Help me acquire footage of the unhappy elderly
July 9, 2013 10:04 AM   Subscribe

I am making a music video to accompany a song I wrote called "Assisted Living" and I need advice about how to get the video footage I need...

My preference would be to shoot my own video, but, frankly, I can't see the managers of assisted living facilities giving me permission to do this, not to mention that I can't see the elderly residents (or their family members) being thrilled with the idea of giving me permission to take video of them.

(1) Am I wrong about this? Any tips about how to go into an assisted living facility to do this project?

(2) I can get stock footage of nursing homes, probably, but all those people (at least in the stock still photos on the web, when I search for "assisted living" images, look HAPPY, because, essentially, they are ads for the facilities. My song is not happy. It's sung by the character of an old woman who is angry and sad.) Any tips about where to find more "realistic" video of elderly people in assisted living facilities or nursing homes? (or even stills -- I could do a Ken Burns-type zooming in and out of stills if I have to).

(3) I could hire actors and somehow figure out some locations that simulate assisted living facilities (or maybe I can't).

(4) Any advice at all appreciated, as I have never done anything like this before.

The song is here, with me singing it.
posted by DMelanogaster to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Check FEMA, maybe? If it's federal, it's probably public domain.
posted by spunweb at 10:09 AM on July 9, 2013

Best answer: Check with local community theaters. They generally (at least in my area) have a ton of people in that age range who could look as unhappy as you'd like. They probably would even let you borrow some props (wheelchairs and such) that would be helpful.
posted by xingcat at 10:17 AM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Somewhere, there must be lucid old folks with a great sense of humor who are really really bored in their (totally lovely) assisted living space. If you can find them, I imagine they'd enjoy collaborating with you.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:25 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, you'd be surprised how many businesses will be generous with their materials/space for nothing more than a thank you at the end of a video or in a program or something. If you approach a nursing home and say you'll thank them for their services at the end of your video, you might be able to take over a room.

Or you could make it an activity for the people there. Lots of theater groups do shows for nursing homes...if you had some filming sessions where you gave a little lecture about how you're going to film, what the song is about, etc., it might be something that an events coordinator would eat right up. It's something new and different that might be a cool activity for some people who are bored with the routine.
posted by xingcat at 10:27 AM on July 9, 2013

For a variety of legal, regulatory, and business reasons, there is no way a nursing home or assisted living facility is going to let you film it, especially for a video about being miserable in one. Besides protecting their own business, legal and ethical interests, they are also protecting the interests of their residents and patients.

Even if, in some bizzaro world, a nursing home would let you in to film a music video, you'd have to get releases from any residents you film. Because many of the residents will have long-term mental illnesses, many of them will have kin with ROA, and you would need to contact them to sign for a video release.

This is of course to say nothing about the ethical gray area of exploiting the emotions of a person with a chronic illness in their care facility.

If you want to do this, you're going to need to get actors and stage it somehow.

Source: I know a lot about nursing homes, for better or worse.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:32 AM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

I can't see the elderly residents (or their family members) being thrilled with the idea of giving me permission to take video of them.

I think you'd be surprised. People are interesting and creative and open to new experiences and happy to help out a budding artist and all that good stuff, no matter their age.
posted by headnsouth at 10:34 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

You will find what you want- public domain video footage of unhappy old people- at Internet Archive.

There's a video out there that advertises Paro, the therapeutic robot baby seal, with a fairly involved "before and after" of sad nursing home residents and then how much more cheerful they are with Paro. I would expect that other ads for specific goods and services might follow a similar pattern.

Press releases from lawyers who specialize in nursing home misconduct may also be a useful resource.

Of course, use non-public -domain sources at your own peril.
posted by steinwald at 10:39 AM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Video Hive has some depressed looking old people and some video of elderly hands, which I find quite sad.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:46 AM on July 9, 2013

I think you're using the wrong search terms. Old man depressed and old woman depressed have plenty. Try with variations of "old" "elderly" "sad" etc.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:59 AM on July 9, 2013

I feel weird about having a forced agenda of going out and searching for people who fit your music video's emotional tenor. Would the people you're taping know that they are being used in a music video about the unhappy elderly? Would you show them the song? Would you ask them if the song reflects their experience?

I would say that the more thoughtful route (but much more time consuming) would be to spend meaningful time in an assisted living volunteering or keeping folks company and if you are touched by an aspect of the experience and compelled to share it, then do so based on what arises organically and not by imposing an external idea of how things are. (Some might be miserable; some might be deeply enjoying their old wrinkly life in fairly sterile circumstances in spite of themselves.)
posted by mermily at 12:29 PM on July 9, 2013

Response by poster: Would the people you're taping know that they are being used in a music video about the unhappy elderly? Would you show them the song? Would you ask them if the song reflects their experience?


thank you all for the fantastic ideas!
posted by DMelanogaster at 12:37 PM on July 9, 2013

Yeah, what you need is a group of actors. You pay 'em, they look and act however you want. I don't think there's a nice way to say, "I'd like to film some of your more despairing residents." Or, for that matter, to say, "I'm making a video from my song about the miseries of old age. You look old and miserable; can you tell me whether this song about depression sounds like you?"

There's an easy answer here -- actors. Amateur, if you want. they might still be free. But actors. Please.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:25 PM on July 9, 2013

I don't think you need to (or should) find older people who look and are depressed or deeply unhappy as their default state. I think you can find folks who are more or less content (but maybe a little bored) and have them act unhappy for the sake of humor, which they would be in on. Lots of younger people have the perspective to perform/create things that sort of intentionally parody their own lives, so it doesn't seem impossible for older folks to do the same.
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:22 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think you could find people who are old enough that they could pass as in "assisted living" but young or healthy enough that they still have all their facilities and are able to give informed consent to your project. You will probably find them in the least assisted of assisted living places. I don't know the terminology, but it's basically the sort of place where each person or couple has their own space, and there is minimal staff and they still cook for themselves, but it's still an "over 65" community or whatever. I think you could probably gather enough bored/interested people there to film what you want, although you'd have to supply your own props and gather them in some communal space.

Alternatively, I think the dissonance of pairing your depressed song with stock footage of old people looking really happy (especially if it's the sort of "fake happy" that they tend to use in adverts) could be way more interesting than what you are planning.
posted by lollusc at 8:41 PM on July 9, 2013

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