Netflix Docu-Series ‘My Love’ Shows Williston Couple’s Year In The Life
Ginger and David Isham have been married for over 60 years. They have six children and at one time around 100 dairy cows. They lived from their family farm in Williston for decades and seen that the community has changed around them. Their partnership is now one of six highlighted in a Netflix documentary series titled My love, which follows couples in six different countries who have each been together for 40 years or more. Ginger and David represent the United States in the series, which is streaming now.
VPR’s Henry Epp spoke with the director and documentary maker Elaine McMillion Sheldon, who told their story. Their interview is below and has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Henry Epp: So first, how did you find Ginger and David?
Elaine McMillion Sheldon: Well, we were on a three month search all over the United States, looking for a couple. Myself and my associate producer, Molly, called 300 people and, you know, found a lot of dead ends. And then internally at Boardwalk Pictures, where the series is composed, one of the associate producers, Julie Hook, recommended Ginger and David because her sister is their neighbor and her sister had observed them holding hands while walking around. farm in Vermont and thought, “You know, it might be interesting to talk to them. And so, after that long, US-wide search for three months, it was actually an internal recommendation.
And what was it about their relationship that you think exemplified the kind of stories the show wanted to tell?
Ginger and David, they exist in a very peaceful way. They really listen to each other. They really accept themselves as they are. They are two very different personalities. David is pretty calm and Ginger is the outgoing. And they’re not trying to change.
They are so warm and loving with everyone who comes to the farm. They are so committed to their community and really see the value of the land and the environment there. And so, they just had all these great relationships that showed a kind of American community spirit that we really wanted to show.
I want to talk a little more about some of the times you follow around their decisions about end of life, cremation, where their ashes will go. Did it surprise you that they were as open as they were about this process, both with you as the filmmakers, but also with their family members?
Yes, because dying is business in America in many ways. You know, there’s all these parts of death that’s presented to old people as needing to be prepared and all these things, and they had such a hold on their mortality.
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And it wasn’t an emotional thing for them. It was a thing of “We have to do this so we don’t leave that to our children.” It was something very practical. And I really respected that, because even within my own family, like facing death and talking about death, we just want to avoid it, don’t we? It’s a painful conversation, but they really taught me that it’s only a stage in life.
Your piece in the series is about a lot of change in so many ways. How relationships change over time, getting older changes what and how we can do things. And then in the case of the Ishams, how agriculture has changed and the landscape around them is changing. In that regard, did you expect you to address some of these themes about how they’ve seen Vermont change over the time they’ve been there?
This is one of the things that really stood out for us about Ginger and David, was that they still lived on this family farm and their son had taken over, because a lot of our farmland in particular local farms across America are gone. . The fact that they held on and were able to overcome the different kinds of ways they have to survive as a family farm was really interesting and really valuable, I think, not just to an American audience, but for a global audience, as we become less of a rural society.
“[The idea is] by observing people’s lives for a year, we would come away understanding something more about companionship and how to live in harmony with another person throughout life. “- Elaine McMillion Sheldon
And as for the general arc type of these stories in this series, I’m curious what was the direction of this idea? I mean, why tell stories of couples who have been together for so many decades?
It’s an anti-Netflix movie series, right? It was a real risk for a platform like that to do an anthology series where basically, you know, in Hollywood style, you’d say nothing was happening. Like, nothing in particular is necessarily happening.
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It is an observation portrait of a lifetime in a year. And [the idea is] by observing people’s lives for a year, we would come away understanding something more about companionship and how to live in harmony with another person all their life.
Finally, it was filmed – almost all – in 2019, all before the pandemic. Have you been in contact with the Ishams? And do you know how David and Ginger are doing now?
Ginger and David had, you know, a rough year last year because they were so isolated from everyone. In the episode, you see, she’s always at the pool swimming or volunteering, or at church, and those things obviously didn’t come together. So, it’s been a tough year for a lot of us but they survived and they are thrilled to be vaccinated and thrilled to be able to attract visitors to the farm now.
Ginger started this thing where she was “the panda against the pandemic,” where she put on a panda face and stood outside Burlington ERs and other places and held signs saying she supported essential workers. And that was just a moment where I was like, “Oh, I wish we were filming again,” because that’s such a thing to do for Ginger – she just wants to make people happy.
Do you have questions, comments or advice? Send us a message or contact journalist Henry Epp @TheHenryEpp.
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