Director's Biography

Matthew Pil­lis­cher grad­u­ated in 2000 from Ben­ning­ton Col­lege with a degree in film­mak­ing. In 2010 he grad­u­ated from Tem­ple Uni­ver­sity Beasley School of Law and is now a licensed attor­ney in PA and NJ. Matt worked as a staff attorney at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, helping people with problems due to their criminal records. In the 10 years between col­lege and law school, Matt worked in var­i­ous jobs as a restau­rant and retail worker, a farm­hand, and a social worker. An artist at heart, Matt always cre­ated movies, plays, paint­ings, music, and other art on the side. Dur­ingthe lead-up to the 2003 inva­sion of Iraq and wit­ness­ing the poverty, police bru­tal­ity, and racism liv­ing in Cincin­nati, OH, Matt became deeply politi­cized by the events going on around him. He became an activist and worked with var­i­ous groups and indi­vid­u­als against racism and poverty, for work­ers' rights, women's and LGBT rights, and against mil­i­tary conquest.

Matt entered law school with an eye towards under­stand­ing the legal sys­tems that per­pet­u­ate the unjust sta­tus quo, and also hoped to use law as a way to help lib­er­ate poor and work­ing peo­ple. Matt con­tin­ued mak­ing music and movies through­out law school, par­tic­i­pated in activism in Philly and beyond, and dur­ing his last year of law school he began work on a movie about the Philadel­phia Prisons.

Through an intern­ship with the civil rights firm, Kairys, Rudovsky, Mess­ing & Fein­berg, Matt worked on a law­suit against the Philadel­phia Prison Sys­tem for over­crowd­ing con­di­tions. He inter­viewed inmates and inves­ti­gated some of the con­di­tions in the pris­ons. The sum­mer before, he had worked with PA Insti­tu­tional Law Project, a non-profit that serves the insti­tu­tion­al­ized pop­u­la­tions in PA, advo­cat­ing for pris­on­ers' rights. These expe­ri­ences, along with his­tory and polit­i­cal the­ory he had learned as an activist, focused his life's work on prob­lems within the prison and crim­i­nal jus­tice systems.

Matt was lucky enough to meet other stu­dents at Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia Law School who were inter­ested in the issue and col­lab­o­rated on the movie at var­i­ous stages. What started as a 15 minute video on local over­crowd­ing issues has become a fea­ture doc­u­men­tary that takes on the entire crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. It would not have been pos­si­ble with­out all the won­der­ful peo­ple who helped along the way, par­tic­u­larly co-producers, Neal Swisher, Agatha Koprowski, and Karly O'Krent, and the movie's interviewees.

Contact the director at

Director, Matthew Pillischer
Photo by Ryan Brandenberg
©2010 Tem­ple Uni­ver­sity Beasley School of Law