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Check out upcoming projects by Co-Producer, Director, and Writer Sherri VandenAkker and Executive Producer Joe Brocato of Unlikely Hero Productions.
Sherri VandenAkker -- Co-producer, Director, and Writer -- was raised in central Massachusetts. She now lives north of Boston. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she earned her doctorate in English. She is a Professor at the Springfield College, School of Human Services, Boston.
Josh W.E. Hays -- Co-producer, Director of Photography, and Editor -- is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and Boston University, where he earned his MFA in film production. He has been an instructor at the Art Institute of New York, and worked on many films, most recently the award-winning Miskatonic University. Check out Josh's reel!
. . . a family's journey of understanding, forgiveness, and healing
My Name Was Bette: The Life and Death of an Alcoholic offers a shocking yet moving look at women's alcoholism. The film chronicles the progression of the disease in Bette VandenAkker -- a nurse, wife, and mother -- who died in September, 2007. Filmmakers Sherri VandenAkker -- Bette's daughter -- and Josh WE Hays employ interviews, family photographs, medical records and graphics, and court documents to provide a personal and detailed look at the physical, emotional, and mental toll of alcoholism. The film also also offers hope to those affected by the disease who seek to heal their pain and strained relationships.
Watch Rosie O'Donnell's interview with Sherri VandenAkker about My Name Was Bette
on The View on Friday, January 23rd, 2015!
Volume 61, No. 8
Interview with Delta Women of Nigeria
December 3, 2012
Joe Brocato -- Executive Producer -- co-founded the NYC-based nonprofit theatre company Legend Productions. He is the co-founder of Unlikely Hero Productions, and as a film producer/director his first full-length documentary, Breaking: Los Angeles, received U.S. and International distribution (2013) via EyeFilm Releasing and Sony's The Orchard and MVD Visual.
Stephanie Olmanni -- composer -- is a graduate of Berklee College of Music, where she dual majored in Film Scoring and Electronic Production and Design. She has received the Georges Delerue Film Scoring Award. , and worked as an orchestrator on Grey's Anatomy. She is currently a nursing student at Johns Hopkins University, where she writes a popular blog.
Yale Chiang -- Consulting Producer -- is an independent film maker. He has been working in digital media since 1993. Yale has produced and edited fictional shorts and music videos. He was a producer, co-director, and editor of Breaking: Los Angeles.
Parker Lanier -- who provided original artwork for the film -- is a self-described "outsider artist." Parker is a graduate of DePauw University, where he studied Art History. Parker's work has been featured in Addiction and Art (2010). To view Parker's work, visit his popular blog: http://alcoholicoutsiderartist.blogspot.com/
On a glorious autumn day in late September of 2007, my husband and I were walking on the bucolic New England campus where we had been married a decade before. The maples were near peak color. As we watched their reflections dancing on the rippled surface of the lake, the insistent jangle of my cell phone interrupted the calm.
The caller was a police officer from my hometown, where my mother, Bette, still lived, in the house where she had raised me and my sister. He said that my mother's mail had piled up and a sickening odor was emanating from her house. When she failed to open the door, the police broke in. They found her badly decomposed body in a room littered with hundreds of empty whiskey bottles and literally tons on trash.
My mother had battled alcoholism and depression for decades. She had barred everyone from entering her home for 16 years, and in the previous six had become a near-total recluse. Once a stunning, vibrant, and popular nurse who loved her profession, she became unable to work. She had largely stopped answering family and friends' phone calls. She hadn't even been able to bring herself to attend her mother's funeral or meet her newborn grandson. But she made court appearances when summoned for traffic and housing code violations, complied minimally with court-ordered mandates, and demonstrated basic mental competence, so she could not be compelled to accept treatment or help.
As I struggled to come to terms with the surreal reality of my mother's decline and death, I also embarked on a remarkable journey of understanding, forgiveness, and healing. In this film, I share what I learned about the illness that killed my mother by painful degrees: women suffer physiological damage from alcoholism more quickly than men, due to biological differences between the genders; have different risk factors for developing alcoholism and relapsing from sobriety; and face different and greater barriers to treatment, resulting in delays that contribute to their high death rate. These facts astonished me. To honor my mother's life and bring meaning to her death, I was determined to make them widely known.
Once you view her story, you will will never forget Bette, and you will almost certainly develop compassion for the nearly 5 million alcoholic women in America alone who could share her fate.
To convey the living essence of Bette, as well as the physical, emotional, and spiritual toll of her alcoholism, Josh shot b-roll footage in her hometown, where she lived all of her life, and that became both her refuge and her prison.
Josh opted to shoot interviews with Sherri, her sister Krystyn, and Bette's friends -- from childhood, early adulthood, and middle age -- in their homes, in rooms where they had spent time with Bette. That choice elicited the subjects' intimate memories and full range of emotions, including anger, grief, forgiveness, and gratitude.
Josh masterfully selected clips to amplify and develop key ideas in the film, and put a human face on the factual data presented about alcoholism in women. He sequenced the film skillfully, to move the viewer from shock, to sorry, and ultimately hope.