And the answer is I got hooked. After decades working in television, I was looking for stories that aren’t being told. I came across an article about a group of people diagnosed with mental disorders that were going to weekly meetings, 12 step style. I researched the mental rights movement and I started wondering why we weren’t talking more about the issues they were raising. I called David Oaks and when I got off the phone, my hands were shaking. I met a guy, diagnosed bi polar who told me, “all I have to do to get committed is make 2 doctors nervous…do you know how easy that is?” And then he described how devastating it was to be told that you cannot trust yourself anymore. Your mind, your mission control will have to be run by someone else.
Hmmm. Who decides that? And how?
Then I met Eric and his dad and they were in the thick of that very battle. After 8 years in the mental health system, Eric decided he wanted to take control or at least have a say in his treatment. Because he was under a commitment order, that decision meant he was breaking the law. As a result he was being force treated. Was Eric really a threat to himself? How far was the mental health system going to go to protect Eric from himself? And was that going to help him? Or hurt him?
Once I committed to Eric’s story I was committed to following it through wherever it took me and to trying to understand the truth. Very grey business, truth. The result is our one-hour documentary, CRAZY.
Eric’s story asked me to look at issues like effectiveness vs harm of antipsychotic medications, the right of the individual vs the rights of the community, fear of violence, prejudice and stigma and a social and legal policy that really struggles to adapt to individual circumstance and need.
Some people didn’t want to talk to me. Some tried me to prevent me from talking to anyone. Others came forward anyway. Eric never waivered. He wanted his story to be told. And through luck and persistence, we were able to get 2 sides to the story. Like thousands of others, Eric’s journey, over 5 years had many ups and downs. Eric worked hard, really hard, to find the life he could live with which meant the life where he made the decisions that he felt worked best for him. And he succeeded. And that was the story that hooked me. The one about choice.
PRODUCER/DIRECTOR/EDITOR Lise Zumwalt has produced, written and edited films for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TELEVISION, PBS, WNET, BBC, NBC, THE HISTORY CHANNEL and the DISCOVERY CHANNEL on series including NATURE, NOVA, WIDE ANGLE, WHO CARES ABOUT GIRLS, AMERICAN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS & LOCKDOWN and has won 14 awards for her work. CRAZY is Lise’s first feature project.