BROOKLYN, N.Y. - New York based filmmaker, Will Mayo, created a short documentary to showcase woodworking projects done by his grandfather, Joe Henson, who suffers from primary progressive aphasia, a form of dementia marked by the progressive loss of speech and language.
"We were focusing on the life around the furniture, because this film was not really a biography," said Mayo. "It wasn't a film about wood crafting. It was about the furniture my grandfather made and its place in our lives, its beauty and its function, and how we're assessing its value in the December of his days."
With his bare hands, Henson crafted dozens of pieces of furniture for loved ones that stand out as a testament to his character. The film, "As Beautiful Inside," gives viewers an emotional look at a family coming to terms with a loved one's decline.
"I'm sure this is an experience that's shared by many people. For my family, it was especially tough - it was hard to see their personalities degrade like that," said Mayo. "I think the film is about that emotional space of coming to terms with the reality of someone slipping away. And for me, making the film was processing that grief."
Mayo, a Battle Ground Academy graduate and alumnus of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, had shot films, but never in the documentary genre. His partner, the film's producer, Ian Scott McGregor, suggested a film about Henson, and they set out to make it happen, with a $25,000 grant from Brooklyn-based production company Voyager.
"As Beautiful Inside" has been well received since it was released in November and has been screened at five film festivals, including the National Film Festival for Talented Youth. It has even been praised by actor Nick Offerman, from the television show "Parks and Recreation," who retweeted the film on Twitter.
"Wow,” said Offerman. “This is an awfully nice short film about family and why we should make things."
Mayo worked at the desk he and Henson crafted together as he spent weeks paring down hours of filming into the final nine-minute product. According to Mayo, editing the film was the most difficult part of the process.
"It's hard to explain, but you're giving people the least amount of information for the most impact," said Mayo. "They don't need to know exactly who my grandfather is (or) how long it took to build these things. It's the emotion behind these pieces ... it's the emotional thread of the film."
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