One never knows the impact of volunteerism nor where the actions of servanthood can take a person. Often the rewards are far greater than one can imagine.
Documentary filmmaker Olivia Klaus never would have dreamed she'd be interviewing California's longest-incarcerated female one day. But, it happened. Not by chance but by the trust built over years as a trustworthy volunteer.
In 2001, Olivia began working as a volunteer at the California Institution for Women. Her first assignment was to participate in one of the inmates support groups. She recalls, "I still remember one of the first women I met who introduced herself as 'Krenny'. She was quiet and a good listener. She seemed to keep to herself, yet when she spoke all the other inmates paid respectful attention." Olivia recognized that beneath Krenny's facade of shyness and insecurity an inner strength existed. Maybe one day she would be able to see what lay behind Krenny's walls of emotional protection.
Olivia had been in the volunteer program at the prison for five years when she began to document the support group for her film Sin By Silence. While interviewing one of the inmates, Norma, about something good experienced in prison she did not waste time but revealed a special story about Krenny. Norma was selected to get an AA degree while institutionalized but she didn't have enough money to pay for the program on her 10 cents an hour wage. Krenny stepped in to sponsor Norma. It was an opportunity to invest in the future by empowering a woman who had potential for a future after prison life. Olivia recalls, "Norma kept telling me how much it meant that her friend Krenny believed in her and with tears streaming down her face she called Krenny by her real name - Patricia Krenwinkel."
Olivia had never connected the dots after all those years of being in the support group that Krenny was in prison for horrific crimes some 40 years ago as a participant the infamous Manson Family Murders. Olivia continued to document the support group for a year and during that time Krenny asked to go on camera as part of the visual diary project for the documentation.
Olivia says, "After the years of getting to know each other, I got it. Krenny finally could trust someone with her deepest, darkest secrets. It was as if Krenny had been waiting for this one moment her entire lifetime." Olivia notes that it was a miracle that she was allowed to capture Krenny on camera due to the legislation the Corrections Department of California has to censor the media from interviewing high-profile inmates. Since Krenny was in Olivia's support group documentation the freedom to intimately capture Krenny's story on film was allowed.
Olivia let's the subject tell her story and listens. Krenny reveals her life story and the choices she made that led her down the path toward destruction. Olivia continues, "Nothing excuses her actions nor negates the horrible things that happened. But, as she continued to share her journey of a young girl, so beaten down physically, emotionally and sexually it was easy to see how she got caught in the spell of a madman."
Life After Manson is the story of Patricia Krenwinkel, known by many as a monster but 45 years later is a new person. Her journey of rehabilitation is inspirational. Olivia invites the film audience into Krenny's personal reflections as she holds up a mirror to herself and many a painful lesson learned.