navigation, see below for text hy and joel
email the filmmaker: Filmmaker Joel Meyerowitz answers your questions and comments about his film Pop.

general comments & stories
Dear Joel,

I enjoyed this piece very much. Everything was put together in a way that was easy to understand and to relate. I came away from your film with a mixed feeling of warm uneasiness...

Part of the film I enjoyed was the soundtrack....Could you provide the artists that were included in the sound track...Very interesting music that was appropriate for the film's content....In advance, thank you

Danville, PA

I liked that you came away with a "mixed feeling of warm uneasiness." The appropriate feeling for a story as intimate as this is. It's like looking into other peoples lives and seeing their real intimacy, which was what I had hoped to accomplish with this work. Not the uneasy part, but the intimate side, and with intimacy comes raw feelings which always make us uneasy.

I chose the music to match the emotions in the film. Right from the beginning where the Bill Frisell music has a slightly wandering almost hallucinatory quality to it, which mirrors my Pops' state of mind. The other music-the theme that is a reverie for POP as he visualizes Sally, was written and performed by Maggie Barrett who watched the film at least 20 times and knew the characters very well.

Thanks for asking.

Sincerely,
Joel
Dear Joel,

I enjoyed this piece very much. Everything was put together in a way that was I was genuinely touched by this story of a son connecting with his father with AD. My own mother has this horrible disease, so I know firsthand how one of the very few blessings of this situation is the 'not taking for granted' to appreciate your loved one for who they were AND who they are. Coincidently, I had also planned a special trip to take my mother back to Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park where she had decades ago suggested that a specail rock behind a certain campsite could be her final resting place. Unfortunately I waited too long to make arrangements and my mother's disease has now progressed to the point where the trip would be too stressful for her. Had such worries crossed your mind? The documentary showed mainly happy or insightful moments. Weren't there very trying times, too? How did you handle them. I could tell that yuo had learned the coping strategies that most AD loved ones use to survive with sanity, compassion, and respect...

Sincerely,
Liz Reilly
New Cumberland, PA
Dear Liz,

Thanks for your thoughtful reponse to POP. It was precisely the "not taking for granted" that I responded to with my father. I saw his "deficits," as the doctors he was seeing in Florida called them, but I also saw that his "strengths" were still intact, so I played to his strengths, which were his remaining social skills and his sense of humor. The doctors had also told me that Pop would be "disoriented" on the trip and be an "embarrasssment" in public situations. As you can see I didn't believe them. I felt as if I was on a rescue mission with Pop and I believed that he would rise up to the situations he found himself in and that the challenges would be an awakening for him. Which I think you could see they were.

I had an instinct that he could manage to be away from his routines for a few weeks and survive and that the change would be good for him in some way. It was not all that the TV hour shows, of course. But that hour is a fair representation of the overall experience. His goodness, his pluck, his lack of complaint was there every day. Yes, some days he slept in the back of the car and was hard to rouse and other days he was alert and playful and feisty.

Should you take that trip to Colorado? If you think you can handle her needs and share some moments of grace and not be too exhausted by it, then by all means do it. You'll never know what gift awaits you from that time together unless you do it. It's a pilgrimage to a place where her youthful dreams of eternity were stirred. Maybe I'm an impractical romantic, but I think you'll find that the moments of awakedness are wonderful to behold. My Pop took so much pleasure in seeing the world again and even though he forgot what it was he saw he was present in the moment. That's all we can hope for.

With support,
Joel
Dear Joel,

What a marvelous tribute to a father from a son and grandson. I laughed and I cried. Being born and raised in NYC I really appreciated the language and the pictures. One thing bothers me...do you resent your mother for not letting pop follow his dreams? It sounds that way in pop's biography. By the way I was born in 1926 so I am old enough to appreciate your dad and young enough to apprciate you. May both your parents rest in peace.. b'sholom es

Enid Serebransky
Cherry Hill, NJ
Dear Enid,

Thanks for the salute. No I didn't resent my moms role in Pops life. I think that things work out the way they were meant to. He became an entertainer in the more intimate world of the neighborhood and the local business community that he served. There he was known, seen and loved. And now the whole audience for this film has a chance to see him. So he didn't have it all while he was alive, but he's left a brief moment of illumination for others to take something from. I know he'd be glad that he could help in some way. That's what he liked to do most of all. To help.

Thanks,
Joel
Dear Joel,

Having a 90-year-old father living in Boca Raton, I very much related to your film and your relationship with your father. His comment about "nobody saw me" struck me deeply. Did this response surprise you (a result of the Alzeimers or had he expressed this before to you or your brothers?

Lori Myers
York, PA

Dear Lori,

I had ALWAYS seen my father. He was a hero to me from childhood on and yet I saw that there was this sense he had of not being seen properly and I could never figure it out. My impression of him was that out in the world people seemed to love him and were attracted to him, yet this feeling persisted. During the film I got the answer, or at least I thought I did. He was able in a muddled sort of way-given his memory loss-to tell me that his mother died when he was around 3 years old and that his sisters raised him. I began to see that the pain of NEVER being seen by the one person who he wanted to see him-his mother- became a primal wound that he never got over and that in fact he developed the charms and social skills he had as a way of insuring that love would come to him, but it must have been an insatiable thirst for him to have all that he had over a lifetime and still feel that he was never seen.

