To continue with the premiere in Portland, Oregon — I headed from our "headquarters" across the park to the state-of-art Whitsell Auditorium in the beautiful Portland Art Museum for a sound and picture check. We had added a semi-private matinee screening because I knew that many of my parents' generation did not want have to be downtown in the evening, especially during a Northwest storm. Others had mentioned that they did not like going downtown in the evening because of all the homeless on the streets. This struck me as the height of irony — they were willing to watch a movie in the comfort of the museum about someone they knew becoming homeless on the very streets they were traversing to get there, but the reality of it was too much. But I want to believe that perhaps the film would begin the process of blurring the lines between "us" and "them." The NW film Center was not keen on adding an extra screening as this particular series was a hard sell with even just one screening. But I knew that we could be the exception.
Even though it was an hour before the screening, there were people waiting in the galleries to get a seat. Among a certain age-group, seating at events seems to be a contact sport and I wondered if walkers, canes and umbrellas needed to be checked by a bouncer at the door. But at the same time it delighted me the importance these people placed on this screening. I met the projectionist who asked me to go into the empty theater for a sound and picture check. I sat alone in the most central seat as my Ojeda Films, Inc. logo appeared, then A Sandra Luckow Film, then the first notes of Michael Bacon's haunting soundtrack. My throat closed and tears stung my eyes. I was NOT going to make it through this screening. I wasn't even able to get through the sound and picture check. I waited for the intro to pass and I could feel my stomach preparing to lurch I walked up the aisle, told the projectionist it was all good and thanks. Then I proceeded directly to the bathroom to throw up. I kept hearing Bette Davis' voice in "All About Eve." "It's good luck before an audition." But this wasn't an audition and the minutes were ticking away. Miraculously, after that moment, I was good to go.
As people entered there were some special guests. For those of you who have been following this blog, you know that the 1970's singing group Black Hawk County donated the license to their song Oregon (I can't go home). This song, at once captures my childhood and speaks to the mourning of never being able to go back to what we loved.
Because of my persistence in pursuit of their song, they sought to make a new digital master of the album that contained the song I wanted. Bill found an unopened LP album in his grandmother's buffet and they found themselves back in the studio 40 years later and took the same picture that appeared on the original album cover. I was gobsmacked when they told me that because of the film they were going to start making some music together again in a studio Dennis has in the woods by a creek.
There were about 150 people at matinee, but it was a packed house at the evening screening.
I remember little about how I introduced the film, but according to my producing assistant, Columbia University student Sammy Applebaum, I said, "This is the story of my life; this is the story of our lives." And those words manifested themselves with productive discussions at the Q & A after the screenings. Unfortunately, the story told in "That Way Madness Lies..." is not unique. I just happen to have it documented.
And then it began. I sat next to my high school friend, Bobi Swan during both screenings and crushed her hand throughout. I watched the film, but felt the audience. They were with it at every turn, every scene, every frame. I was humbled by this communal experience that transcended the hour and forty minutes we sat there watching light dance across the screen with a combination of sounds.
The Q & As were led by Jason Renaud, the head of the Portland chapter of NAMI and the producer of Brian Lindstrom's film Alien Boy. The discussion was thoughtful and serious. As the evening continued, I had the words from a 1988 Tracey Chapman song repeating in my head — "don't you know, talking 'bout revolution — it sounds like a whisper — people gonna rise up."
It has been a week since the premiere of "That Way Madness Lies..." and I am still trying to process the intense whirlwind of activity and emotion. I feel the film ignited the stirrings of a revolution in mental health care by illuminating my family's experience. This blog entry is a visual snapshot of the adventure in Portland, Oregon the week of May 6-14, 2017.
I left JFK for Portland, Oregon on May 5th with the DCP in hand. "DCP" stands for Digital Cinema Package which is essentially a special hard drive that is delivered to the theater — like cans of films used to be in days gone by. It is encased in a special hard-body case that gives it this aura of being part arc of the covenant and part nuclear codes briefcase.
The first order of business the next morning was to have "breakfast" at Salt & Straw, a small batch ice cream parlor with the most delectable flavors. It is the experience of being able to taste everything and discuss the combinations with the staff that is almost as enjoyable as my "must-have" split cone of cinnamon snickerdoodle on the bottom and salted caramel ribbon on the top.
My friend Susan Shepperd (whom I have known since high school freshman-year Algebra) has been the most stalwart supporter and talented contributor to me and the film. She has a graphic design business in Portland: she designed this website, manages this blog, did all the publicity organization in Portland and was "my handler" which could not have been easy. She was laser focused, good-humored and oh-so-organized. We share a sisterly bond and I could not have been luckier to have her on board. I am a little worried that after this experience she will be fielding offers by many who were so impressed with her. I wonder if she would sign a exclusive 50-year contract? Having just completed publicity for a music festival with members of the Oregon Symphony she had her hand on the pulse of promoting the arts in Portland and set up a lot of media exposure for the film and me.
