After my father and sister died and after being a caregiver for so long, I became involved in hospice bereavement groups. In a group setting, I discovered so many commonalities that I realized there is an archtype of a greiving person and a common inner path that we follow while processing our losses. The experience is far broader than the seven stages model we all hear about. It is about how the psyche dismembers and rebuilds our identity or portions thereof.
Beyond this, there was also an odd phenomena that I observed over the course of a year. People of all kinds came to bereavement group but only women and the occasional gay man stuck with it. Straight men would come, usually having lost a father or a wife, stay for a session or two and then drop out. The appearance of a new man – and the timing of his assured disappearance – became a thing upon which the rest of us could wager.
However, as time went on, with every searching man who found no solace in our group, I was moved by how alone men are in their grief, how they separate themselves, and how wordless and private their experience of loss is. It is as if the first rule of Fight Club, its omerta, is wired into their loss. This caused me, of course, to consider all the grief-stricken people who, for whatever reasons, internal or external, needed comfort but were in some manner set apart and left disconnected.
My goal was to offer something in service to serve as guidepost for the grieving and isolated.
I decided to shoot my interview subjects with as much privacy as possible. I was still going through the grief that many of them describe in the film. In privacy and seclusion, it was easy to get to the heart and truth of this experience. But at times, it was so private, it was more like being a painter than a filmmaker.
The seclusion of the shooting caused me to also consider other ways to strip down the film. I began to recall the experimental film, Wavelength. It was totally insufferable to watch in film school 20+ years ago but made me think about structure. While it is extremely counter-intuitive to think of taking all the other visuals out of a film, I decided to do so and put all my b-roll aside. Instead I opted to let the interviews stand alone and sing, like a diva standing simply in front of a microphone, being brilliant a cappella. I found the stories of my subjects stood naked and compelling with very little framing needed. Anyone who has lost someone dear to them will understand this.