- Tell us about yourself and how you got into filmmaking.
Ever since I can remember I wanted to be an actor. I asked my mom to let me take an acting class at the Miracle Mile Playhouse in Miami where I grew up. I got the part for Michael in Peter Pan but my mom wouldn’t drive me everyday to rehearsals. I am still resentful at her for that.
I continued acting from that point on. I was the lead in Junior High in “Our Town.” I auditioned for PAVAC which is now New World School of the Arts. I won Best Supporting Actor of the State of Florida and at the Southeast Regional Conference.
As I was getting ready to apply to universities, my parents once again got me nervous and deterred me by saying that I would be an unemployed waiter in New York. That scared me enough so I left acting and attended Arizona State and thought I wanted to become a warden at a prison. I came back to Miami after graduating and ended up acting again and landed a few minor roles on Miami Vice. Once again mom and dad said I better go to law school, so I moved to Los Angeles. After a year and half in law school, I once again got the bug to explore my creative side and ended up at UCLA film extension program. I was working on any film I could get involved with. One time I was a prop master for a short film and had to get a stuffed dog. My apartment manager came in and called my mom in Florida saying there was a dead dog on my sofa. I moved back to Miami and immersed myself in the film industry and went to University of Miami MFA program in Film Production. I got my first screen credit on Quentin Tarantino’s “Curdled” as “Key Set Production Assistant.” That was my first feature film screen credit and I must say it was pretty cool. My thesis project, which I produced and directed, was a 35 mm film called “Rita, Pigboy and Me,” which won 18 awards and was screened at more than 45 film festivals, including being a finalist in the Student Academy Awards.
This film “When All That’s Left is Love,” is a my first feature film. It is very personal to me since the primary subjects are my mom and dad. It took 6 years to complete and was my final project from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
- You are screening your award-winning film, “When All That’s Left is Love” next month, tell us about the documentary and where we can catch the screening.
“When All That’s Left is Love” is the emotionally gripping story of a wife’s determination to care for her Alzheimer’s-stricken husband in their home. Despite immense strain, she’s successful—until life forces her to consider other options. With unprecedented intimacy and access, the film reveals the toll that the disease takes on families coping with Alzheimer’s, while simultaneously showcasing the opportunities, humor and light seen by those who care for them.
“When All That’s Left is Love” is a sensitively directed documentary about the caregivers of individuals suffering from dementia. The audience is drawn inside the emotionally gripping story of the filmmaker’s own parents, the two main subjects of the feature-length film. Director Eric Gordon has returned to live with his parents so that he can relieve his aging mother, Marilyn, of the sole care for his Alzheimer’s-afflicted father, Shelly. Eric joins his mother in caregiving, even as he captures unprecedented footage of the progression of his father’s illness and his mother’s increasing inability to cope.
“When All That’s Left is Love” is unique in that it is the only known contemporary film about Alzheimer’s that presents the difficult inside story of the caregivers’ journey, as viewed by a son. Eric Gordon’s story focuses on his mother Marilyn and a neighbor, Arline Rothman, as they struggle to care at home for spouses who are living with moderate to severe stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Gordon shows us the other side of Alzheimer’s: the lives of caregivers who are courageous and worthy, yet utterly human, individuals, and who—out of love— have taken on the most overwhelming role of their lives.
Gordon’s mother Marilyn—on duty 24/7, feeling as trapped as her husband is—has entered a state of near collapse, both physical and emotional. Nothing has prepared her for managing her husband’s difficult and ever-changing behaviors. The emotionally taut scenes reveal the sense of a long-married couple’s everyday life turned on its head. Despite the pain of transitioning to a new time in their relationship, the love that clearly sustained them for so many years is ever-present and something they repeat to each other, even when it is the only thing in their life that makes sense to them.
You can see the first South Florida public screening at the Movies of Delray on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 9 a.m. This is a free event and for the first hour I am serving a continental breakfast and after the screening of the film we will have special guest speakers who will talk about various topics surrounding the topic of Alzheimer’s caregivers.
I must add that none of this would be possible without the generous support of my local and national presenting sponsors The Roskamp Institute, Diginity Memorial, The Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment Centers and Senior Information Centers.
- What was it like filming your own family?
It was a very difficult time for our family as you can imagine. I first started this film because my dad was entering a new program for experimental drugs. I remember going to our neurologist and he told my mom and I that there was nothing else he could do for us. My mom was heartbroken and lost all hope. Fortunately, my mom found an amazing doctor in our area, Dr. David Watson, who took my dad in one of the clinical trials. I asked him if I could film the program without knowing that things were beginning to turn on its head. I literally had a camera in one hand 24 hours while helping my mom as best as I could.
- What was the most challenging part? What was the most rewarding?
This was a very difficult project to take on because the footage was so heartbreaking to watch back. It took me at least a year before I began to review all the footage. I was shocked what I captured on film, because many times I just put the camera down and let it roll even when I wasn’t in the room. I had hundreds of hours of footage and it was painstaking not only to watch the downfall of my dad as well as the heartbreaks of my mom, but to get it down to a little over an hour. I still cry every time I watch the film.
I made this film out of love and I think the most rewarding part is to know that I am making a difference in the lives of other caregivers. I hope that caregivers and their families are more prepared to take on this impossible role as a caregiver. I hope people will be better prepared to handle the hardships they are about to face with this horrendous disease through our experiences.
- The film has already won awards including “Best Overall Feature Documentary” and “Making a DiFFerence Feature Documentary” at several film festivals. What does it mean to win these types of awards?
I think that awards are great to receive. They are meaningful nods from the industry professionals and film scholars that the film is making an impact on educating the public about an important topic. It also helps make the film more valuable. To me personally, winning these awards affirms that people appreciate the hard work, passion and dedication that was put into finishing this very personal story. I am truly honored to be blessed that people acknowledge the importance of this piece of art.