Over the next month, we at IDA will be introducing our community to the filmmakers whose work is represented in the DocuWeeks™ Theatrical Documentary Showcase, which runs from August 3 through August 30 in New York City and Los Angeles. We asked the filmmakers to share the stories behind their films—the inspirations, the challenges and obstacles, the goals and objectives, the reactions to their films so far.
So, to continue this series of conversations, here are Doug Blush and Lisa Klein, directors and writerse of Of Two Minds.
Synopsis: Take your best day...and your darkest moment...and multiply by a million. Of Two Minds, from the creative team behind Wordplay, I.O.U.S.A., Superheroes, and These Amazing Shadows, explores the extraordinary lives, struggles, and successes of a few of the over five million Americans living with bipolar disorder. Of Two Minds puts a human face on bipolar, providing an intimate, painful, and painfully funny look at those who live in its shadows...our parents and children, our friends and lovers...and ourselves.
IDA: What made you get started as documentary filmmakers?
Doug Blush and Lisa Klein: We had both worked in a variety of narrative film and television jobs ranging from writing to animation to cable TV producing, but we both felt drawn all along to the human drama and impact of documentaries. We formed our company, MadPix Inc, in 2002 to help create projects together, and we’ve directed a few previous short and special TV documentary projects. Doug has worked as an editor and producer with teams including Patrick Creadon and Christine O’ Malley, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, Morgan Neville and Eddie Schmidt, and Eugene Jarecki, and Lisa has also been writing non-fiction for a long time. Working together has really enhanced our ability to explore stories from our very different viewpoints...and this is in the midst of being married to each other!
IDA: What inspired you to put a face on bipolar disorder?
DB & LK: The true soul and motivator of the film is Lisa’s older sister Tina, who dealt with bipolar and its attendent stigma and misunderstanding throughout her life. Her incredible spirit and humor was a huge inspiration to Lisa growing up, and after Tina passed away in 1994 in her mid-40’s, Lisa had always wanted to understand the intense mood swings and issues Tina struggled with, often alone and behind closed doors. The film was a form of therapy in some ways, and came with this desire to hear people in their own words describe what the experience is like.
IDA: Did your vision of the way this film would come together change over the course of production? How did that evolution occur?
DB & LK: We started by immersing ourselves into the huge community that surrounds bipolar and other mental illnesses...attending gatherings and community events, reading biographies by those openly dealing with bipolar, and researching the current psychiatric, medical and alternative views of bipolar. We found three amazing people in process of all this who were dealing with bipolar in very different ways, but were all eager to share their journeys with us. Their candor and life twists truly shaped the film, pulling us more and more toward these intimate, grand arcs of personal stories. After almost four years of shaping the film, it all comes back to these incredible people at the center, surprising us with their humor and their openess about very tough issues.
IDA: What were some of the challenges you faced while you were making this film?
DB & LK: Along with the shared classic documentary laments of almost no funding, slim resources and having to shoot and edit in every spare moment around other work, it was a piece of cake! Actually, due to the universality of bipolar, we had to do a great deal of traveling across the country, from LA to New York to Philadelphia, Toronto, Detroit, San Francisco and more. It was an epic road adventure in the end...we met many incredible people along the way.
IDA: As you’ve screened Of Two Minds, how have audiences (or, if they’ve seen it, your subjects) reacted to the film?
DB & LK: We’ve been so moved by audience reactions, who’ve tuned right into the very personal approach we discovered as we shaped the film. People have come up to us after Q&As and admit to us that we were the first non-doctors they felt they could open up to about their bipolar. That sense of busting open closet doors is just so encouraging...that’s really the goal of the film. Our main subjects have all been great, doing really engaging Q&As with us around the country, and helping us tweak important elements of the film to its final form.
IDA: So now that this film has made it into DocuWeeks, have you had a chance to look beyond that at what’s coming next?
DB & LK: We know that the film has a vast audience...by some estimates, over five million Americans are dealing with some form of bipolar disorder. When you add in the families, partners, friends and co-workers that make up all our circles, there really are zero degrees of separation to this issue for everyone. We’re receiving interesting offers for all sorts of distribution options for the film, especially since the DocuWeeks announcement, and our greatest goal is to get as many people to be able to see the film as possible. Theaters, television, DVD, on-demand...we just want to get a new discussion going about what it really means to be “normal”...is there even such a thing? We think the film lets people see how wide that label needs to stretch.
Of Two Minds will be screening August 17 through 23 at IFC Center in New York, and August 24 through 30 at Laemmle NoHo 7 in Los Angeles.