The Independent spoke with Jane Bernstein about what is was like being the subject of her daughter’s documentary about her relationship with her other daughter. Filmmaker Charlotte Glynn is featured in The Independent’s Ten to Watch in 2010 for her film Rachel Is which follows her sister Rachel, who has special needs.
You’ve written books about your daughter, Rachel. What was it like seeing your other daughter, Charlotte, take a similar career path as you with this documentary about Rachel?
Jane Bernstein: On some level, it’s beyond fabulous to have a kid whose work you really understand. Charlotte has her own talents that are different then mine. I’m incredibly proud of her. You never really know when they’re little how aggressively they are going to pursue a career path. I’m delighted. I hope she doesn’t have to struggle too much as a filmmaker.
This film must be very personal to you and your family…one daughter made it about your other daughter and you. What did you think when Charlotte decided to make this film?
Bernstein: Her making the film overlapped with me writing the second Rachel book – and we lived it. So it was all Rachel, all the time. Charlotte had also made a short, as an undergrad, about Rachel. She felt a great responsibility being an older sister to Rachel and, as an artist, you work through your issues with your work, so I wasn’t surprised.
What was the first sign that Charlotte would become a filmmaker?
Bernstein: As a kid, she had a good sense of direction and space and a very visual imagination. She loved making dioramas, which is like a still frame within a movie. I worked as a screenwriter, and Charlotte would come to the set. When she was about 14, she was interviewed for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, and when they asked her what she wanted to be, she said “a well-respected filmmaker.” Not a “famous filmmaker” or anything like that…and I right away I thought “uh-oh, poverty.”
Tell us about the experience of being the subject of this family made documentary.
Bernstein: I’m glad that I had the background of being a memoirist because I had a strong sense of Charlotte’s method and work. I gave her free reign; I knew it was honorable work. I’m depicted as Rachel’s mother. I’m not depicted as a super-rounded person; I mean, there are other aspects of me depicted in the film, but it’s the story of me raising Rachel, not the story of my life. I come across as dour and serious. I was a mother struggling to maintain other pieces of my life. I can’t say that I was happy with the image of myself in the film, but that’s how it was. It’s a great film.