“Facing East” is a new movie by filmmaker Tommy Baker who wants the world to know about the practices of the Eastern Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky where the owners and operators systematically re-used graves over and over. “Facing East” is available on DVD and Digital this Tuesday from Uncork’d Entertainment and Tommy recently granted an exclusive interview where he discussed the project.
Meagan Meehan (MM): Is Kentucky home for you, sir?
Tommy Baker (TB): Yes, I live in Louisville, Ky, which is where I was born and raised.
MM: I imagine you’d heard many stories about the cemetery there before you actually decided upon making a doco about it?
TB: To be honest, no. After I started up on it, I realised that I knew lots of people who had a connection to the cemetery, but before that I wasn’t aware of it or the problems they had down there.
MM: What things were you hearing?
TB: Once I started asking around, in the beginning, I definitely heard a lot of strange tales, many of them were probably urban legend. There was a short Doc made sometime around 2005-06 I found later that told the story of some punk rock kids that stole a skull from the cemetery and put it on their mantle. Some bad things started happening to them after that. We wanted to avoid the ghost hunter / haunting aspect of it though.
MM: And why did you decide to do a documentary on it?
TB: The first couple times I went down to the cemetery with my camera, I still had really no idea about the over-burial. Finally, I was able to sit down with Andy Harpole and get at least that first piece of the story. I knew as I was leaving that day that this was a huge story that HAD to be told.
MM: Was it difficult to get people to speak, interview-wise, for the film?
TB: Yes. I had several people turn me down who had incredible and heart-breaking stories for various reasons. I had to go back and talk to Bob Allen multiple times before he agreed to go on camera. At first, he just recorded an audio interview but as the movie was coming together in the editing room, I knew we needed him on camera for it to work.
MM: Whose story do you personally find the most interesting?
TB: The character Jim Caldwell, the investigator for the AG’s office who ultimately married the secretary Beth and later ended up resigning from law enforcement and running the cemetery for a time. I was never able to meet him, he had already passed before I started on the documentary, but I could do a whole movie based on his story alone. He started a memoir about the whole experience but only finished the first three chapters.
MM: Has anything changed since the documentary was shot?
TB: Right at the end we added in a shot of the historical marker that is in place there now. I know that the Friends of Eastern cemetery have a lot planned for the future there, so definitely stay tuned.