Date of Submission
Academic Programs and Concentrations
Film and Electronic Arts
Project Advisor 1
Project Advisor 2
The Old Wives
The old wives came to me. All of them. I was raised by powerful women; aunts, grandmothers, godmothers, school teachers, and my own unbreakable mother. The lives of women in history are often unwritten and scratched out if any good. I wanted to address them, especially pregnancy and marriage. It is a mysterious horror, in one light, to grow something inside of you. Yet, this is expected of the “fairer” sex. I couldn’t ignore the thread of women and the mystical consequences of their pregnancies, from Semele, to Rapunzel, and Bene Gesserit of Frank Herbert’s Dune. I knew I wanted a great hero myth from the mother’s point of view.
It had to be a period pieces and it had to be set in Upstate New York. I love my home in the Hudson Valley. I live on the Hudson River. I spent many concentrated childhood weekends cutting out colonial paper dolls from Sturbridge village. I had to highlight the area, the eighteenth century buildings and the gorgeous landscapes of New York. The Coven was not meant to be burned at the stake. These are not New England witches. They are Dutch Colonial, an important distinction. They are empowered and their struggles are amongst themselves. They are not fighting to survive, but rather to achieve what no one else yet sees; a new world. The Prospect Before Her by Olwen Hufton became my guiding light as I delved into the hardscrabble early modern period.
Aesthetically, I was drawn to the billowing black dresses and lace collars of the wealthy Flemish merchant class. The New Netherland “patroons”. My women would become more than a coven, they would move like an flock of crows across the screen. I drew from Rembrandt for form and lighting and Breugel for color and content. The process began with sketches of a dying dark yellow marker and charcoal. From there, the project became a beast too large to tame alone.
Writing a period piece was the true challenge. I constructed several garments myself. I raided thrift stores, collected scraps, cut up a nice set of curtains. The costumes are their own characters. The lived, interior world of women can come through in their clothes. The lace was paramount. Each character needed a different silhouette, some angular, some wide, some soft and floral. After costumes, I had to find these impossibly old buildings. One place led to another, teasing apart the tight historical net of the area. The props, as well, were so specific. We had to hand carve tree tapping spiles as well as create an entire working boiling pot of oil in the snow. Candles became the love of my life and my consuming nightmare. I’m not pretending to be Kubrick though. That became the great fun of the project; finding my own voice.
I insisted on a sizable crew. I am lucky to have dedicated and razor sharp friends in the department, but I wanted to expand my network. One by one, I assembled a crew of freshmen, who often are left out of film production. It is a beast of an operation, and it was tenfold better than if I had tried to go it alone.
I had been ready to give up filmmaking this year. I thought I didn’t have the chops or the vision. I commanded a crew of twelve, actors older than me, and every contact at each location. I navigated a daunting screenplay. By the last shoot, I had the confidence to tell my DP exactly how I wanted a shot. It was an exhausting project and unique in that I have never wavered in loving everything about it.
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Greene, Sharon Elizabeth, "The Old Wives" (2019). Senior Projects Spring 2019. 268.
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