The narration sessions for the film proved to be much more work than expected. Of course, I put way more on my plate than I should have… but I knew I wanted to get as much material as possible to work with. We were on a tight schedule and had a lot of sessions to hold. Hans and I were able to gather 15 narrators total who followed through with their commitment; which most of them read multiple readings to pick up the slack of the flakes. It was difficult for me to determine which incredible stories should be read. I knew it wouldn’t be possible to include everything… but I also knew the project was evolving as the months went by and I didn’t know exactly what it would be a year later. The basic idea of what the final product would be was there but I had no concrete specifics beyond the big player stories of Rhoda Derry and Bookbinder & big player issues like the rise and fall of treatment. My research binders were overflowing with stories and story ideas yet, I had to filter. Which stories had the most impact? Were the most touching? The most gut-wrenching? The interview questions for the interviewees were, you could say, obnoxious. I had so many questions dealing with the facts and myths surrounding the Peoria State Hospital; and didn’t want to leave anything behind or any rock unturned. If I was going to make this documentary, I wanted the truth out there. But, there were simply too many stories for one feature-length film. I decided I’d have the narrators read all my favorites and choose later which flowed better with the interviews.
In post-production, I was faced with my known fate to make the decision of which narration sessions needed to be cut completely. Nearly all of them were chopped in half but still, more needed to go. The film was obviously way too long and there was no way everything could stay. Cutting three narrators completely along with their great sessions made me feel what perhaps Hollywood actors feel when their one scene is cut from the movie entirely. It didn’t feel good and I wasn’t even the one being cut. I knew the most challenging part of the film process would be cutting it down to an appropriate length. It was obvious when I began the project that, in the end, it would be too long. With 14 interviewees and 15 narrators, my head was spinning. All I could do was ask myself, which stories HAVE to stay and which lessons are most important? That helped most with the cutting.
Featured here is Ted Wulfers as Dr. George Zeller. The attached video link is the narration conclusion to one of the most incredible stories in American mental health history. Rhoda Derry’s tragic story goes unparalleled and will certainly stick with you for the rest of your life.