When the Q&A is this good, a review isn’t necessary…
1) Why did you choose to tell this story?
I’ve always been attracted to true crime stories and when I first heard about the Lawson Family murders, it made a pretty big impression on me. I immediately saw the potential in telling this story as a documentary and really exploring the idea of why Charlie Lawson committed this heinous crime.
2) Were there things left out that you wish you had included?
Film is a visual medium and as a filmmaker I really wish we had more footage to use to help tell this story. However, the Lawson Family homestead no longer exists and much of Germanton now doesn’t represent the time from 90 years ago. This film could have easily been two or three times the length. There is so much more information that could have been presented to our audience, but we decided to stick with the idea of exploring Charlie Lawson and his motives from a psychological perspective.
3) What did you learn during this process, and what will you take away from this project?
I hate giving disingenuous responses to sincere questions, so let me honestly answer this question by telling you that I’m still trying to figure that out. As a filmmaker, I’ve certainly gained experience that I can take with me for future projects. But as a storyteller, and someone who has been struggling with the question of “why,” I think the biggest take away for me personally is appreciating the need to understand a tragedy. It’s not enough for people to know who did this or how, but to really understand why. I think perhaps that understanding is important for closure and healing. I hope that our film can help explain this tragedy.
4)Is there an underlying message that you wanted to get across to those who see the film?
If there’s an underlying meaning to be drawn from Trouble Will Cause it’s that human behavior cannot always be easily explained. Many have looked to scandalous motives and traditional thinking to explain Charlie Lawson’s actions, but the reality of the situation is much more complex. In order to truly understand why someone would annihilate their family, you have to explore the psychology of the person and often times that’s done by analyzing their life and drawing comparisons based on the cases of other individuals in similar circumstances.
5) How many films have been made by Wreak Havoc, and how many people were involved in making Trouble Will Cause?
We’ve made a handful of films over the past five years including shorts and feature films. Feel free to check out my IMDb page to see the sorts of films we’ve produced. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm5951114/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
You can also check out our website to see all the various projects we’re involved in: www.wreakhavocproductions.com
Trouble Will Cause was a very small production. I produced and directed, Jeffrey Cochran produced and wrote the film (including the research), Zack Fox served as our Director of Photography, Judson Hurd was the composer, Dr. Clarissa Cole was the Forensic Psychologist in the film, Mike Allred made our models. Those are just a few off the top of my head, but feel free to check out the IMDb page for more details: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6394160/?ref_=nm_flmg_prd_7
6) What would you like people to know who haven’t seen the movie yet and are unsure about going to a screening?
I would prefer for folks to watch the film without too many preconceived ideas. If I could manage people’s expectations, I would. I tried doing that with some folks who reached out to us over the past year via email or social media. Some people thought we had discovered some new evidence that would definitively explain this mystery. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot of new information to be found regarding a 90 year old mass murder/suicide. There are plenty of other sources for information about the Lawson Family and this tragedy. What we wanted to bring to the table was a new perspective – a psychological exploration of the family annihilator.
7) Having now received feedback from an audience, what would you change about the film had you been equipped with that info beforehand?
We’ve screened the film twice so far and have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both audiences, but there have also been quite a few negative comments and questions as well. To answer your question – I wouldn’t change a thing about this film. I made the movie I set out to make. It’s meant to inform and provoke thought first and to entertain secondly. We’ve had several people express a disliking of the film because they felt the film came off as preachy or simply wasn’t what they wanted it to be. To me, it was important to not only tell the story of the Lawson Family but to also help put this tragedy into somewhat of a modern context and classify it as what it is – a mass shooting, which unfortunately has become more and more commonplace. I see people’s discontent with the film as more of a reflection of our country’s extreme political polarization. Some folks get so bent out of shape when exposed to new thoughts and ideas that conflict with their opinion – these people usually only seek out information and news that only serves to reaffirm their already held beliefs. If we can expose some folks to new information that perhaps makes them think, then the film has done its job.
Some audience members seemed to express some dissatisfaction about our film because we didn’t focus too heavily on some of the traditional motives for Charlie Lawson. Some of these motives include: an incestuous relationship with his daughter and that she had gotten pregnant, and another motive consists of Charlie Lawson becoming murderous after a farming accident caused traumatic brain injury. We discussed these in the film but did not dwell on them because there’s very little evidence to support these ideas; and we also did not want to re-tread over material which had already been explored in other publications. We wanted to bring a new perspective to the table – to explore the psychology of a family annihilator, which I think offers a more accurate and complete understanding than anything else we’ve seen.
Also, one last note on this subject that I’d like to mention – this is a short film coming in at 35 minutes. This film was always intended as a short film and was never meant to be, nor claims to be a definitive source of information on this case. In order to present all the information out there, we could have made a 10 part documentary series like Making a Murderer or something in that vein. However, filmmaking is a visual storytelling format and honestly there isn’t much visual material to present to an audience. I decided very early on that we would not do any re-enactments (which has been done in another documentary and a live stage performance) and there’s only so many times you can show the same portrait over and over before the audience gets bored. I would highly encourage audience members who are looking for a more definitive source for this story to read “The Meaning of Our Tears”, or to Google or YouTube the Lawson Family murders, or search for podcasts about the subject.