Like most humans, I have a morbid fascination with death. I’ve often wondered how people who work surrounded by death cope with what they have to see and experience on a daily basis, but I wasn’t expecting to see anything quite like the art of Abigail Goldman. Her day job can often involve hours of staring at crime scene photos or even observing autopsies as they take place, so what does she do to relax and escape at night? That’s right she creates miniatures scenes of death and destruction. Kevin Staake’s 10-minute doc Dieorama invites us to spend a brief moment in her world and take a closer look at her tiny blood-splattered creations.
Inspired to create Dieorama after his brother Ryan (director of that notorious Young Thug Music Video) purchased a piece of Abigail’s art at a gallery in NYC, Staake knew a documentary about her unusual craft would be a “slam dunk” after he heard about her backstory. Admitting to be “shocked and confused but madly intrigued” by the piece (which showed a pristine suburban yard, but with someone being cut in half with a lawn mower at its centre), the director set out to create a film which explores the connection between his subject’s day job, as an investigator for a public defender’s office in Washington state, and her passion for creating death-themed miniatures.
“These two worlds weave closely and effect each other, so I was excited to get on the ground and dig deeper into that” Staake explains. “I also just love people who “go hard” on their passions with minimal care for the reception. Abigail was compelled to make this work because she enjoyed doing it and she’s awesome at it. The positive reception and praise happened TO her, she didn’t seek it out. Abigail already has an enormous audience, but I wanted to extend the word a little further.”
Describing his approach to production as “fairly straightforward documentary filmmaking”, Staake decided to keep crew size down to a minimum, as he felt it not only made it easier to slip into Abigail’s personal life and community, but also made shooting the lots of close-ups they needed easier. Employing probe lenses to shoot the miniature scenes from less than an inch away and tilt shift lenses to inject his wide exterior shots with a miniature effect, there’s a consistent feel of the microscopic throughout the production.
Technically, Dieorama is a solid piece. The tilt shift shots, though a little cliche, feel perfectly placed in context with the film’s subject and those extreme close-ups really make you feel immersed in Goldman’s artwork. So what makes this short stand-out from the hundreds of other portrait docs regularly released online? Simple, it’s all about the story! With this film, Staake has created a relatable and entertaining piece which appeals to our fascination with death. It’s not often you watch such a morbid piece and walk away charmed, but that’s exactly what happens here. For once a film about death didn’t make me want to curl-up in a ball and ignore the inevitable and for that I thank you Kevin.
Now working on developing two episodic series and three features, ranging from a dark comedy to an action-packed thriller, Kevin is currently seeking representation for screenwriting and happy to share his scripts with anyone interested.