Being a filmmaker who works with integrity as she documents the truth is a vital requirement for writer-director-producer Jaimelyn Lippman. The filmmaker is once again allowing her audience decide for themselves what they want to take away from her latest project. In her new documentary, ‘When the Bough Breaks,’ the helmer powerfully takes on the responsibility of offering justice to the subjects in her movie, particularly in a way that will make them proud that they shared their stories with the world.
‘When the Bough Breaks,’ which is now available on iTunes from Gravitas Ventures, examines how one in five new mothers struggle with postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis after childbirth, and many of the signs are being missed by the public. The film takes viewers on a journey to find answers and break the silence about the illness.
The documentary follows Lindsay Gerszt, a mother who has been suffering from PPD for six years. Lindsay agrees to let the cameras document her and give us an in depth look at her path to recovery. The movie also features stories from singer Carnie Wilson, actress Tanya Newbould, celebrity chef Aarti Sequeira and Peggy Tanous of ‘The Real Housewives of Orange County,’ and is narrated and executive produced by Brooke Shields.
Women who have committed infanticide and families who have lost loved ones to suicide, as a result of their battle with the illness, are also introduced in the film. Since the signs of postpartum depression largely being missed, viewers are taken on a journey to find answers and break the silence.
Lippman, Gerszt and Newbould, who all also served as producers on ‘When the Bough Break,’ generously took the time recently to talk about writing, directing, producing and appearing in ‘When the Bough Breaks’ during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the filmmakers discussed how the idea for the documentary was originally devised by Newbould and Lippman when they were filming the director’s first documentary, ‘Die Trying,’ together. Gerszt also explained that she agreed to let the cameras document her as she embarked on her path to recovery, as she wanted to use what had happened to her help other people who are also experiencing the same feeling she did.
Lippman began the conversation by explaining that she initially became interested in helming ‘When the Bough Breaks’ when she was making her directorial debut on the 2010 documentary, ‘Die Trying,’ which offers an inside look into the day to day lives of Hollywood actors. The director had interviewed Newbould, who’s also an actress, for her first film.
“At the end of our interview, we hit it off and really started talking. I had just had a baby, and she said, ‘I have an idea for a documentary. When I had my daughter, I had really severe postpartum depression, and I couldn’t find information about it. Would this be something you’d be interested in?’ Not knowing really anything about it, as I had only heard things about it on the news, I said, ‘Let me look into this, and we’ll go from there,'” Lippman revealed.
So the filmmaker began looking for more information on the illness on the internet. While doing her research, she discovered that postpartum depression “affects one in seven women, yet no one is talking about it. In all of the books I read (about becoming a new parent, the subject’s) not really covered. It struck me that these women, who seem to have all of these resources, have been affected by this.”
So Lippman decided that she would check to see how much interest there would be in making a documentary that discusses the illness, and whether people would participate in it. “So I went onto one of the mom websites where I’m part of one of the community groups. I posted an ad that said I was looking for women to share their experiences in a documentary about postpartum depression,” the helmer explained.
The director added that within the first 24 hours after she posted the ad, over 100 women wrote to her and shared their stories. The women who responded “were basically pouring their hearts out, and basically said to share what happened to them. They explained that nobody is talking about (this illness) because there’s fear of the shame, judgement and stigma. So there needs to be a documentary about this subject, where the women could come forward and share their stories with others.”
Lippman divulged that she hasn’t personally been affected by postpartum depression. But after hearing the women’s stories, “I knew as a mom and filmmaker that I really didn’t have a choice; I had to make this film.”
Gerszt then explained why she agreed to let the cameras document her as she embarked on her path to recovery, as well as produce ‘When the Bough Breaks.’ “The main reason why I wanted to work on this film is because I suffered from postpartum depression, as well as postpartum OCD and postpartum anxiety. I truly felt that making this film was my chance to turn what had happened to me into something bigger. I wanted to help people, so they wouldn’t have to go through what I went through.”
The producer added that “Making this film has been such a blessing. We have really helped the people who have already seen it get the resources and expert advice” they need in order to cope with their struggles. “So it was a big honor for me to be a part of it in that way.”
“We were very lucky in the sense that the postpartum depression community really opened themselves us to us. The need to make a film like this was really important,” Lippman revealed when she then began discussing what kind of research she did into the illness as she was making the film. “So we started at a mental health conference during the early stages. At that point, we met every expert. We not only learned a lot, but we also had these men and women become a part of our film. The experts contributed their knowledge to our film.”
Gerszt then divulged how they secured the interviews in the documentary, and why they felt it was important to introduce viewers to women of all social statuses who have gone through similar situations. “We started a page on Facebook for the film. It was really important to us that we reached out to all of the postpartum organizations. We started getting replies back, and people started following us. They had these amazing stories to tell, which we thought were really important. So we reached out to them, and that’s how they got into the film,” she noted.
