Mixed Media: How Documentary God Knows Where I Am Used 35mm, 16mm, Super-16 and Digital For Its Haunting Story

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Shooting in Digital Video

We interviewed the people who encountered Linda’s body in the actual room in the farmhouse where Linda had died. This had a profound impact on the interview subjects and helped access them emotionally. We shot all the interviews in digital video with a Canon C300 to capture the truth of those who knew Linda in life or in death, and because we wanted to give a sense of immediacy to the interviews, which this camera is adept at.

We used the Arri Alexa for the eye-of-God shots and in most of the grander nature shots in the film. Linda lived through one of the coldest winters in New Hampshire history. Nature plays a prominent role in the film as Linda struggles through a frozen landscape to attempt to survive longer as she is running out of apples and water. The desolation of the physical surroundings around her mirrors her desperation. As death approaches Linda, death has also come to the world around her in the form of winter. The Arri Alexa was really effective in helping us to seek nature’s soul in the sunlight breaking the clouds, in the swirling wind of snowstorms, in the luminous icicles draping the farmhouse and in the frozen hills of the winter landscape.

The Technocrane

One of the most exhilarating experiences in shooting God Knows Where I Am came when we used a Technocrane with a 60-foot telescopic arm and remote-controlled camera. The extending arm allowed really smooth moves, which helped us evoke both the meditations of a solitary soul and the eye of God moving through the interiors of the farmhouse and landscape with a great sense of precision and composition. Near the end of the film, there is a beam of light in Linda’s last room, which reminds you of the “camera obscura” effect when images of memory are pushed or even forced through a tear in the curtain. In addition, the death scene at the end of the film was shot with a Lensbaby. The lens was actually attached to a piece of accordion-like rubber giving the impression of losing consciousness just by moving the optics in and out between one’s fingers.

The Technocrane overlooking the farmhouse and surrounding garden

The Soundscape

One goal in making this film was to create what we call an experiential documentary. We wanted the audience to experience and feel a little of what Linda might have felt while living in the farmhouse. We believe this is one way to help a viewer find empathy. Creating a soundscape that can evoke a place is key to this. We recorded many sounds inside the farmhouse and in the surrounding fields. The sounds of the wind pummeling the double-hung windows and swirling around the house, the distant sound of cars, water rushing through a frozen brook and the creaking of the old floorboards in the farmhouse, are all sounds Linda might have heard. When she writes about silence, we wanted the viewer to feel what silence sounded like inside the farmhouse as she sat alone in the attic in the darkness of the night. Is silence the absence of sound, or is it something more?

Celebrating the Life of a Forgotten Human Being

Is the life of one homeless woman who died alone any less valuable than our lives or the lives of anyone else? Linda Bishop died in a manner where most of her human dignity had been stripped from her, and we wanted to return a measure of that dignity to her through film. We strove to celebrate the humanity of one human being by not only telling her story, but by portraying cinematically what Linda likely experienced in the abandoned farmhouse where she spent her final days–what she saw, heard and thought. We attempted to highlight those experiences and respect the dignity of Linda’s humanity, through the artistry and craft of filmmaking. MM

God Knows Where I Am opens in theaters March 31, 2017, courtesy of BOND/360 and Wider Film Projects.

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