For the Incurable Insane is a forthcoming documentary produced and directed by Janette Marie Washington. Originating as a Senior Thesis, this feature-length documentary tells the history of the abandoned insane asylum, the Peoria State Hospital in the village of Bartonville, Illinois. Highlighted are the lives of the forgotten patients and revolutionary advocate, Dr. George Zeller. Join us for a Q&A with Janette, then watch the original trailer!
Tell us a little about yourself. When did you get into filmmaking and what appeals to you about the documentary form?
I studied some Television at Columbia College Chicago then transferred to earn my Bachelor’s in Cinema from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Even though my interest in filmmaking didn’t become official until college, I have been playing with the video camera for years. The last two years of my high school career are completely documented, as I couldn’t leave home without my camera. Documentary didn’t become a true interest of mine until one of my final classes at SIUC. We were required to make short “digital doc” films as well as a 20-minute Senior Thesis. Before making a documentary, I thought I was only interested in making fiction films. However, documentary is so much more rewarding. Now being out of school, I can see myself being an independent documentarian as my main career. Only time will tell as we see how this film and my next documentary pan out. But what I love the very most about documentary is that it has the ability to change hearts and minds.
How did you become interested in Peoria State Hospital and what compelled you to make a documentary about it?
The story of how I became interested in the Peoria State Hospital was completely by chance. I used to work as a model and often had to travel for gigs. This one gig in particular, I had to travel over two hours from my home, to a part of Illinois I hadn’t really been before. On the way there, I passed this extravagant abandoned building that seemed to dwarf every other view during the whole drive. Noting its location, I made sure to visit on my return. Parking to walk some the grounds, I tried to figure out what this place could have once been. A school felt most appropriate. While exploring, I felt very overwhelmed with a sense of urgency and an almost unwelcomed feeling. Where I could have spent weeks exploring, only after a few minutes, I quickly became distressed and left immediately. Later that evening, I discovered the place was an abandoned and haunted insane asylum, which came as a complete surprise. Years later when I was faced with a major project, as making my first short documentary, I couldn’t think of a topic I had resources to that could be researched in only a matter of a few months. Then randomly, I remembered back to three years previous when I stumbled upon that amazing abandoned building. I sat and brainstormed for a moment, trying to relive my short experience there and the following information I later discovered. When I realized I had forgotten all about that place, and instantly had to learn more.
Will your documentary focus on “just the facts,” the ghost stories of Peoria State, or a little of both?
This independent feature-length documentary will tell all about the Peoria State Hospital from many different angles. The ghost stories are most definitely part of the whole story, which I believe possibly stems from what occurred there during the 1900s.
What has the response been when you tell people you are making a documentary about Peoria State Hospital? Have any local residents expressed reservations about the project?
For the most part, people seem very interested in learning more about this mysterious hospital. I look forward to telling all that there is to know. Save the Bowen, Inc. hopes this film will raise awareness of their efforts. I, however, still would like to get in touch with more local residents who are interested in taking part in this film. This documentary is being made to remember what was and what resulted. It’s for the people who spent their years there at Peoria State and for the locals to have a hard copy in their hands, of such an important piece of Illinois history as well as mental health history in America.
How can our readers get in touch with you if they would like to know more about the film or share their own experiences with Peoria State Hospital?
Please visit www.fortheincurableinsane.com to learn more or anyone can email me with any stories/memories, questions, comments, and/or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am most definitely interested in speaking to those who have direct connections to the history of this institution as well as those who are interested in helping with production costs and raising awareness of Save the Bowen, Inc. Please note that those who assist the production financially will earn a credit in the film. Please stay tuned as this place and these stories are incredible!
This project is constantly taking donations to help with production and post-production. Any contributions will be credited in the film (those who donate need to make sure to include a note of which name(s) should be credited). Use Paypal to donate directly. We also accept any kind of cash or check donations that can be sent straight out to LA to the following address: For the Incurable Insane, c/o Janette Marie Washington, 5870 Melrose Avenue #3223, Los Angeles, California 90038