“As far as Carnie Wilson goes, I had a connection with her from awhile ago, and we were lucky enough to get in touch with her. She was happy to be a part of the film, and we were so grateful to her, because she has such an amazing story to tell,” Gerszt also shared when she then mentioned the experience of working with the Wilson Phillips singer.
“It was really about connections. We really chose carefully who we wanted in the film, because we wanted a variety of people and a variety of forms of postpartum depression,” the producer added.
Lippman also chimed in on the process of finding who they would feature in ‘When the Bough Breaks.’ She explained that “The women all came from different places. Some of them were people who either Lindsay, Tanya or I knew. Brooke Shields became involved because Tanya got an introduction through her neighbor, Amy Brenneman, who she was also friends with. Early on, she really wanted to narrate the film.” Some of the subjects that are examined in the documentary were actually introduced to the producers early on in the pre-production process in the original ad that Lippman had posted, which is where she met Gerszt.
While further discussing Shields’ involvement in ‘When the Bough Breaks,’ Newbould shared that the actress became attached to the documentary because of her connection to Brennemen. Newbould shared that when she had postpartum depression, she read Shields’ 2006 book, ‘Down Came the Rain,’ which chronicles her experience with postpartum depression. When the producer read the actress’ book, “That was the first time I realized I had it, too. So having (Shields) involved was very key to me in making this movie. We were very fortunate, because we all worked so well together while making this very important film. While we had our first connection with Brooke because of my connection with Amy, Brooke signed on because of the film itself, and the importance of the subject matter.”
In addition to directing ‘When the Bough Breaks,’ Lippman also co-wrote with with Samantha Smart the questions for the women she interviewed. The filmmaker then explained what the process of deciding which questions she wanted to ask the women who are featured in the movie was like for her. “For everyone who I interviewed, I spent hours the night before researching their life and story. My interview style is very conversational. I think the process starts with them trusting me, and knowing that I have the right intentions to not only inform and educate, but also tell the truth.”
The trio then spoke about why, in addition to Shields, they all decided to serve as producers on ‘When the Bough Breaks.’ “I think we all worked well together, because we all served different roles,” Lippman explained. Gerszt also shared that “The three of us are very close. We’re all very lucky, because all three of us are moms. Tanya and I experienced postpartum depression. Jamielyn is an amazing director, and she knew where she wanted to take this film. The three of us all worked together to make it happen.”
“I also want to say that Jamielyn and Lindsay have worked on this every single day for years. I had other things going on, so I couldn’t do that as much as they had,” Newbould divulged. “But I provided resources in other ways, whether it was financial,” or sharing her connections. “But we worked together as a team, and this film would not be here if it wasn’t for all three of us, because we all brought so much to the table.”
Lippman then discussed what her collaboration process was like with her cinematographer, Gerry Curtis, when she began deciding how she visually wanted to tell the story. “We had several camera operators who worked on the film. Since it was made over a long period of time, and we had a lack of resources and funding, a lot of the shoot was very circumstantial.
“With Gerry, I liked his framing in his work. I wanted the film to be clean and sharp, so I wanted to record the interviews so that they’d look clean and sharp. Shooting can be very tough when you have a limited budget,” the director explained.
“But with this film, a lot of what we shot just unfolded as we were shooting. A lot of the other camera operators” were hired when the crew arrived in the areas where they filmed. For example, “When we went to Arizona to film Naomi (Knoles), I found a guy who shoots for the news out there. After I looked at his work, he was able to come meet us, and film the interview,” Lippman also divulged.
Once the crew shot everything that they felt would make a great documentary, the director began working on editing the footage they filmed. During the post production process, Lippman once again worked with Smart, whose work she described as “incredible. I’m working with her on another film now,” the helmer shared. “We went through 40 cuts of the film. I gave her an outline and structure of how I wanted” the film to be crafted. “Every week, we would have meetings, and would do cut after cut. We then brought in a colorist, composer and sound mixer.
“So I think the main thing for me was to make sure we didn’t leave anything out. It was also important to make sure that Lindsay’s story was fluid and consistent throughout, so that we had someone to follow and care about,” Lippman revealed. “I didn’t want this to just be a talking heads educational film, because it wouldn’t get the same reach and distribution that it’s getting now.”
Further speaking of the movie’s distribution, the director explained why she thinks the n Demand platform is beneficial for independent films like this one. “I think this is the type of film that people are going to watch at home, and it’s definitely meant for a digital release. It’s a heavy film, so you have to be realistic about where your audience is going to be,” Lippman explained. “I don’t think audiences are going to fill and pack the theaters for this type of film; documentaries usually receive a very limited theatrical release.
“We spent about a year trying to do a festival run. We wanted to get people to watch the film, and see that it’s more than just an education piece,” the filmmaker noted. “So trusting our instincts is how we got Gravitas (Ventures) as our distributor. They’re really behind the film, and have given it the reach that it has been getting.”