Editor and Camera Operator

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Editor and Camera Operator

Suicide. A real curveball. It was a topic I hadn’t thought too hard about until I was asked to shoot video for a suicide documentary — one that has since been titled “The S Word.” I remember my initial coffee meeting with Lisa Klein, the director of the film. She asked me if I would be comfortable working on a film about suicide. “Sure!” I said. Having just moved to Los Angeles from Michigan three months prior to pursue a career in filmmaking, I was eager to dip my toes in whatever metaphorical waters I could, and this project sounded important.

Josh with Director Lisa Klein filming for The S Word in Oakland, California, 2016.

Josh with Director Lisa Klein filming for The S Word in Oakland, California, 2016.

We kicked our collaboration off in style at 2014’s annual American Association of Suicidology’s National Conference. I filmed panelist after panelist — attempt survivors, individuals who had lost loved ones to suicide, suicidologists, and medical professionals. My suicide information database quadrupled over the course of just a few hours. How had I not known more about this subject before? As the neurotic son of both a psychiatrist (Dad) and psychologist (Mom), mental illness had not exactly been a taboo for me. I was extremely comfortable talking about my own insecurities to those around me (sometimes to a fault — when I’d expressed my hesitance about filming this very conference due to “my lack of experience” to the director, her response was: “you’re not selling yourself very well”) so it was tough to imagine a world in which coming out as “suicidal” was the ultimate red flag. Unfortunately, this is the world in which we live.

josh-bayer-kelechi

After days of filming, organizing footage, and collaborating with the director on a totally separate project, I was promoted from camera intern to lead editor of the film. I digested hour after hour of suicide intel. Stories of suicidal individuals who were so terrified to “come out” that they bottled it all up inside and ultimately unleashed this pent-up energy in the form of a suicide attempt. Stories of psychologists who are appalled at the lack of training and resources — on a national scale — to effectively deal with this illness. The fact that suicidality is an illness — a notion that had never occurred to me before working on this film, and that has truly changed my entire perception of the issue.

Partway through the making of this film, I lost my high school drama teacher to suicide. Micah Greene. He was one of my closest artistic companions. A truly free thinker. Someone who I would send literally anything that I made — whether it be a piece of writing or a short film — and know that he would understand it better than I did. I am still grappling with the fact that he is gone. In fact, writing this now, the reality of his absence is hitting me harder than ever before. He was such a loved individual. Everyone I had gone to high school with who had him as a teacher had cited him as one of their most influential educators and mentors. But even with all of this love and the lives he had touched, he still ultimately decided to leave us. I can only imagine the amount of psychological anguish he must have been in. He was such a selfless individual, and his decision to leave is one that I’m sure couldn’t have been easy. I don’t know much about his personal life, and for all I know he was extremely open with his friends and relatives about his suicidal thoughts — but it’s tough not to think back on our deep, existential conversations and wonder if this is something he’d kept a total secret. Something he felt like he couldn’t share with anyone. Something that could’ve been prevented if only he’d felt safe to discuss it.

Almost three years after having joined team “S Word,” we released the trailer for our film. I had never been prouder of anything I’d made in my entire life. It was a bite-size trinket of everything I’d learned from working on the movie — about both filmmaking and suicide — and I wanted to share it with the world. I remember scrolling through my contacts list and imagining people’s reactions as they watched it. My hungry fingers typed out email after email after Facebook message — family members, former teachers, friends, anyone who might click on the link and pass it on. As I approached the name “Micah Greene,” I felt downright giddy. Then I froze and remembered he was gone. It was as if I hadn’t even realized it before then. A lump lodged in my throat as it occurred to me that the person I was most excited to share this project with was no longer around.

Working on “The S Word” has been an unforgettable experience. I’ve gone from someone who was exceptionally naive in the suicide department (a category I now think a vast majority of our country falls into) to someone who constantly worries that all of his closest companions are harboring deep-seated suicidal tendencies (a category that mainly leads to a lot of anxiety, awkwardness, and in-the-moment relief once I’ve confronted people about it, only to learn that they’ve thought about it, but just “would never.”). It has been a journey. One of loss, epiphanies, and constantly having to explain to people that “this project isn’t depressing.” Because as horrifying a topic as suicide may be — few things in this world are less horrifying — it’s the fear to discuss it that is ultimately more lethal than anything else.

