Making a film no one wants to see
My thirteen year old nephew died of a drug overdose on my daughters ninth birthday in 2016. We had just moved to London, and were starting to feel at home after a transatlantic move and needless to say, this sent us into a tailspin.
Trying to untangle the mess of joy and pain from these two events on the same day, I turned to writing. I wanted to write about holding space for someone in pain - to embrace the discomfort of someone else's sorrow, and lighten their load for a time. The story follows a photographer who comes to take remembrance portraits for a couple who have suffered a stillbirth.
The first issue I faced initially was people just not getting it — when I would tell the story of the film, most would recoil in horror and ask: “Why would you want a picture of a dead baby?” I would ask them back: “Why wouldn’t you want a picture of a family member? A daughter, son, cousin, grandchild? It’s still loved, wanted. He/she just happens not to be around for long.” That usually opened people’s minds, but there were and still are a few that found it morbid, or just too sad to consider. I imagine for them there is some personal history that makes it hard to contemplate.
I had to get really clear on the “why” of the film. This is the photographers story. It’s about a woman who, for her own personal reasons, her own personal history with loss, gives the gift of her time and talent to another family in pain. She holds the space for them, and by doing so, offers them comfort, and for the father, offers a way into connecting with his son. It comes at a cost to her, it’s uncomfortable and scary. And she is bold, gentle and most of all, PRESENT. This is what I hope people will take away from the film. We can all be present for those in pain. It’s rewarding. I promise you.
We partnered with two remarkable companies: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (nilmdts.org), a US based charity that provides professional remembrance portraits for families and Flexmort (flexmort.com), the inventors of the Cuddlecot, a cooling bassinet that gives parents the gift of more time with their child.
We are in the final stages of putting the film together and look forward to sharing it. I hope to start some conversations with it - about grief, about stillbirth, about loss, and most of all, about holding space for each other.
Rhea Bailey and Caitlin FitzGerald
Rhea Bailey and Sule Rimi