It was a poignant moment for me and there I was telling him that "we saw you, your boys saw you" and I'll never know if it was enough.

All my best,
Joel
Mr. Meyerowitz,

What was your father's reaction of you filming the trip? And did he see the finished product?

Jason Canno
Dear Jason,

My pop never really saw the film because by the time I finished it his deficits had increased and his attention span was in and out, although one time when I showed it to him he came up out of the fog and said "that's me!" and it was worth it all for the joy and spirit with which he said it.

Thanks,
Joel
Dear Joel,

My husband and I really enjoyed your film last night. The story was moving, but perhaps even more so was the loving and gentle relationship between yourself and your father-especially the scene when you're putting on the lotion. Your editing pace also reflected the gentle content, making the piece very whole.

I produce promotional videos for kalamazoo college, as well as teach and do my own documentary work on the side. A news article mentioned that you used a consumer camera, but looking at your photos, it's obvious it wasn't. I'm particularly interested in the type of mic you used-did you sometimes use a wireless? I noticed what I thought were atennae shadows during the film.

Anyway, congratulations and thank you.

Dhera Strauss
Kalamazoo, Michigan
Dear Dhera,

Thanks for your response and questions.

It was a very intimate last look at my Pop. And we did many things that revolved around care giving and tenderness is the best medium to communicate that. I loved the hands on quality of our encounters, my son Sasha felt the same way and was always ready to bathe or dress Pop, although as the trip progressed he bagan to become more capable of doing it himself. He regained some of the independence which is taken away from you when you are in an assisted living situation.

Re: your question about cameras etc. I used a broadcast quality Sony Beta SP camera with very fine wireless mikes. I knew that the way to separate the home movie from the more professionally made film is by having good sound, and of course in this case we also wanted the intimacy of Hy's mutterings to be heard with all their subtlety..

Thanks,
Joel
Dear Joel,

My Dad has had strokes and he too has trouble like your Father; although not nearly as bad [and] I live at home to take care of him and my mother. Dad is turning 80 soon and my mother is in her late 70's. What a wonderful thing you did with your father. Recently some members of my family have expressed concern for me. I don't work other than take care of them, Driving, fixing dinner...doing things like that. I am determined to take care of them even though I have no career or job other than taking care of my parents. Was it hard for your family to do the care taking? I am happy doing what I am doing. I too Love my father very much there is nothing I wouldn't sacrifice to help him out.

Theadore Ames,
Bay St Louis, Mississippi
Dear Theadore,

I am very moved to read about what you are doing for your parents. They must have loved you in a remarkable way for you to be so devoted to their care. I'm sure it is difficult for you at times, care giving is an all consuming task when you have two parents to look after. I'm sure my efforts pale in comparison to yours, but we both received something special from doing it.

My heart is with you.

Warmly,
Joel
Dear Joel,

I thoroughly enjoyed your film - it made me laugh, cry and, most of all, think. Thank you for such a wonderful gift and for sharing a piece of your life. My father just turned 60 this year and I fear that he has often felt unheard and unseen. I find myself sometimes frustrated by this and I'm wondering what your thoughts are in relation to your own father's experience of himself. Thank you again - you gave your father and the aged the dignity they deserve and you have given a great lesson to all.

Christy Maxie
Scottdale, Arizona
Dear Christy,

Thanks for laughing and crying with me. And thinking. That is what I had hoped for most of all, that people would reconsider the dignity of the aging process and think about how they would relate to it.

Q: My father just turned 60 this year and I fear that he has often felt unheard and unseen. I find myself sometimes frustrated by this and I'm wondering what your thoughts are in relation to your own father's experience of himself.

A: I had ALWAYS seen my father. He was a hero to me from childhood on and yet I saw that there was this sense he had of not being seen properly and I could never figure it out. My impression of him was that out in the world people seemed to love him and were attracted to him, yet this feeling persisted. During the film I got the answer, or at least I thought I did. He was able in a muddled sort of way-given his memory loss-to tell me that his mother died when he was around 3 years old and that his sisters raised him. I began to see that the pain of NEVER being seen by the one person who he wanted to see him-his mother- became a primal wound that he never got over and that in fact he developed the charms and social skills he had as a way of insuring that love would come to him, but it must have been an insatiable thirst for him to have all that he had over a lifetime and still feel that he was never seen. It was a poignant moment for me and there I was telling him that "we saw you, your boys saw you" and I'll never know if it was enough.

