DVD

July 3rd, 2016

If interested in a DVD of FOR THE INCURABLE INSANE, use the “Donate” button located on the “DONATE” page to purchase.

  1. Use the paypal donation link on the DONATE page – include your information (name, mailing address, email, phone) with your payment

$18 + free shipping
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FOR THE INCURABLE INSANE DVD

It is finally here!

July 7th, 2015

It has been a long time coming… FOR THE INCURABLE INSANE is exclusively available for stream on VHX.tv!

For pre-sale of a DVD, check out the donate page. DVDs will be sent out December 2015 after printing.

Watch FOR THE INCURABLE INSANE

UnmarkedJM

Finding Influential American History

May 11th, 2015

Probably the most popular question I am asked is, “How did you get involved with making a film about the Peoria State Hospital?”
The answer is: completely by chance.

I grew up about an hour and a half from the Peoria State Hospital and never heard a peep about it. May it be that I was young and just finishing my second year of college; one would think such an influential place would be known by all- young and old. In 2004, I had to go to Bartonville for a freelance job I had taken. When I drove by what would turn out to be the Bowen building, its majestic beauty arose a curiosity within me that I couldn’t fight.

2004PeoriaStateHospitalbyJanetteMarie

 

Weeks later, my friend and I returned to check it out. We went inside the now demolished cafeteria. Only after a moment of being inside, I told my friend I felt we should leave. The vibes I was getting from being there were unsettling, full of sadness. We went outside to get a closer look at the massive building and gazed at its unusual beauty in wonder. “What could it have once been?” we questioned.

 

Later that night, my friend instant messaged me with great excitement. When he had returned home, he started researching the place and learned that it was rumored to be a haunted abandoned insane asylum. I shuttered with joy, “How exciting,” I thought and never really gave the place another thought.

2004PeoriaStateHospitalJanetteMarie

Fast-forwarding three years, I was given a short deadline of only four months to make a 20-minute documentary for my BA senior thesis. There were many subjects I wanted to cover but couldn’t because of time or location restrictions. Upon brainstorming possible topics, my memory rehashed the old abandoned insane asylum I had briefly come across three years previous. To my surprise, no one had made any type of documentary about the place- even since it’s closing in 1973. I couldn’t understand why no one would be interested and willing to dig into such an involved story.

Remembering back to the feelings that came over me when visiting before, I was under the impression that the asylum was one of the bad ones. You know the stories- the maltreatment of patients, the neglect, and the experimenting. My mind wandered into the darkness, wondering what I would find when I would start learning about the secrets of the place.

2004PeoriaStateHospital-JanetteMarie

 

Once I started to dig deeper into the history, I realized that a 20-minute thesis wasn’t going to be enough time required to explain the whole story. I simply didn’t have the time but made do with what I had with the intentions of probably making a feature some time after college. The response I received from my peers and community were overwhelmingly positive. Some said, “This should be on PBS!” I would laugh as I felt my thesis wasn’t anywhere near PBS quality. We were given a strict 20-minute cutoff as well as four very brief months, which I was juggling along with a full-time school schedule, part-time production schedule, and a part-time waitressing gig. The time wasn’t there that required a full storytelling. And even now, after all these years of working on this project, there are still things I wish I could have included in the film. Two hours is already asking a lot of your viewers, but I could have easily added another hour just to tell some of my favorite stories I came across in my research.

 

Through it all and all that I have learned, I still find it mind-blowing that many people (especially Illinois natives) have never heard of the Peoria State Hospital.

2004PeoriaStateHospital

Many of my interviewees agreed that this place is one of those places that can suck you in. The true stories of its embedded history leave you craving for more. What happened and who lived there? What did they do and why were they there? I had so many questions, more questions than available answers. There’s a lot I still wish I knew about the asylum but what I was pleased to discover all those years ago was that the Peoria State Hospital wasn’t one of those evil asylums of the 20th century. Dr. Zeller’s work was progressive as well as absurd to outsiders. But it was here that helped shape the humane side of mental treatment in America. I only hope my film helps to educate those ignorant to mental illness as well as those oblivious to the importance of saving the historical grounds of the asylum. The worth that can be found within these stories is truly invaluable.

It’s Important So Why Isn’t Anyone Talking About It?

December 31st, 2014

 

"Waiting list as long as 7 years..."

“Waiting list as long as 7 years…”

The problem presented itself over 100 years ago is still very much alive today. There were mentally ill people, no means to treat them, and nowhere to put them. Back then, psychiatric drugs were yet to be discovered and many families couldn’t control their own severely mentally ill family members. By the mid-1800s, asylums were popping up everywhere throughout Europe & America, housing and caring for “this most helpless and pitiful class of sufferers.” Building plans improved over the years with the widespread idea of the cottage plan, which offered open air and better treatment. All was well for the Peoria State Hospital but by the 1930s, it and fellow asylums were growing exponentially. The funding wasn’t available to deal with the issues of overcrowding. By the 1960s, patients who had families were moved to home programs once stabilized on drugs.

