Janette Marie started college as a Marine Biology major but quickly learned that she wanted to study film and earned her BA in Cinema and Photography in 2007. Long before she decided to pursue the arts, she was interested in photography. Even in high school, she brought her film cameras and video camera nearly everywhere. All these years later, it makes sense that she would end up going into filmmaking. FOR THE INCURABLE INSANE is her first documentary and she plans to make many more, as well as fictional films and music videos.
How did you first become interested in Peoria State Hospital? What compelled you to make a documentary about it?
In short, I learned about the Peoria State Hospital by chance. The dwarfing limestone building, which I would learn later was the Bowen building, caught my attention and I’ve been fascinated with the asylum ever since. Once I started learning more and more about the incredible history and mysterious stories surrounding the asylum, I decided to make a film about it. It was extremely surprising that no one had already made a serious documentary about the place.
If you could tell our readers one thing about Peoria State Hospital that would convince them to feel just as passionately about it, what would it be and why?
Many people know what it’s like to be unaccepted. To be unaccepted by society or even your own family for something completely out of your control is beyond heartbreaking. The Peoria State Hospital and other institutions alike took in these unwanted people and gave what so many desperately wanted, to be a part of something and have a family. The majority of the staff who cared for these unfortunates became so emotionally involved and invested; how couldn’t one sympathize and show love to someone who so desperately needed it? To show absolute care for someone after their families have given up on them. I look at this place and think of that, the unconditional love shown to the most desperate and unloved of us all. That’s imperative to our world.
What is your favorite ghost story from PSH? Why do you think there are so many legends associated with it?
I would have to say my favorite ghost story from PSH would be the multiple reported sightings of “the white lady”. She was more than likely a former patient in the early 1900s, who would have been living in the Bowen back when patients actually stayed in that building. The reason why I like the story so much is because just the thought of seeing her myself gives me the chills. The stories are frightening and I’m not entirely sure how I would react if I saw her; that’s why I don’t go to PSH at night. Enough unusual things have happened first hand, I really don’t care to see “the white lady” ever!
I think there are so many legends associated with the place because of all the people who came and went throughout the years. Emotions ran high here; that’s why I think there’s still so much residual energy lingering. Anyone open enough to it will surely feel what I’m talking about. I’ve experienced all levels of it, mild to extreme. Actually, I nearly had to excuse myself when standing in the men’s ward of the Pollak Hospital, which was the old Tuberculosis Sanitarium. There’s just uninviting, suffocating energy in there.
In light of controversy over the fate of the Bowen building after the owner tired to capitalize on its alleged hauntings, do you think PSH’s notoriety has helped or hurt preservation efforts?
I think Peoria State Hospital’s notoriety helped preservation efforts. The public is more interested in the ghost stories than the real stories; and who can blame them? Ghost stories are fun; I love them too! But, the real stories are just as interesting and even mystifying. Truth is truly stranger than fiction! I think too many elders are fighting the Save the Bowen Foundation to the point where the foundation is exhausted.
So much time and passion has brought the building to a way better physical state than it has been in for years; but earning a few dollars per tour isn’t going to realistically raise enough substantial money required to bring that building to code for operation. The Bowen is much larger than I ever realized when I finally was able to go inside. I can’t even imagine how horrible that day will be for not only me but also, all those who love the Peoria State Hospital and want to see the Bowen saved. It’s a horrible feeling to think of people who don’t care about its historical significance, sitting behind the controls of a wrecking ball.
What have you learned during the creation of For the Incurable Insane? Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
I’ve learned more than I could have ever anticipated. First and foremost, appreciating every day that I’m of sane mind and that I haven’t been cursed with the plague of severe mental illness. Of course, I have suffered from my own bouts of depression, so I understand how debilitating emotions can affect someone. The struggle with severe mental illness has to be incomparable. Secondly, learning of my true abilities to make something happen that seemed nearly impossible to bring together. This wasn’t an easy project, especially emotionally.
Would I do anything differently? Mike, I’m laughing out loud right now. Yes, many things, but I knew it would be that way. When working alone with only a couple of people helping out, the amount of work and attention required is exhausting. If I could, I’d take on that week of production again, as excruciating as it was. There are many things I didn’t follow my instincts on that would have saved me months and months of work later on. I am, however, thankful for those moments I did follow my instincts! I’m still learning how to do that!
Where can our readers go for more information on For the Incurable Insane? Are you working on any other film projects?
Visit fortheincurableinsane.com. On the homepage, there’s a link straight to view the trailer and film. There’s also a production blog on the site, which was written throughout the years of making this documentary.
Yes! I’m always working on new things! Right now, I’m beginning a new documentary featuring a friend of mine- political artist and film photographer and model, Erin the Artist. The film is mainly about our like-minded feelings of where we’re at as a human race, especially here in America. I’m looking forward to the future films I’ll make, including much more documentary, fiction, and even emotive narrative music videos. In addition to my cinematography, I work closely with 35mm photography film. Your readers can follow my work on instagram @jmariefilms.
Sorry guys, this page is copyright MysteriousHeartland.com, 2015. You do not have permission to copy this for any reason. Please learn how to cite your work. Photos courtesy of Janette Marie.