All my best,
Joel
Dear Joel,

I am 46 yrs old, a mother and wife. When I was 12 my mother committed suicide. Last year I took some time off work and spent it in "search" of something connected to my mother and her death. I read old letters (she was a prolific letter writer) and traveled back to the midwest where I was born and raised. I looked up old friends, visited both my mother's and father's graves and visited my mother's remaining siblings who are now in their 90's.I recorded everything on my HI-8 Sony video camera. I have 3 - 4 hours on tape. A year later, they are still sitting in their cases, undisturbed and unedited.Your film "Pop" has inspired me to start my last chapter of this journey by editing them. I've been "thinking about"it for the past year. It's tough thinking about seeing all that tape, mostly with MY image on it. (Oh, we are vain, aren't we?) But I think it's time now and I thank you for reminding me what powerful stories can be told with the camera.Your father and mother were wonderful people. I will be very lucky if I am able to finish my "project" and tell my mother's story with as much stlye and grace as you have. I'll try. I have 2 questions. 1.How long did the film take you to make from beginning to end? 2. What was your budget and how did you connect with PBS? Thanks for answering if you can and thank you again, for such an inspiring piece!

Marianne Morse
Eureka , CA
Dear Marianne,

Thank you for your warm response. I completly understand your journey. There are so many mysteries surrounding our parents lives and we never seem to have the time to get all the necessary answers. If I were in your place now I would just take those tapes out, sit back and look at them as if you were a stranger and you had come across them in someone's attic. Just look at them - don't make any decisions, let them seep into you in the places where feelings are touched. There you will find the source of your film or the germ of its inspiration. Trust that you did something necessary in the first impulse you had to make the journey. Now see what it was.

Q: How long did the film take you to make from beginning to end? What was your budget and how did you connect with PBS?

A: The film was 3 weeks in the making and then 2 years in the editing, reviewing, re editing, raising more money, re editing again, getting music, fixing the sound, raising more money (all in all it cost 160,000 dollars to make) most of which went to the editor and equipment rental, etc. It does not mean that your film will cost as much (I had 44 hours of footage) I just had an image of a feature length film in my mind. And that's costly.

As far as PBS, I was just lucky. Someone heard an interview with me on NPR and called the film in and then with a great passion took it to all the right people. And they said YES! And here we are.

Thanks again,
Joel
Dear Joel,

What an incredible tribute! Was your father aware that this was to become a film that might or might not be shown to millions of people?

He was so good natured throughout. Were there any moments when he became especially irritable or violent? How long before this trip was taken had your father been diagnosed with Alzheimers?

Maria Rivera
Dear Maria,

Thanks for your thoughts. Pop had no idea that this would ever be seen by so many people or that he would be the recipient of such good will. He had had the symptoms of Alzheimer's for about seven years. At first the signs were soft and then , 2 or 3 years later they became more visible in a regular pattern of forgetfulness, keys, money, directions all were slipping through his grasp and then we began to take it seriously, especially after he wandered away a few times. That was scary! He was not exactly violent but he had delusions and that scared him and so his reactions were more extreme than they normally would be, and his frustrations would sometimes make him react angrily where he would normally have just shrugged it off. But after about 5 years he seemed tolevel off at a benign place where he was happy and seemed not to worry any lomger about the things that so agitated him at the onset of the disease. He was Buddha-like at the end.

Thanks,
Joel
Dear Joel,

My Dad, age 84 is in a nursing home from a severe stroke. I noticed the same look in your Pops eyes he has. My in-laws, age 95 and 90 are still living together, alone. Amazing. Two questions..The first, How did your Pop react to his wife's death? He loved her so much. Second, when the young boy ignored your father, I felt said for the kid. It was as tho he never conversed with old people. How did you feel when he walked away from your father? Thank you for a wonderful show.

F. Collette
North Little Rock, AR
Dear F. Collette,

Thanks for your kind response and inquiry. Take a deep look into your dad's eyes he's still in there. So often when people can't respond in familiar ways we think that they are not there and then a light shines in their eyes and they're with us!

Q: How did Pop respond to my mothers death?

A: It was a strange period of mourning. He would ask where Sal was and when we told him he would sometimes be tender and thoughtful and other times quirky and feisty, once saying, "Why did she do something stupid like that?" The forgetfulness of Alzheimer's erased his memory of her passing, so it would come up again and again, but it was- or so it seemed to me- never fully understood in a deep and lasting way, and then after a while he forgot to ask about that too and she was out of his concerns, except sometimes he would call out her name - "Hey Sally!" and then just wait.

Q: How did I feel when the young boy shrugged and walked away when Pop asked him a question.

A: My father's question was so simple and innocent and playful and I just don't understand how a kid couldn't see that. It was like one kid talking to another. Pop always liked to keep things in play,especially verbally, but not everyone else feels that way.

Thanks again for your feelings.

Sincerely,
Joel

home + about this story + video + about pop + discussion + joel meyerowitz
alzheimer's links + tapes & transcripts + press + frontline + wgbh + pbs

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

Losing IraqJuly 29th

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS
../ ../etc/joel.html ../etc/video.html ../talk/ ../etc/pop.html ../about/ ../ /frontline/