Making Still Sophie

Spiritual Cinema Circle

Caroline Knight is a Nashville native and a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at The University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Shortly after graduating in 2017, she moved to New York to pursue a career in post-production.

How did you meet Sophie, and decide to make this film?

Partly through the encouragement of my mentor and collaborator on this film, Chad McClarnon--and my mother. Chad's wife Trista works with Sophie in occupational therapy and my mother worked with her in speech therapy. Through my mother, I would always hear about Sophie's awesome personality and progress. In 2016, I received an opportunity from 100 Words Film Festival to direct a short film based on a non-profit cause. Trista had coincidentally organized a support group called SASS (Seriously Awesome Stroke Survivors) of which Sophie was an active member. I called Chad to see what he thought and so began our journey with Sophie, who was very eager to make the film.

How did you settle on the “Errol Morris” approach, with Sophie speaking to the camera?

That question is somewhat difficult to answer because a lot of different factors led us to this decision: the rules of 100 Words Film Festival, our budget, Sophie's background in theater... We wanted Sophie to communicate to the audience without giving away any predispositions about her condition, meaning that we couldn't show any signs that she might have something different about her (e.g., her ankle and wrist brace, and the speaking difficulties of her aphasia). After lots of brainstorming sessions and phone calls and storyboarding, Chad and I had tossed around many different ideas for months and finally landed on the direct-to-camera approach. I think what makes the film so impactful is that it delays revealing information so that she can tell her story directly and on her terms. Witnessing Sophie tell her own story is such a beautiful, beautiful experience and I am so pleased to be able to share that with others.

Did you film many questions that you didn’t end up using?

Not too many, from the actual theater. There’s an initial interview that we shot before we had decided on the in-theater approach and so we ended up not using any of it. That’s about three hours of unused footage.

The title is so perfect. How did that line come about?

We played around with a few other variations but Still Sophie just seemed the most fitting and original.

What would you like our members to take away from seeing this film?

I hope stroke survivors see themselves in Sophie and feel understood. I also hope it gives non-stroke survivors a better ability to empathize and connect with those who live with aphasia. Do you know anyone who has experienced a stroke? Have you reached out to them lately? Life after stroke can be a very isolating experience and I hope you will consider getting involved with the stroke survivor community near you!

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