Ron Unger is chair of the MindFreedom Lane County Affiliate, which has used movie showings to reach the public, even on issues that are usually avoided in the media. For several years, MFI has had successful film showings. Ron has compiled a brief list of tips, including how to obtain some of the DVD’s that this affiliate has used.
Mad Movie Showings
by Ron Unger & David oaks
There’s something about art – such as a good film – that can help reach people even about topics that are difficult and complex.
Good films we’ve shown or plan on showing, and how to get them, include:
The above 3 are all films by Daniel Mackler (pictured above right), and can be ordered at the website linked to above.
Some other films we’ve helped publicize or show:
- The Doctor Who Hears Voices – A docudrama about a doctor who hears voices but who wants a solution outside psychiatry, and who gets help from Rufus May, a psychologist who earlier had been diagnosed with “schizophrenia.” You can watch this on youtube or contact Mindfreedom – I think you can get a copy of the DVD through their mad market.
- Little Brother Big Pharma by filmmaker David Heine, is a loving witness to his brother who — now in his mid-50’s — has been on powerful psychiatric drugs for thirty years. It’s available at
- Knowing You, Knowing You – a great talk on voice hearing –
- Crooked Beauty is a poetic documentary that chronicles artist-activist Jacks McNamara’s transformative journey from childhood abuse to psych ward inpatient to pioneering mental health advocacy. For more info:
- Opal the Movie, is a fictional film very much inspired by the real life of Opal Whiteley, an Oregon young adult author 100 years ago, who became a national sensation, but developed mental and emotional differences that ended with her institutionalization. For info see
- You’re Gonna Miss Me (USA, 2005, 91min), a documentary by Keven McAlester introduced by Dylan Tighe. It’s about rock pioneer Roky Erickson: manic frontman of The 13th Floor Elevators known for his colossal heroin and LSD binges, struggles with schizophrenia, and an unthinkable term at Rusk Hospital for the Criminally Insane. A disturbingly intimate portrait of an imploding family and the struggle between modernized medicine and religion. Mary Maddock of MindFreedom Ireland organized a showing and recommends this.
And of course, there are dozens of ‘mainstream’ films that are fun to watch, even in a small informal setting like your living room, and can lead to turn-out and fascinating discussion, even if they don’t perfectly reflect your point of view. Examples include Dream Team, Couch Trip, Cuckoo’s Nest, Nuts, Girl Interrupted, Lars and the Real Girl, etc.
What you need for a film showing:
- a digital projector – test your set-up beforehand!
- laptop computer with DVD player
- copy of DVD you know works okay
- speakers – computer speakers, or something better. Again, test before hand, sound is crucial.
- publicity – clear and well in advance, including email, flyer, and local media (which may have strict deadlines and online forms to use for film showings)
- a space big enough for your audience that can be dark enough for a film
- a screen, or even a blank wall
- refreshments – many people love snacks and beverages (healthy and/or naughty) with their films, even ‘serious’ ones). Of course, avoid those very noisy snacks.
- sign-up sheet for email addresses so attendees can be notified of future events
That’s about it. So it’s not too difficult to do a film showing.
Extra mad movie info:
We have added a small panel at the end of our films to respond briefly to the film, and help encourage dialogue and discussion. Even two people can be a panel, try to have at least one psychiatric survivor. Give your audience a chance to chat with one another. It helps to have a microphone for the audience. Ask people to keep comments brief, they can always speak again after others have had a chance.
Just about any time may work for a film, but we have had good luck with Tuesday nights, and notice that other ‘alternative’ films and campus showings often use that night, too.
We love using the public library for events because it is so neutral, clean, easy to get to and well-equipped. You can also use a community center, college campus room, or for smaller events someone’s living room. Watch where other alternative film series have been held in your community.
If you’re showing a DVD to a small group for free for educational purposes, you may not need to worry about a fee, though it’s good to check. If you are in anyway charging money to watch, you will especially want to pay attention to fees and restrictions about commercial showing of a film. If the film is by a small independent producer, you may negotiate a shared ‘cut’ in writing before hand.
It’s wonderful if you can manage to work with the first showint of a film even by a small production crew in your town. The filmmakers may agree to be present to speak after the film. Be sure to work out a fair, professional financial arrangement for all parties, because the producers may be counting on that.
Something that can build excitement is a mad movie series of some kind, even of, say, “First Tuesday” evenings over three months. That way you can do some publicity for the whole series in common. You can also use a poster dedicated to the first film as a template for the other. Plus, your knowledge about things like equipment, team checklists, venue rental, etc. can be applied to the whole series.
Let MFI know your suggestions for films, how-to approaches, and successful events and series!
Email to firstname.lastname@example.org or post to the MindFreedom Facebook page!