Filmmaker Notes

By Connie, Producer


I knew Laury Sacks three years.  The first year getting to know her.  The second year watching her disappear. And the third year watching her die. In those three years, I struck up a most unusual relationship with a woman who couldn’t express herself, couldn’t stop pacing, couldn’t instigate a conversation, couldn’t stop making trips to the bathroom…couldn’t reciprocate as a friend.  This was a woman who had a terrifying brain disease, but for a year, I thought she didn’t like me. Says something about this woman, this disease, and my insecurities.

Laury Sacks had dementia.  But her girlfriends didn’t know.  What was happening to this chatty, vital woman? Maybe a stroke, a breakdown, depression, medication or had she simply lost interest in their friendship…Frontotemporal dementia is tricky that way.  You see, it creeps into the brains of people in the prime of their life. People who have young kids, marriages, work, vacations planned, things they want to do.  Laury was 46.

Laury was an actress.  It seemed only fitting to document her story.  She agreed.  Without words, she called a friend, handed me the phone, and on the other end was Pam Hogan, a woman who knew how to make a documentary.

Time is key, especially when you don’t have a lot of it, so we got the cameras rolling.  Through Kat Patterson’s lens, we saw the day to day life of Laury Sacks quickly begin to unravel. She gradually lost pieces of herself…as a mother, a wife, an independent thinker.

Sometimes it seemed she knew.  Just as often, it seemed she didn’t.

Laury was captain of our ship. Until she wasn’t. Pam and I agreed we would know when to stop shooting. That time came soon enough. Another factor of FTD–it’s fast and furious. Laury spent her last months in a facility outside of New York.  One of her oldest friends, Lois, visited her. Lois told us that Laury wouldn’t want half her story told, but the whole story. So the cameras revved up one last time. What did we see?  A woman who had wasted away.  A woman who still laughed.

I certainly didn’t know Laury in her heyday, which I heard was quite something.  I never knew the woman with the sharp banter, incredible sense of humor and the most generous, gracious friend.  What I knew was the core of a woman. The bare roots of someone when everything else is stripped away.  The essence.  A place where dementia cannot reach.

By Pam, Director & Producer

Looks Like Laury promo photo 3

What would you do if your friend started to disappear – and asked you to make a film about it? That was the gauntlet my close friend Laury threw down one Fall afternoon.

I was riding in a cab when my phone rang. I picked it up, and Laury said “Pam! Talk to Connie!” It was the longest sentence I’d heard from Laury in a while. She sounded excited, and I found out why. Connie had just suggested to Laury that since she was having trouble talking, and couldn’t really write any more, maybe film would give her an outlet. A way to break through her isolation. Laury jumped at the idea, and I was in.

The next day, over a cup of coffee at Fairway café, Laury whipped out her address book and pointed at the names of friends she wanted in the film. Casting?  Check.  And so it began.

By this point Laury was already well into a baffling set of symptoms that were starting to look ominous, but she didn’t have a diagnosis and we were all hoping for a miracle. As we began documenting Laury’s day to day life, I saw flashes of the vital, generous, hilariously funny woman I had bonded with years earlier when our sons became fast friends at a neighborhood pre-school.  Some days you could almost fool yourself into thinking she was starting to come back.

Ever the actress, Laury lit up whenever the camera was on; she loved our cinematographer Kat Patterson and we quickly dropped the documentarian’s mantra of “don’t look at the camera,” since she couldn’t stop beaming at Kat as we rolled. And when she got tired, usually after a few hours of filming, she’d rip off her microphone and cheerfully hand it to Kat by way of goodbye.

It was only when Kat spent her first morning filming Laury solo that we saw the depths. The kids were off at school, husband Eric at work, no friends on the schedule, no one helping her navigate the confusion. Our hearts broke that day.

In the end there was no miracle.  Just a sacred trust that we would help Laury tell her last story.  And wonder at how much of the essential Laury still remained despite all that was taken away.

This is not the film I wanted to make.  I wanted to make a film about an incredible woman who got better after being very sick.  I hope someone will make that film some day. The day when there’s finally a cure for the horrible disease that cut down Laury.