Sometimes an expedition leads to unexpected destinations.
Such can be said for Andrea Sisson, 25, and Pete Ohs, 29, newlyweds who met in Cincinnati but moved to Iceland for 10 months to film their first feature-length documentary under the moniker Lauren Edward
— a combination of their middle names.
The result of their trip was more than “I Send You This Place,”
however, which premiered at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
and will premiere in Cincinnati Nov. 29. It was a spiritual journey through a barren landscape, free from billboards and advertisements. And it led to great self-discovery.
Sisson, who studied fashion design at the University of Cincinnati
, traveled to Iceland alone for a winter, before later returning to shoot the film. She developed an emotional connection to its culture and the way people expressed themselves.
Sisson’s avant-garde fashion designs, which include chairs and instruments one can wear, are widely accepted in Iceland.
“I was living there, really finding a successful path with that kind of support,” Sisson says. “And it made me quite sad because I knew back in America I had a brother who didn’t have support for his drastic nature, which is bipolar schizophrenia.”
Sisson’s brother, Jake, is one of the film’s primary inspirations.
“I started getting very obsessed with the idea of, ‘if only I could help Jake with this--if only people around Jake could understand him like this’,” Sisson says. “And I wanted to change the entire world so my brother could have a place in it.”
Sisson returned to Iceland, although this time with Ohs—who had previously been living in Los Angeles—two weeks after getting married, and the couple shot the film on Sisson’s Fulbright scholarship
“Two weeks after getting to Iceland, I had sort of a meltdown,” Ohs says. “I never lived out of the country before; I missed all my comfort of home.”
In a place so foreign, a familiar setting helped Ohs overcome his struggle and adapt.
“We had to go into this grocery store, two weeks in, and Pete picked out a simple spaghetti sauce and simple spaghetti, just to get something normal,” Sisson says.
“At a certain point, you just have to let go and give in to this place, this situation you were finding yourself in, and start seeing all the power that was given, all the potential,” Ohs says. “And that tiny act in itself ended up carrying through into the film. If you watch the film, the message of it is seeing the power in something that changes the way you think, something that might have been really difficult, something that you don’t necessarily understand at first.”
Ohs, who graduated from DePauw University
with a computer science degree, says his and Sisson’s differing thought processes were challenging, but ultimately meshed well.
“[Sisson] has a very particular aesthetic and talent for seeing things and putting things together in a very non-linear way,” Ohs says. “And I’m a very linear person.”
In addition to editing television for Cincinnati-based Blind Squirrel
, Ohs has garnered critical acclaim for his music videos. In 2009, Ohs shot the music video for indie-rock band Wavves’ “No Hope Kids,”
and in 2010 Best Coast’s “When I’m With You.”
“I think of film the same way I thought of creating anything in DAAP
,” Sisson says. “My design career in DAAP was pretty multi-disciplinary.”
Both Sisson's and Ohs’ backgrounds are woven into “I Send You This Place.” They shot the film in a very spontaneous manner, based solely on intuition, to capture truth in specific moments.
In those moments, Sisson made her greatest realizations.
“What I was able to do was feel connected to Jake, start to understand his mental illness and move past it for myself and realize all that stuff I experienced was for me,” Sisson said. “It really was for me to help understand who I am, and my own vision and my own path.”
“[Iceland] changed our world completely,” Ohs says. “It changed the way we see the world, it changed the way we see ourselves, changed the way we see each other. It very much transformed us completely."
That transformation led the couple, and the production company of Lauren Edward, to a farm in Yellow Springs, where the pair now live and where they are creating their next film project.
“I think a big thing we learned from Iceland and from that experience of making this film is the idea that you create the world you live in,” Ohs says.
Cincinnati’s premiere of “I Send You This Place” is happening at 7 p.m. on Nov. 29 at the Emery Theatre
in Over-the-Rhine, with Sisson and Ohs hosting a Q&A following the film. There is a suggested donation of $10, with all proceeds going to The Emery - A Requiem Project.
A note from Lauren Edward: “The Emery is under renovation. Dress warmly and bring a blanket.”