Experiencing Interruptions?

Moving on from Medfield

Moving on from Medfield is a senior thesis documentary that explores the history of mental health treatment in America through the lens of Medfield State Hospital, a former insane asylum open from 1896-2003.

PRIVATE Vimeo link to the film: https://vimeo.com/388553296
please contact me for the password! jbergdoll@ithaca.edu

  • Julia Bergdoll
  • Julia Bergdoll
  • Julia Bergdoll
    Director of Photography
  • Quin Stocks
    Field Recorder
  • Quin Stocks
    Sound Design
  • Julia Bergdoll
    Sound Design
  • Julia Bergdoll
  • Samantha Maceachern
    Production Assistant
  • John Thompson
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Student
  • Genres:
    Documentary, student film, mental health, female crew, short
  • Runtime:
    27 minutes 7 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    January 17, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    100 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Shooting Format:
    Blackmagic URSA
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    Yes - Ithaca College
  • Senior Thesis Screening
    Ithaca, NY
    United States
    December 15, 2019
    North American Premiere
  • Cinema Sisters International Film Festival
    Wilmington, NC
    United States
    March 6, 2020
    International Premiere
    Official Selection
  • First-Time Filmmaker Sessions
    New York, NY
    United States
    February 23, 2020
    Official Selection
  • One Take Film Festival
    Rochester, NY
    United States
    April 30, 2020
    Official Selection
  • We Make Movies International Film Festival
    Los Angeles, CA
    United States
    September 16, 2020
    Official Selection
  • Female Filmmakers Fuse Film Festival
    Los Angeles, CA
    United States
    November 6, 2020
    Official Selection
  • Middlesex Film Festival
    Boston, MA
    United States
    September 5, 2020
    Best Massachusetts Film
  • Outer Docs Film Festival
    Ithaca, NY
    United States
    April 28, 2021
    Official Selection
  • New York
    United States
    July 3, 2020
    Best Documentary Film Short Subject
Director Biography - Julia Bergdoll

Julia is a senior cinema production major at Ithaca College. She minors in anthropology and is extremely passionate about documentary work. She was born and raised in a suburb just outside of Boston, MA. Julia is currently spending her last semester of college working and studying in Los Angeles.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

It was 2012 and I was in eighth grade when I first discovered Medfield State Hospital. I have always been intrigued by abandoned buildings, and the grounds of the former Medfield State Hospital, operational from 1896-2003, quickly became my favorite place to explore. I became fascinated by its history and returned frequently to explore the grounds. When I was a junior in high school I met John Thompson, the Chairman of the Buildings & Grounds Committee at MSH. For some reason I thought I would get in trouble for taking photographs and walking around the property, but instead John gave me my first piece of insider information about the former asylum, along with his business card in case I ever wanted to go inside any of the buildings to take photographs. The grounds are open to the public but the buildings are not. John allows in serious filmmakers and photographers, only people with good intentions. Those trying to get a spooky selfie for their Instagram are not allowed inside any of the 58 buildings.

I kept John’s business card in my wallet for 5 years because I knew how valuable he was as connection. I knew I would one day make a film about Medfield State Hospital, I just didn't know then that it would for be my senior thesis in college. As a person who has struggled with mental health myself, I felt a connection to the patients at Medfield. However, instead of being committed to an asylum for my entire life, I got an emotional support animal. The only difference between myself and another girl who was a patient at Medfield, is the century we were born in. I got a puppy and she got a lobotomy. There is a lot more freedom of choice in mental healthcare today, and for that reason I initially decided that mental health treatment now is much better than it was when MSH was open, and I wanted to make a film that explored that idea. But it is much more complicated than that.

Modern day mental healthcare and 20th century mental healthcare are both problematic and beneficial in different ways. As John says, “like everything humans do, they go all the way to one side too far before they realize that they need to go back to the middle, that the middle is the best.” This documentary is about the progress of mental health treatment through the history of Medfield State Hospital. It is about looking at the humanity behind something so stigmatized as an “insane asylum”. It is about how far we have come with mental health treatment in America, and how far we still have left to go.

Because this documentary is not one-sided, I wanted the exterior shots in this film to be warm and faded with hints of green and orange that evoke the sense that this environment has seen a lot of love over the 107 years the hospital was open, but I wanted the interior shots to bring feelings of loneliness and isolation, so many of these shots have cooler tones. I wanted to be sure to include the first-hand perspectives of MSH patients, but because of HIPAA and the hundred-plus year time gap, I was unable to. So, I included old interviews, postcards, footage, and letters to really step inside MSH and ensure that the most important voices were heard.