On Monday, May 8, Susan and I delivered the DCP to the Northwest Film Center and met Ben Popp who organized the NW Tracking Series (which "Madness" would be part of). Isn't it odd how it's the one-sheet poster hanging in a window that gives tangibility to the reality that you have made a movie? Strangely it doesn't feel as legitimate unless you have a poster! We also checked on the arrangements for Anne Alvergue, the co-writer and picture editor of "Madness" and I, who would be visiting an editing class to be held at the center the night before the premiere.
Coincidentally, my brother Duanne won the NW Film Center's youth competition in 1983 with his short "If Dreams Could Kill" (clips appear in "Madness) and subsequently found it to be a great resource for his creative endeavors. And then in 1996, my film "Belly Talkers" was shown as part of their Oddities and Enigma Series.
Through another high school chum, Lori Wolfe Stuart, Susan was able to arrange a long segment on Afternoon Live at KATU Channel 2 the ABC affiliate on Tuesday, May 9th (click here to watch the segment). The host of the show Tra'Renee Chambers is a mental health advocate, and having just received an award for her work at the Oregon Wellness Black and Gold Gala, she added a certain knowledge and gravitas to the interview.
The following day, May 10th, Portland's weekly newspaper Willamette Week came out with a review of the film (click here to read the review). 4/4 stars! Which, according to their key meant "a must-see for the year."
Expectations were building and I was getting nervous. On one hand, I would never have a more supportive audience than in my hometown — one filled with people with whom I grew up, knew my parents and my brother, and had been involved with the journey I documented. On the other hand, I would never be held to a higher standard than from those who experienced it first-hand with me. I wanted to honor all of our experiences. When I interviewed Peter Earley, the author of "Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness," he told me off-camera to prepare myself to be at once exalted and vilified for making this film because mental health issues are so politicized. And because of the KATU television segment, the Willamette Week review, and website traffic where people were watching the trailer, I started receiving communications from people who wanted help, were seeking answers, and wanted to share their own, similar experiences. After relating this news to executive producer Abigail Disney, she put me in touch with The Flawless Foundation — and I'm thrilled to say that this amazing mental health advocacy foundation is now helping me set up a resource page for our website! We will let everyone know when it's live. They also sent their communications assistant Megan Margolin to the screening to share the premiere on their social media outlets.
The Flawless Foundation also put me in touch with writer and radio talk show host Sheila Hamilton at KINK FM. On May 10th, I visited the KINK studios and Sheila put together a comprehensive program about the film and I am grateful for it. Click here to listen to it.
Later that evening, editor Anne Alvergue and I had the pleasure of looking at the work of beginning documentary editors at Pamela Minty's class at the NW Film Center. Their work and ideas were inspiring to me. Pam is doing fine work with them. While we were at the film center, Susan was busy making an airport run to pick up Klaus Fischer, my family's longest-standing friend who comes from Cologne, Germany. It marked his 30th trip to the Northwest.
Klaus, whom I have known since I was two, took the photo of my family on Spirit Lake on Mount St. Helens used in the film's poster. Having him with me was bittersweet. He calls himself my second father although I am his only daughter. Also, at the time of the premiere, he was the same age as my father had been at the time of his death on May 12, 2014 — just three years before. It was profoundly moving for me.
On May 11th, the morning of the premiere, I appeared on the Portland Today show on KGW TV, the NBC affiliate in Portland (click here to watch the segment).
The segment went well, and I was pleased to talk about the film one more time, but I knew the clock was ticking and the afternoon premiere was approaching quickly. After the interview, I headed back to the film's "Headquarters" (a great apartment across the park from the Portland Art Museum) to prepare myself for what was to come.
In my next blog I will share my thoughts (and photos) about the premiere and all that has happened since. Stay tuned!
On Sunday, April 31st at approximately 6:30pm EST, I raised a shot of high-end Bourbon with colorist Evan Anthony as we made the final decision before the output processes began (film-maker lingo for the final digital file creation). It was done! I was a bit dazed and disoriented as I left his Spanish Harlem studio. I took cover in one of the best taquerias north of the Rio Grande and had a plate of tacos al pastor. Halfway through the second one, I knew it was an appropriate way to celebrate finishing the film of my family's journey.
And, as you already know, the film's first public showing is going to be back home in Portland, Oregon, at the NW Film Center as part of their Northwest Tracking Series on Thursday, May 11, 2017, with two screenings: one at 3:00pm, the other 7:00pm in Whitsell Auditorium. There will also be a reception at 6 pm, which I will attend — I hope to see you there so I can thank you for your support. While preparing for the premiere, I recently revisited many thoughts I've had over the past seven years and put them into a FAQ page on this website. I hope you will take the time to read it, and let me know at the premiere if you have any other questions. I will be taking questions after both screenings.
Momentum for the film is beginning to build (we've just been accepted to another film-festival — more on that in the next blog) and I continue to hope that the film will be an agent for change in the way we see people with mental illness and the ineffectual systems that are supposed to help them and all of us.
p.s. We've just launched new social media pages for the film on Twitter and Instagram. Please join us there to follow the film's premiere and beyond.
Sandra Luckow is an award winning filmmaker based in New York City. Her films include: Sharp Edges; Belly Talkers; A World Within; That Way Madness Lies…
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