For the past six years, documentary filmmaker, Jamie Rogers, has been estranged from her adopted sister, Kelly, for reasons that her parents refused to explain. Through a series of intimate interviews, Jamie explores the events starting with Kelly’s adoption from Peru, leading up to her eventual separation from the family. Jamie Rogers has directed and starred in her own documentary, Invisible Sister, in order to unearth those painful secrets in an attempt to find healing in truth.
Jamie Rogers is a New York-born, Los Angeles-based filmmaker, who recently graduated from Emerson College. Invisible Sister is her directorial debut film. She has also produced numerous short films including Let Go & Sugar Baby. In addition, she works in documentary features, TV, music videos & commercials. She has worked on projects that have screened at Sundance, Tribeca, as well as on PBS. She is a freelance videographer & the Social Media Manager for United Notions Film.
Laura Knapp: Jamie, we have known each other for a few years, but I had never seen one of your films until Invisible Sister. I feel deprived, and stupid that it took me so long to see one of your movies because you are tremendously talented and have the ability to make your viewers feel as if they are right there with you. What was the trigger that made you want to share your deeply personal story with the world?
Jamie Rogers: Wow, thanks Laura! Well, the film addresses my relationship with my sister who has been disconnected with my family for over six years. It’s a very complicated situation that I always felt troubled by, and a whole mess of other feelings, helplessness a big one. In my sophomore year of college I made a short film of my then 90-year old aunt. This was my first trek into “personal documentary.” When my aunt died soon after, I recognized the importance of documenting my family and the people I love, and decided it was something I wanted to keep doing.
From there, I think my biggest trigger was realizing that this disconnect was affecting a lot of my family members and not just me. It’s something no one would talk about, but it has been the elephant in the room for years. I decided one night I didn’t want to later regret not trying to remedy the situation, so I decided it was time and I knew that filming the experience would push me to go through with it.
LK: How emotional was the experience of making Invisible Sister? Were there days when you felt uncomfortable sharing so much familial information to the public, or was the filming process therapeutic?
JR: Well, when you’re making a film at Emerson College, everyone is constantly asking you about it. I got pretty used to explaining the situation so that helped. Also, we had a very small (but amazing) crew who all knew the story and were really invested in the project. They were as eager as I was to know how the story would unfold, which was so nice. For the most part during filming I was able to keep my feelings pretty muted. However, at times there were moments when interviewing my family was tough.
LK: When and how did you start becoming so interested in documentary films?
JR: Documentary kind of just fell into my lap. My first internship was at this documentary production company, kNow Productions. When I started working there, I was getting involved in all these really cool, interesting projects about things like internet addiction in China and the cocaine industry in Bolivia. I met some great people and became drawn to the passion it takes to drive these films to completion. Even though there’s little money in it, it’s definitely a personally fulfilling profession.
LK: Where was Invisible Sister filmed? Were you able to travel to Peru for filming?
JR: We filmed Invisible Sister at my house in New York, my apartment in Boston at the time, and in Lima, Peru. I was lucky enough that my Peruvian grandma’s surprise 80th birthday party was happening on a weekend when I had no plans, and that my mom decided we should go surprise her. I took this opportunity to film as much as I could and get some amazing footage I never thought I’d be able to have. It ended up working out so well and illustrated narratives that we were having trouble visualizing. I am so proud everyday to have Peru in my blood, and even more proud to have it in my film!
LK: Knowing that Invisible Sister involved many personal interviews with your family, how many people were involved in the filming of Invisible Sister?
JR: We had a crew of only four people at all times, at most. My coproducer/BFF, Erin St. Pierre did our location sound, and we had two awesome cinematographers, David Nieman and Josh Waterman. Our bud, Victor Viega rounded out our dream team and doubled as an assistant camera person and assistant editor. Pablo Calderòn-Santiago also AC’ed one weekend and was great. It was important to have people who were invested in the project and were also sensitive to the situation, so we were lucky everyone was wonderful and supportive.
LK: How has your family felt about the creation of this film? Were they keen on the idea of sharing their story with the public?
JR: My family was very skeptical of the film at first and my parents tried to back out numerous times. It’s hard to address past issues that were painful, but I had the mentality that finally openly discussing these issues could bring us closer together and give us a better understanding of each other. While I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to say they’re completely comfortable with it all, I think they respect that I made a pretty great film from our story. And I do think we all got some kind of closure from finally addressing this issue head-on.
LK: What are the future plans for Invisible Sister now that it is completely finished? Do you have any new movie ideas?
JR: We recently won 2 EVVY awards, for Outstanding Documentary and Outstanding Non-Fiction Editing (shouts out to the best editor ever, Erin St. Pierre). Since then, we’ve been working on fundraising and prepping the film to be submitted to film festivals around the world. We’ve received so much great feedback on the film we felt it’d be wasteful not to try our hand at the festival circuit, so stay tuned!
As for movie ideas, there’s a lot I want to do. I just moved to LA, so right now I’m just working on getting situated here for a while, but eventually I’d love to make documentaries in Peru about my family, but also about other social issues. I really just want to travel and keep making films about things that interest me and that I’m passionate about. Erin and I will be producing content through our new production company banner, Llama Films, so stay tuned there to see what’s coming down the pipeline. I definitely want to keep making at least a couple short films a year until I can afford to make a feature. So we’ll see how long that takes.
To see the trailer for Jamie Roger’s film Invisible Sister and to donate money to the project please click here: http://www.llamafilms.com/