About four years ago, I was on a news assignment filming at an elementary school where they celebrate their annual pioneer day. I was about to begin filming four women teaching quilting when the teacher stood and introduced all but one of the women. Immediately, one of the women from the group stood and said the words that I could not get out of my mind, "And this is my sister, Mary; she is also a part of our group." The woman stood in defense of her sister Mary and in defiance of a world that dismisses those who are different; she did so with such devotion.
I left the classroom that day thinking about the sisters and thinking about my daughters and unconditional love. As my oldest daughter was heading off to college, I told her about that day with the sisters and how it had affected me so deeply. I told my daughter I was thinking about a documentary on the sisters. She responded with, "You should do it, dad."
When I initially told one of the sisters about that day in the school, she was very surprised because it was a natural part of their life's fabric to support one another. I wanted to tell their story. I believe a documentarian is not interpreting, but recording history. In my fictional film work, you interpret through words, light, composition and the way you move the camera, along with a host of other factors. In a documentary you are trying to convey a story - for instance, the black & white clips I created to take the viewer momentarily back in time. I did not want to get in the way of the story - whatever happens in the moment happens; the sisters told their story with little fuss.
Trust is so imperative and the sisters and I knew from the beginning that Mary had to feel comfortable and trust me. She has an innate sense about people that is razor sharp. So, it was just me filming week after week. Mary and I would start the day often singing songs from a musical that she loved. It was quite fun. I'm grateful, so grateful, for the way Mary's father and mother, Earl and Marion, showed the world what it is to stand up for what you believe in and live your life with grace and dignity. Getting to know Mary, Kathy, Nora and their mother and father through the filming of "This Is My Sister" has profoundly changed my life. Before I began this film, I had my definition of what unconditional love was. Once I met the sisters, that definition was redefined. My greatest hope for "This Is My Sister" is for the viewer to walk away as I have, knowing that love is the great leveler of life. With it, you hold the key to the universe... and without it the stars above are just flickering lights without a soul.