 

By | 2017-02-10T09:32:02+00:00 January 3rd, 2017|Stories, Suicide Prevention, Surviving Suicide|18 Comments

About the Author:

Josh Bayer is a writer, director, editor and cinematographer from West Bloomfield, Michigan. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 2011, edited and art directed music videos for Giant Eel Productions (a startup company in Detroit specializing in 3D media) and wrote and directed an award-winning short film for Super Soaker in 2012. He has since migrated to Los Angeles, where he is currently filming and editing documentaries with MadPix Films, and was lead editor on the recently finished romantic comedy feature “Cloudy With A Chance Of Sunshine.” His short films (ranging from the brazenly experimental to the darkly comedic) have appeared in festivals nationwide (Palm Springs, CineQuest, Accolade, Zero, Detroit Independent, etc.), and are a source of joy among kindergartners, stay-at-home hipster dads, and food lovers.

18 Comments

  1. Rudy Caseres January 4, 2017 at 8:57 am - Reply

    Thank you Josh for your work. I look forward to seeing the entire film soon.

    • Josh Bayer January 5, 2017 at 9:47 am - Reply

      Thank you, Rudy! Looking forward to the premiere as well!

  2. Sophia Harris January 4, 2017 at 11:05 am - Reply

    Thanks, in advance. Looking forward to release of the film soon.

    • Josh Bayer January 5, 2017 at 9:47 am - Reply

      Thank you for your support, Sophia!

  3. Albert Bayer January 4, 2017 at 11:13 am - Reply

    Josh,
    Such a thoughtful, heartfelt, and well-written piece…. A beautiful job on on difficult and sensitive subject. Clearly you have owned your experience through this process emotionally and yet have managed to present it objectively. I love you and am so very proud of you!
    Love,
    Dad

    • Josh Bayer January 5, 2017 at 9:46 am - Reply

      An accurate assessment. Will continue my hard work on the premises! Love, Josh

  4. Karen Brody January 4, 2017 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    So proud of what you continue to accomplish!!! I know that MB would be proud of you, too!!! Thanks for your work!

    • Josh Bayer January 5, 2017 at 9:45 am - Reply

      Thank you too, Karen! Definitely would not be where I am today if it weren’t for all of the love and support I experienced at WBHS…hoping to pay it forward.

  5. Wendy January 4, 2017 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    Josh, so well written and expressed with such a current topic. Probably not so current but to all of us with now grown kids, we seem to hear a lot more about it. Looking forward to seeing the documentary. Kudos to your mom for her inspiration, I’m sure.

    Wendy Danzig.

    • Josh Bayer January 5, 2017 at 9:45 am - Reply

      Thank you, Wendy. Definitely a topic that deserves way more exposure. And certainly following in my mom’s footsteps, despite the markedly different career path…her inspiration has been strong!

  6. Kevin Walsh January 5, 2017 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    This was amazing, thoughtful, and beautiful, Josh. Thank you so much for your insight and expressing Micah’s amazing impact so well. It’s such a beautiful and small world that you met Lisa and Doug and could work together on such an important topic. God bless!

    • Josh Bayer January 6, 2017 at 12:02 pm - Reply

      God bless to you too, Kevin! Micah’s legacy will live on forever through all of us he touched. Looking forward to sharing the film as widely as possible once it is finished, to keep this conversation alive and out of the shadows.

  7. Betsy Greene January 5, 2017 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    Josh, I just read your piece on suicide. What a beautiful piece and full of insight! I had no idea nor did other family members realize Micah was suffering from depression! He kept it from everyone (to my knowledge)! A good actor ! He was a wonderful son and brother! I truly wish I had known about his depression! This illness is wide spread among all ages! Congrations , Josh and continued success! Hope to see you some day as well as your work!

    • Josh Bayer January 6, 2017 at 12:01 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Betsy! And thank you so much for sharing…Micah was such an amazing person. There’s only so much a film can do to address the issue of suicide, but your post has given me even more motivation to make sure this film reaches as many people as it can. Please stay in touch! Would love to meet up at one of the premieres.

  8. higher education February 3, 2017 at 6:50 am - Reply

    Admiring the persistence you put into your website and in depth information you provide. It’s awesome to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same outdated rehashed material. Fantastic read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

    • Josh Bayer February 3, 2017 at 11:35 am - Reply

      Awesome — thank you for sharing!

  9. Samantha Lowry February 5, 2017 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    Thank you for writing this. You’ve bridged a gap between those who have lost someone to suicide and the rest of the world.

    • Josh Bayer February 5, 2017 at 10:48 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Samantha! It was extremely cathartic to write — definitely a topic that deserves to be discussed more freely and candidly on a much wider scale.

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