Kristal Bush as she strives to maintain love under the shadow of incarceration.


Interweaving observational footage, narration and Kristal’s own video, our film unfolds in the quiet, tender and fraught moments that often go unseen, revealing the challenges women face when prison is a member of the family.


Part vérité documentary, part family album, this film braids together the dramatic and mundane to give a portrait of lives remade by incarceration--and story shared by millions of Americans but rarely through the female perspective.

The United States imprisons some 2.2 million people on any given day. But little attention has been paid to the ways it shapes the lives of women who support them. By one estimate, a quarter of women in the United States, and half of African-American women, have had a loved one behind bars.

That reality plays out daily in Philadelphia, which has among the highest per-capita rates of incarceration among large American cities. Women's paychecks go to cover prison commissaries. Their weekends get spent on long trips to faraway prisons for visits. And when loved ones come home, upheaval often comes with them. 

This is the context within which our film is set, but the film is foremost a portrait of American family. In the spirit of recent films such as Quest, For Akeem, and Hale County, This Morning, This Evening, Women on the Outside centers around quotidian moments. The action matters, but so does the space between.

We have a strong relationship with Kristal and her extended family. We are now looking to bring on an experienced editor and executive producer to help us shape narrative structure and secure funding going forward. We are committed to assembling a racially and culturally diverse team that includes members with first-hand or familial experiences of incarceration, as well as who share our ambition to approach documentary innovatively and collaboratively. 


Zara Katz - Co-Director/Producer

Zara Katz is an independent photo editor and filmmaker for editorial, documentary and branded content. She brings a narrative approach to still and moving images, specializing in crafting character-driven visual stories. Collaboration is key to her work. She is the co-creator of @EverydayIncarceration, a collaborative Instagram feed looking at 40 years of mass incarceration in the United States and “Women on the Outside,” an ongoing multimedia project. These projects have been supported by the Magnum Foundation and Brown Center for Media Innovation and have been exhibited at The Philadelphia Museum of Art and Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Photoville in New York and FOTODOKS in Munich, Germany. Katz has worked at The New York Times Lens blog, Time magazine and Newsweek. Most recently, she was the Director of Still Photography Production for Lifetime/A+E Networks special digital project, “Her America: 50 Women 50 States.”

Lisa Riordan Seville - Co-Director/Producer

Lisa Riordan Seville is an independent reporter and producer in Brooklyn, New York. Her stories have appeared on NBC News programs, NBCNews.com, Lifetime, The Guardian U.S., BuzzFeed News, WNYC New York Public Radio and The Nation magazine, among others. Her work has been supported by the Open Society Foundations, the Investigative Fund, the Center for Health Journalism and the Magnum Foundation, among others. In 2013, she contributed to the Peabody-award winning "In Plain Sight: Poverty in America"; her 2017 story about race and homeownership for BuzzFeed News received the Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. With Zara Katz she runs @EverydayIncarceration, an Instagram feed that tells visual stories of incarceration in the United States. Their ongoing multimedia project, “Women on the Outside,” has been exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Brooklyn’s Photoville and FOTODOKS in Munich, Germany, and featured on the New York Times’ Instagram feed.


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