The story of 'She'

PHOTO PROVIDEDAuthor Aimée Baker sits for filming during the production of the documentary ‘She’, based on Baker’s 2018 poetry collection, ‘Doe.’ Inspired by the case of a woman whose body was found along the highway near Phoenix, Ariz., the book of poems centers on the lives of missing or unidentified women.

PLATTSBURGH — "Doe," a book of poems centered on the lives of missing or unidentified women, will get a second life in the upcoming documentary, "She."  

MY 'DOE?'

Author Aimée Baker described the poetry collection as her "baby." 

"Writing it really changed me as a person, how I see the world and how I see myself as a writer," she told The Press-Republican. 

So when Jason Greer and Vanessa Cicarelli, of Greer Cicarelli Photography and Birdy & Bean Films, first asked the SUNY Plattsburgh professor to turn the award-winning book into a documentary, she wasn't so sure. 

"Initially I was thinking, 'My 'Doe?' No,'" she said with a laugh. "But then we sat down.

"It has been great to see it taken in a direction, through the documentary, that will hopefully draw attention to the subject matter itself."

JANE DOE

The written project started in 2008. 

Baker, a then Master of Fine Arts in creative writing student at Arizona State University, had been procrastinating. 

"On that day of procrastination, there was a news article about this woman who, nine years prior, her body had been found along the highway leaving Phoenix, Ariz.," Baker said. "She was young, she had this blue heart tattoo on her chest.

"I think it was the first time that I had ever confronted how this could be, that this woman could be taken out of her life and then even nine years later, no one knew who she was." 

MORE AND MORE 

After "peeling" back the layers of that case, Baker found more and more missing and/or unidentified women across the United States.

"That kicked off a seven-year project," she said. 

Though 300,000 U.S. women went missing each year, the writer found cases most heard of were those "easy to care about," like younger women harmed at no fault of their own.

"But there are other women who don’t fit that criteria who the news media will often not cover as extensively," she said, noting age and drug use as factors. 

"One of the things I hope is that we can expand our notion of caring to include all sorts of situations."

SEVEN-YEAR PROJECT

Using what she knew, and her imagination, the fiction writer became a poet, writing poems about the women, giving them voices, feelings and stories. 

"These poems were an act of remembrance and, hopefully, a way for us to make sense of this, or call attention to what is happening to women in America," Baker said. 

By its end, the 50-poem collection included 25 poems about missing women and the other 25 about unidentified women, or Jane Does. 

It has won awards, like The University of Akron's Akron Poetry Prize, which supported its 2018 publication. 

SHE

Greer and Cicarelli, known locally as photographers, created home videos for years, but recently dipped their toes further into the videography industry, filming commercials. 

The couple had been familiar with Baker's work and Cicarelli said, "the concept just blew me away." 

With so many documentaries about serial killers, "Doe," had made them pause. 

"We don’t often hear about the women that are the victims," Cicarelli said, adding that the documentary, "She," would do just that.

"We are going to talk about this idea of these women being missing, weave in some of Amy’s poems and intertwine that with facts about the cases," Cicarelli said.

"In no part of this are we going to mention the people who harmed these women. It’s going to be about the victims; this is going to be for them."

MAKING A DOCUMENTARY 

The film, hoped to be finished in fall 2020, was a partnership between Greer and Cicarelli's Birdy & Bean Films and Sue Vicory of Heartland Films. 

"She," to focus on seven cases, would feature three female voices: Baker's, as well as that of an older woman and a younger woman.

The older voice was to be that of actress Kate Mulgrew, known for her portrayal of Galina "Red" Reznikov in television series Orange is the New Black and Kathryn Janeway of the Star Trek series.  

The project, looking to raise $25,000, has started a GoFundMe at https://www.gofundme.com/f/xczcd3-she.

Funds would support various costs, like that of narration, as well as access to archived video clips from the time and place of each woman's case. 

'LEAVES AN IMPRESSION'

Once completed, the film will be submitted to contests and Greer and Cicarelli hoped it would get some local and national attention.

"On one hand, I want them to honor 'Doe,' but on the other, I want them to support their vision as filmmakers," Baker said of the project.

"There are two separate projects with three separate creators. So far, it has been a wonderful experience." 

Cicarelli said, if the documentary comes together the way they've all imagined, "hopefully it leaves an impression."

Email McKenzie Delisle: 

mdelisle@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @McKenzieDelisle

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