 

Mirroring the past, the state is broke and cannot afford to keep the asylums open. With mental health programs being cut, families are left with limited to no options. The interviewees in FOR THE INCURABLE INSANE make constructive suggestions as to what can be done about our crumbling mental health system in America. However, these suggestions can only be obtainable by our government to cause any drastic change for the better of our society. Care and rehabilitation for the mentally ill are costly and the first who should complain, rarely have the ability to do so.

70 More Volunteers Needed

For centuries, our society has begged not only our government but also communities to help save Dr. Zeller’s dream of offering outstanding care for the unwanted and misunderstood. The Peoria State Hospital closed in 1973 and where many of the patients were transferred to other hospitals or nursing homes, others were sent out on their own and failed to maintain a stable life out in society. William “Bill” Turner referred to it as, “curbside therapy”. They are the tattered people of society who were left to fall in the cracks after the hospitals were closed. Not able to offer themselves what many would consider “acceptable”, some aren’t even accepted by their own families. This kind of stuff is still happening today.

Help bring this documentary to your local library for public screenings to begin conversation about something no one seems to be talking about.

Screenings

November 11th, 2014

Are you interested in seeing FOR THE INCURABLE INSANE? Would you like to view the film in your own town? Are you a teacher potentially interested in using this film in your classrooms? Currently, I am contacting libraries throughout the state of Illinois to host screenings of this documentary for entertainment and educational purposes. On a donation basis, ticket sales will go toward both the production and push of the film as well as to the Save the Bowen Foundation.
After the new year, the documentary will be available for pre-sale on DVD.

FOR THE INCURABLE INSANE is a two-hour documentary film composed of empathy, anger, cruelty, and hope. Offering insight to the social issues surrounding long-term mental illness and treatment, the film looks at the intimate history of the old Peoria State Hospital abandoned in Bartonville, Illinois. At the turn of the century, the Peoria State Hospital was opened in 1902 as the Illinois Asylum for the Incurable Insane. Revolutionary in its day, this documentary examines the history of the treatment of the mentally ill in America and how this asylum was changing the game. Dating back to the mid-1800s, asylums were sparse and insane family members were locked away, usually hidden from the public. Some still believed in witchcraft, the devil and hexes, and all of the folklore that went along with the ignorance of what mental illness truly was. Remembering the forgotten stories of previous patients and employees, FOR THE INCURABLE INSANE admires the life’s work of Dr. George Zeller and questions our current broken mental health system. Using education to generate compassion and understanding, perhaps those who view the film will find a more open mind to acknowledging those who are less fortunate as well as taking an active roll in saving pieces of our history, like the Bowen building on the grounds of the asylum.

Hydro tubs Peoria early 1950s

Dr. Zeller believed in many different kinds of humane treatments, including hydrotherapy. Throughout my research and interviews, some believed hydrotherapy to be one of the cruel treatments. However, most can attest that soaking in a jacuzzi can be very calming. Manic episodes were soothed as patients would be submerged in tubs covered with canvas. Regardless, Zeller’s life’s work was about treating the patient as an individual, embracing their oddities, and upholding the golden rule. He and his wife never had children but Zeller was always viewed as a father figure to so many unloved and forgotten “children”.
Here is a newspaper article from March 10, 1935, showcasing Zeller and the old “methods of treatment” he abolished when becoming superintendent.

dr.zellersfight

incarceration by B. Harcourt

incarceration by B. Harcourt

Behind-the-Scenes Schedule: DAY 5 of 7

August 21st, 2014


FRIDAY: DAY 5

dr.mehrInterviewStill1110a- Interview with clinical psychologist & author, Dr. Joseph Mehr
12:30p- Quick Lunch Break & change locations
1p- Interview with author & folk historian, Michael Kleen

michaelkleenstill23p- Last minute cancellation Interview with author, Stephanie McCarthy
3p- Rescheduled b-roll Cemetery III shoot from Monday: Day 1’s fog

Cemetery III4:30/dusk: Final shots, pack up equipment
6p- Rewinding tapes, dinner, hot shower
8p- (Dailies) Begin Logging & Uploading the day’s footage/DAY 6 Prep work-
interview questions, organizing releases, primary & secondary locations, phone numbers & address location verification, potential rescheduled shots if time, quick lunch plans, equipment prep, charging batteries, cleaning lens, etc.

