Being Alone Together
a documentary by McKenna C Poe
During this pandemic, and especially being in New York, we are all struggling to manage the uproar of emotions happening inside us. It’s an especially frightening time as uncertainty reigns supreme, and everything that we relied on to instill us with a sense of normalcy has been pulled out from under our feet.
When asked to create a documentary on my experience in this pandemic, I wanted to focus on how different people are coping emotionally at this time. I reached out to people via mass social media posts, asking that if people felt compelled to speak on the subject, send me a video of them talking about it. I received more responses than I thought I would; people just simply wanted to talk out their feelings! I also got input from Sarah Baxter, a mental health professional working in Chicago. Her input really helped me shape the form of my documentary, and weave together the stories that other people had so graciously given me.
I wanted to make sure that I was able to highlight both the uncertainty and the levity of this time, as some people are having wonderfully positive creative experiences, and reconnecting with themselves in a way they never had time to. It’s been comforting to find similarities in experiences across all different kinds of people.
Even though creating an interview documentary when you can’t be within 6 feet of people can be almost impossible, I think that the final result was very successful. I was very specific with my participants about how to film the video, which thankfully, everyone abided by. I was surprised by how open people were willing to be with me. Had I been interviewing these people in person -- some of whom I haven’t seen or interacted with in years -- I don’t think I would have gotten as honest of responses. People talked about their battles with ongoing mental illness issues and their deep and tangible fears for their futures at this time; things that I don’t think I could talk to some of my closest friends about. I am incredibly grateful for the people that decided to send me videos. Thank you, to Sarah Baxter, Caroline McQuaig, Clarise Fearn, Daniel Klingenstein, Elizabeth Dugan, Holly Brockman-Johnson, Jake Farnum, Jamie Green, Kaitlyn McGilvray, Kelly Coyle, Saffiyya Abdurrahman, and Shannon Behrens.
Through this process, I was able to learn so much about the assembly of a documentary of this length. To date, this is my longest film work that I’ve put out, and I am incredibly proud of it. I think the work that I put in is reflected on the screen. Although I wasn’t able to showcase the actual filming techniques that I am improving upon, I think the story that I was able to tell here is incredibly successful. This process was incredibly valuable in my documentary-making journey. I can see myself making projects like this in the future as passion projects, just hopefully not because we’re all living through a pandemic again.