Saturday, January 24, 2015

Narrator for Frances Glessner Lee documentary?


I love this photo of Frances Glessner Lee from our documentary film - courtesy of the Glessner House Museum. I can only imagine she was an excellent driver.

We are starting the process of securing a female off camera narrator for our documentary. Who do you think we should have on our short list? We had John Waters as the narrator in our previous documentary - Of Dolls & Murder and we could never capture that kind of magic again - so we want to go in a new direction. Feel free to leave your thoughts.

I once asked a room full of FBI detectives and homicide detectives who they thought should be the narrator. Any guesses to what name they shouted out?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Screenwriter Susan Marks' Bio


Writer Susan Marks with a Nutshell Study of Unexplained Death

Susan Marks is screenwriter, author and  documentary filmmaker. She is the recipient of two Jerome filmmaking grants, a McKnight fellowship and Upper Midwest Regional Emmy. Her recent documentary film, Of Dolls & Murder, about dollhouse crime scenes, features legendary filmmaker John Waters as narrator. Her screenplay, Finding Poppy Pepperdine was a quarter-finalist in the Academy Nicholl Fellowship competition. 

Her current projects include screenplay, Dollhouse of Death about the Frances Glessner Lee and a documentary film, Her Miniature Life of Crime - also about Frances.

Susan's past projects include the book Finding Betty Crocker (Simon & Schuster 2005) and documentary film, The Betty Mystique. Susan also wrote the book In the Mood for Munsingwear and made the documentary, Inside the Speakeasy Dollhouse



Friday, January 16, 2015

The Nutshell Studies of Unexpained Death Photos

Through making two documentaries, I've had the honor and privilege to take many trips to visit Frances Glessner Lee's Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death at the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

I must have taken over 1000 photos over the past 7 years or so - in several different formats.

And yes, I know the solutions to the Nutshells and no, I'm not telling. But if you're clever - you just may figure them out.
























Sunday, January 11, 2015

The inigmatic Frances Glessner Lee




We are such big fans of Frances Glessner Lee that we made one documentary film about her and her Nutshells, we're almost done with a second doc and I wrote a screenplay about her that I'm happy to say turned out better than I could have ever imagined. 

True, you didn't read about Frances in history class and most people have no idea who she was even though she changed the course of forensic history. But give it time. This "Patron Saint of Forensic Science" has a legacy that's too astounding to ignore:

Frances and her dystopic dollhouses took the criminal justice world by storm in the 1930s. Despite strong-held gender biases of the era to leave police work to men, Frances became a pioneer in the new field of forensics - forever changing the course of history. 


Lee is affectionately revered as the Patron Saint of Forensics, but outside of the criminal justice system today, few people know she was one of the greatest crusaders for criminal justice in the United States. As a senior citizen, she ventured into the new field of forensics or legal medicine, as it was known in the 1930s. In this era women were not widely accepted in the realms of science and criminology. Yet this didn’t stop Lee from establishing the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard in order to elevate the field of law enforcement to a scientific level. Interestingly, at the time women weren’t allowed to attend Harvard.

On the surface, Lee played the part - impeccably - of the wealthy heiress from the Victorian era. She was also extremely intelligent, and had plenty of strong opinions, which terrified her proper parents. Lee’s father, one of the founders of International Harvester, forbade her from attending college, insisting that education was wasted on women. Her brother, of course, was able to attend college. Lee married young, had three children, and then divorced her husband, creating a major rift in the family. Without money of her own, Lee spent much of her adult life trapped under the thumb parents.

A bright spot in Lee’s life was her friendship with Dr. George Magrath. She was introduced to him when her brother and Magrath attended Harvard together. Lee was fascinated with his controversial career as a medical examiner in Boston, which often landed him on the front page of newspapers – embroiled in controversy. Lee and Magrath spent many late nights talking through details of crime scenes and grisly murders. Through him, Lee took on his fight to better educate police detectives in processing/investigating crime scenes from a medical perspective.

In a stroke of genius, Lee created a miniature world of murder and intrigue with her Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death – dollhouses used to help train detectives in a seminar series of her own design. She wanted to give detectives a tool to look closer at murders, accidental deaths, and suicides because they are not always what they appear. In the process of co-opting this accepted feminine pastime, making miniatures, Lee gained widespread admiration in fields dominated by men.

The death of her dear friend, Dr. Magrath, deepened her commitment to educating law enforcement and reforming the antiquated coroner system. Lee went on to become the first woman member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and an honorary police captain in the New Hampshire State Police, with full rights and privileges.
In her later years, Lee continued to surprise people and do the unexpected. 

She corresponded with J. Edgar Hoover and became ever vigilant in reporting any suspicious communist activity in the height of the “Red Scare.” Lee also became close with author Erle Stanley Gardner, famous for his Perry Mason novels, after he attended her seminar series. One of his novels, The Case of the Dubious Bridegroom is dedicated to her. Around the same time, Lee, a lifelong atheist who believed only in science, converted to Catholicism.

In 1962, at the age of 83, Lee died in Littleton, New Hampshire. Hundreds of members of law enforcement from all over the United States and Canada came to pay their respects. The organization Lee founded in 1944, the Harvard Associates of Police Science, is still in operation today, holding conferences and seminar series. And her Nutshells Studies are a still used as a much-protected teaching tool at the Maryland Office of Chief Medical Examiner. When homicide investigators and forensic experts gather, they always toast the woman that pioneered the field.

Want to know more? You will. Soon. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Frances Glessner Lee Documentary FIlm Update


Film editing can be a slow process, but it's even slower if you don't do it! That's why I'm so grateful that I have a producing partner - we keep each other on track. It's hard to imagine producing a documentary film on one's own. For more updates on our progress, go here.

The film is coming together beautifully. More beautifully than I ever imagined. I feel lucky to be working on such a great project about such an incredible phenomenon like The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death and the incorporable Frances Glessner Lee.

Meanwhile, if you need a Frances Glessner Lee fix - we have a special DVD offer. We usually don't do this kind of thing but it's the holidays and we would love for our films to get into the hands of people who don't normally buy DVDs. (And everyone knows the best part about owning a DVD are the DVD extras! In fact, we ran out of room on our Of Dolls & Murder DVD because it's full up with extras! Including some whip smart interviews with John Waters! )

Yours for only $10! But it ends forever on Dec 31st.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

We've got your Black Friday right here!


This holiday season you can get both Of Dolls & Murder and Inside the Speakeasy Dollhouse for $9.99 plus S&H. But this deal will go fast so order yours today. (Nope you don't have to wait until wait until Black Friday)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Frances Glessner Lee documentary status update

We had a great day in the edit today. Our documentary of Frances Glessner Lee is coming together beautifully. We are so gratefully to the Glessner House for providing us with some key imagery.

Have you been to Frances Glessner Lee's childhood home in Chicago? If not, drop everything and go there!

The vacationing Glessner family. No one knows who is playing the guitar. But you can spot Frances Glessner Lee?