Prepare to do it all over again tomorrow!

The Woes of Minor Mistakes, Tragic Sounds, & Paying in Full to Attention to Detail

April 27th, 2014

Late 2012, I held the first preliminary private screening for the interviewees of the documentary… to let them see what I had been working on for the entire year since we had first met. From the very beginning of my research, ultimately, I knew that the film would be too long; and I knew that shortening would pose as the most difficult of all tasks faced. But straining myself to cut it down to 2 hours and 35 minutes, it really was still too long. Stories that I had planned to include were omitted completely. Such interesting and important parts of the story as a whole; it was heartbreaking to fall in love and not share it all.

What I thought would only take a matter of a few months actually took additional years. There seemingly were never-ending minor mistakes that kept popping up at every hidden corner as statement after statement had to be chopped. Months upon months were spent watching the film over and over, searching for any type of mistake, all the while jotting down notes and time codes that could afford to be cut. But somehow, even though my list would dwindle, there would always be some “correction needed”.

This brings to mind watching a movie and catching a mistake in the production, editing, or spelling. And it’s like, “Come on, guys. How didn’t anyone catch that?” But one would be surprised at how difficult it can be to catch all of the minor mistakes that can arise in a two-hour production; especially when working alone. “Final drafts” would be burnt to discs to only find two minor mistakes upon reviewing the copy. “How can this be?” I would question myself. A misspelling for two seconds on a title card and a tragic sound- a mysterious “beep” in the rendered version… “WHY?” I would ask over and over, as the only choice I could make was to open up the editing program and target the issue. It’s been a brutal game I’ve been playing and even though I feel confident that I caught 99% of the mistakes… there’s always that haunting 1%. I suppose this rings true to any artist… one must pull the plug and eventually finish. You can’t work on a project forever; and working on it forever certainly doesn’t always make it better than it could have been.

Then there’s always the attention to detail which has definitely overwhelmed me on numerous occasions. One clear example off the top of my head- I was filming the memorial bricks Bill Turner erected for some of his former patients. It was really windy that day and for anyone who knows what the campus of the Peoria State Hospital looks like, there are millions of leaves from the plentiful trees on the grounds. Just so beautifully, there was a decaying leaf placed so perfectly catty-corner to the brick I needed to film. And although perfectly natural, it also could have been thought as arranged that way. I thought to myself, how anal am I going to get here with the attention to detail in this film? To move the leaf or to not move the leaf… that really was the question. I decided not to move the leaf although it appeared to be a thought out detail. On the contrary, when filming some of the gravestones, leaves covering the engravings or clumped in unsightly piles had to be moved. Where it seems like a silly thing that was over-thought, I tried to think of everything to help anticipate any issues that I knew would arise.

The interviews were more difficult to come by, as I was working on the fly. Yes, I was able to location scout, but all of the locations I planned to use didn’t end up working out. Back-up locations and times were arranged and I did my best to make the foreground as well as the background visually interesting. The weather was brisk and for most of the interviews, we were out there for approximately two hours filming each. Wind was an issue, so were the clouds, the sun, the rain, the fog, car alarms, the traffic, the people… there were many outside elements that disrupted the peaceful flow of the production. Shooting on-location brings those elements into the equation and so, the best thing I could do was to pause the filming when a loud truck passed, reschedule an interview due to the wind, relocate an interview due to the rain, reschedule b-roll shooting due to the fog, re-asking questions due to interruptions… Even though many measures were taken to preserve the footage, there were some answers I couldn’t include as a result of ‘sound damage’. A car alarm in the background of one of the interviews ruined some parts that I really needed to keep. And where I asked them to repeat a really important answer that I favored, some were just lost in the jumble or lacked the same conviction the second time around. In this case, in particular, I tried to lay heavier on those ruined answers of questions when conducting the proceeding interviews. Doing this, I was hopeful that new answers would make up for it and give me something I knew I could use when editing.

Still, now after these years have passed, the release of the film is finally upon us. What I had planned to release in 2012 has now aged two years. My work focused on the attention to detail has been consistent and although treading has been lengthy, it has been absolutely necessary. I thank those who have been patiently awaiting the release. Stay tuned!

