Promotional art for new film The Fishing Hat Bandit
Colin Hall

In the News: St. Thomas Director of Photography on His New Documentary, ‘The Fishing Hat Bandit’

Mark Brown, director of photography at the University of St. Thomas and adjunct professor at the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, recently spoke with the Pioneer Press about his documentary film featuring an infamous Minnesota bank robber. “The Fishing Hat Bandit” premieres at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival on Friday, April 19.

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From the story:

The documentary filmmaker thought: “If I were in prison and really bored and I got a letter from someone who was interested in my story, I’d probably write back.”

Brown wanted to make a short film about John Whitrock but he didn’t imagine that it would become his first full-length documentary, unfolding over nearly a decade, and the twists and turns he’d encounter along the way. ...

“I think a lot of times, in the current environment, these films are whodunits,” Brown said. “But I wanted to figure out what John’s motivations were and figure out how it affected the people that were victims of these crimes.” ...

“I was genuinely curious about what it was like to be on the other end of these robberies,” Brown said. “I wasn’t going to make just a profile piece about John. … I wanted to see how it really impacted people.”

Brown was able to track down nearly all the tellers who’d been robbed. Most wanted to leave it in the past, but four agreed to let Brown interview them for the documentary.

Meanwhile, Whitrock had told Brown “he had always kind of convinced himself that this was a victimless crime.” That was until he took a mandated victim-impact class in prison and “he really had come to this epiphany” that he’d been wrong, Brown said.