Hallie taught me what resilience looks like — about what it means to summon the courage to get up from the depths of sadness and face each next day. She trusted us to chronicle her family's story during a period of unimaginable loss and great change in their lives, and we never took that trust lightly.
Without hesitation, they embraced the documentary process, allowing our cameras to become an ever-present part of their lives. We were given access to their day-to-day moments, like accompanying CJ’s younger brother Connor to the welding shop, or taking an early-morning drive with John to work before spending many hours with Hallie at home, talking and packing ashes at her dining room table.
What we witnessed is a mother on a mission. And it soon became clear that Hallie’s posts describing her grief and guilt in brutally honest terms had struck a chord that resounded far and wide. She was inundated with heartfelt messages of condolence and thanks, both for sharing her pain and for giving others the strength to do so themselves. The Scattering CJ project took off before our eyes, and soon CJ’s ashes were traveling the globe, from that dining room table in Auburn, Maine to hundreds of destinations the world over.
At the outset of our filming, we asked ourselves if participating in the documentary process would become the lasting testimonial to her son that Hallie craved. Despite all the good that had been wrought from the tragedy for so many others and over such distances, would she ever be able to find her own peace?
The questions we posed defied easy answers. They still do.
It’s been nine years since CJ passed and over four years since we began our own journey alongside the family. Over this time, it’s been a privilege to get to know the Twomeys, to meet some of the “scatterers” and even end up working with one of them. Australian graphic designer Kelly Vella not only took CJ’s ashes to Fiji with an entourage of extended family, but also ended up generously donating her time and talents to a fruitful, long-distance collaboration; Kelly designed a closing graphic for the film that brilliantly illuminates the 1,000-plus destinations where CJ has been scattered. Fittingly, like the scattering project itself, the film was also enriched by the kindness and gifts of strangers.
Collectively, our dedicated team aimed to make a film that coaxes out more of humanity’s innate goodness, and adds strength to the purpose and voice of a heartbroken mom determined to prevent others from following in her son’s footsteps. Ultimately, Scattering CJ might reveal a truth to others that we at Spark Media see more deeply than before we embarked on this journey: from the deepest loss can emerge the brightest of life.
-- Andrea Kalin