The Narrators

November 13th, 2013

When I began the project, I knew I didn’t want to have just one single narrator.  Of course, the voice of Dr. George Zeller would be constant, but all of the stories had to be told by different individuals.  After all, the asylum is still filled with stories, many untold.  Hans and I recorded dozens of sessions with some really talented people in his studio in Los Angeles.  Here are a few of them!

merriquenarration1ftii

 

 

 

—Hans Parent & Merrique Marie-Sainte

jimnarration2ftii

 

 

 

 Jim Pollock—

carlynarration2ftii

 

 

 

—Carly Erin O’Neil

 

jpknarration1ftii

 

 

 

 

John Patrick Kelly—

tednarration2ftii

 

 

 

 

—Ted Wulfers

essencenarration1ftii 

 

 

 

Essence Brown—

judenarrationftii

 

 

 

 

—Jude Evans

jaimenarration2ftii

 

 

 

 

Hans Parent & Jaime Moss—

thestudioview

 

 

 

 

—Our studio view enjoyed along with many cups of coffee!

 

 

HOW DO I MAKE A DOCUMENTARY WITHOUT MONEY?!

July 8th, 2013

After receiving my Cinema degree, it quickly became apparent that I needed to work to survive.  No time was allowed to work on the projects I wanted to work on.  There was laundry to do, errands to run, jobs to work… absolutely no time to even begin the beginnings of research to make a documentary.

Then tragic fate happened and I was given the gift of time.  Years ago, I underwent emergency knee surgery and never fully recovered as I was diagnosed with a couple of rare degenerative joint disorders.  When I was unable to work at my job because I could not walk, it was difficult not to fall into a deep depression being young, disabled, and without insurance.  I needed to occupy my mind with something positive to make light of my situation while I desperately tried to find a surgeon who could and would perform an experimental, speciality knee surgery.  I was finally able to work on the passion project I so needed to be working on as time was running out for the abandoned buildings on the grounds of the asylum.  My downtime was meant to be even though I wish deteriorating health upon no one just to be given the time to work on your passion project!

Time is all that research needs.  And my time went straight to scouring the internet.  I found archive databases, which provided me access to use important historical photos.  Various websites gave me all kinds of different information on the facts and myths surrounding the asylum.  Repeat names of the living found themselves on my potential interviewee lists.  But the internet only could take me so far.  I needed to go to the Village of Bartonville and research further and I needed to find people who were knowledgeable of what was truth and what was myth.

Donations from believers made the production possible.  My mother flew me from Los Angeles to Chicago so I could go down to Bartonville, Illinois to do extensive research on the Peoria State Hospital.  I spent hours going through files and annoying the library personnel.  But my time was very limited and the stacks of boxes and binders weren’t shrinking.  I combed through the files and photos like a mad woman, looking for anything that went along with the internet research I had already been conducting.  Those files were then marked with post-its and put back in its proper file.  Once I realized I only had about an hour left, I needed to get over to the copy machine.  There was no time for coins; I needed the key.  In a mad dash, I threw papers around in an organized fashion, making plenty of noise, as the machine was anything but subtle.  I hadn’t gotten through all the files and after getting back to Los Angeles, I felt an itch to get back to Bartonville to see what I had completely missed out on.  It took months to go through all the scans and they left me with even more questions and more to research to do.

I had to figure out how production was going to go down.  That’s when budgeting began and necessities mapped out.  I needed a camera and a crew.  If I shot most of the interviews outside, I could eliminate the need for production lights, thus, cutting costs drastically.  Knowledgeable interviewees and friends and family who would be willing to work for free needed to be sought out.  Craft services needed to be home prepared and all the production chairs definitely weren’t going to match.  It was determined then that the camera and sound equipment would be the biggest cost for the production.  I knew if I could get the camera donated for one week, I could make the film happen financially.  That’s when I believe my good karma came into play.  I was able to write to many people and found someone who believed in the project and donated equipment on the grounds that the film would come to a completion.

When I returned to Bartonville for the week of production, I had to set aside some time to get my hands on those files I had missed the year before.  To my surprise, someone had donated their time to reorganizing all of the Peoria State Hospital archives on file at the Alpha Park Library.  Everything was labeled and any additional information known was attached to the document or photo.  Unfortunately, I found many files that I had scanned the previous year were now missing, specifically older documents; documents so delicate, they were literally falling to pieces.  One of my favorites was an old receipt with Dr. George Zeller’s original signature.  To think that the legendary Dr. George Zeller held that piece of paper was surreal as it was so casually filed away between two pieces of white computer paper.

The donation of time from my crew helped tremendously.  They helped me set up, tear down, ask questions, comb through files, pick up, hold, push, pull things… they were incredible!  But I was running the show, and it wasn’t always the picnic it sounds like it can be.  All the decisions had to be made by me and at times, it was very overwhelming.  It was in these moments, I realized why some filmmakers chose to work in pairs.  However, lone decision-making would give me my own film and I was determined to make it work and power through to the end.

 

This entire blog describes how I have gone about making this documentary that has grown so dear to my heart.  You too can make a documentary if you just put the time and passion into it!  In turn, it could perhaps change the world.