Andy Goes In
Andy Goes In is a look at the documentary that brought down T&S Farms for their cruel treatment of animals.
Today’s film is the 2016 Crime Documentary Andy Goes In by director Josh Polson and produced by David Sauvage, Featuring an undercover agent known simply as Andy. It is currently in the winter festival at Fandependent and is in the running for one of the three prestigious awards offered there.
Andy Goes In is a behind the scenes look at the undercover documentary that help bring down T&S Farms for their cruel treatment of the animals scheduled for slaughter. The documentary was well documented back in 2015 and helped clean up the business practices of both the McDonald’s and Tyson chicken franchises. The film though focuses on the lead up and the dangerous and difficult work the anonymous members of the infiltration team had to go through to help get the convictions that came from the case. It shows how much time it took to gain the trust of the erstwhile farmers and the impact it had on “Andy’s” family while he was away on the road.
Watching documentaries on animal abuse is not all that uncommon these days given the easy at which people can hide the cameras today, what is unusual however is getting a behind the scenes look at the filming of the documentary and the raw unedited footage collected. This is a rather unique concept and certainly not what I was expecting when I got the film to review and to be perfectly honest I’m not sure where to even begin on this film. The actual subject matter of the documentary is of course very well known and has led to not only arrests of the criminal farmers but to the formal apologies by both McDonald’s and Tyson Chicken and has certainly done some good work and brought to light the strange practices of this unsupervised ranchers but the making of a behind the scenes look is odd. First all of the faces of the undercover agents (For lack of a better term as these are not law enforcement officers) are blurred out and their voices distorted to protect them from retaliation which is of course understandable but really makes it difficult to judge the audio quality of the film. And of course the hidden cameras used are by necessity low end and make things very difficult to see for this behind the scenes look.
While the subject matter is a little lacking as it was only a brief look into the workings of the sting operation it does very much inform the viewer how dangerous and difficult this work actually is. Not only does Andy have to physically work on the very farm he is trying undermine but he has to convince the owners that he is a farmhand and is completely trustworthy. It takes courage and a great deal of charm to hoodwink someone who is already on the lookout for undercover police officers and to stand in the face of danger as a private citizen is not under any federal protection nor does he have any backup standing by in case something goes horribly wrong and the farmers get violent. The other members of the team had a far less dangerous job but equally as stressful. They had to catch the trucks leaving the farm red handed and to follow them to the restaurant’s processing facilities and they only had a limited window in which to do it otherwise the entire operation would fail. The amount of coordination and luck that has to go into doing something like this, especially as amateurs, is truly astonishing and shows a high level of dedication to a nearly thankless cause.
The production values of Andy Goes In are nothing to write home about. This isn’t your standard film or even documentary with high cinematography values and sweeping shots, no this is a fast and dirty shoot that has to be done in one take or it all becomes pointless. The picture of both a documentary it is about and the behind the scenes footage that Andy Goes In features is grainy and dark and filmed mostly in black and white save for the shots of the finished documentary. The camera’s placement is partially hidden so not to give away the fact that the farmers were being filmed and really makes it difficult to see what is going on at least until something damning happens then the focus becomes nearly laser like.
The audio work is just as poor as the visual elements of Andy Goes In. Out in the field it is understandable that the voices would be a little low and hard to decipher with all the background noise but you’d think for the shots at Andy’s hotel room away from the prying eyes of the farmers they could have tried to clean up the audio a bit better. Instead the voices are still distorted and the recording equipment used is exactly what they used to get their evidence in the field. If they were going to do a behind the scenes shot they could have at least had a voice over explaining the reasons why they were showing a behind the scenes of their documentary.
All in all this little nine minute look into the making of the now famous documentary that brought down T&S farms is a interesting concept that is poorly delivered. While the subject matter of the actual documentary is important and helps bring to light the heinous actions of some demented people, the behind the scenes look into the making of only offers slight insights and really could have used a more in depth look into Andy and his cohorts and what they had to go through.