25 Feb Hives
Last night my wife noticed a red spot around my left eye. It didn’t bother me at the time, but I woke up in the middle of the night and felt that it was tight and starting to itch. I had a little bit of trouble falling back to sleep- not so much because of the itching, but just some mild rumination. During the previous day I had difficulty getting work done and in general I have been having a little trouble concentrating. I attributed some of it to fatigue related to my recent trip to Montana, but I was also conscious of simply losing a bit of steam in my efforts to get “All The Rage” set up for distribution.
While I had a great experience showing the film at the Big Sky Documentary Festival it has been a bit of a grind trying to find a way to launch the film into the world. It’s exciting to get the kind of passionate and meaningful feedback the film often inspires, but it is also sometimes hard to deal with the powerful resistance that it can also spark in people as well. As with our last two films, we find that when we have the opportunity get it in front of people they really get it. The problem is that gatekeepers stand in the way of every screening and more often than not, they don’t see the value in it. Frustration with this reality is what led me to being stuck on my floor for two weeks as I tried to distribute “Battle for Brooklyn”. I learned from that experience and I was able to handle the difficulty getting “Who Took Johnny” out without ending up on the floor. Still, that was a wildly frustrating process. It took a year and a half for us to get a single mainstream review. Finally two and a half years after we permiered it at Slamdance it hit Amazon and Netflix and exploded in popularity. That was both exciting ane enervating because it was hard to understand why there had been so much resistance to it from gatekeepers in the first place.
Each time we finish a film we believe it’s going to be the one that really works- and each time so far we have been somewhat shocked to find that we can’t get it past these gatekeepers at festivals, distributors, and theaters. At that point we have two choices; we can just give up or do everything we can to find an audience for it. After having spent up to ten years on a film I can’t just walk away. It seems to get harder each time, but we have always been able to get them seen. While I am better equipped to handle this difficulty in a conscious way the frustration can still creep up on me.
For the past two months I have spent most of my time trying to get the film to people who can help us get it seen in a wider way. I’ve sent it to doctors, social workers, entertainers, friends, and patients of Dr. Sarno. I’ve probably sent it to close to 1000 people and now I have a list of 175 people whom I call “screening captains”. As distribution flows from New York and Los Angeles I have put most of my effort into lining up captains in those areas. The goal is to have each of them pledge to get at least 10 people out opening weekend in NY and LA. Some of them will also help set up screenings in their own town. Movies need to be seen in a theater; espeically this one. When we see a film with others we have a collective experience and this makes it more profound and more emotional. Last night as I lay in bed I thought about all of the struggle and tried to picture a path towards getting the film seen. At this point we have a lot of support, but we still dont’ have a theater to screen it in in NY or LA. That’s part of what was keeping me up. I finally fell back to sleep.
When I woke up it felt like my eyes were beginning to become swollen shut. My wife thought it was poison ivy. When I looked in the mirror I knew it was hives. I used to get hives when I was a kid; splotchy blocks of raised red and swollen areas of skin. Even though I haven’t felt particularly anxious I knew that it was caused by stress. I also knew it would get better- but despite my focus on accepting the hives- it still bothered me. Dr Roy Seidenberg, a dermatologist who is in “All The Rage”, quips in the film;
A young woman will walk into the office with hives, and then I’ll say to her, “Oh – so when are you getting married?” And she’s like, “How’d you know? How’d you know?” And I go, “Well, I can’t tell you how many times a woman has walked into this office with hives about a month before their wedding…
Clearly, hives are a psychosomatic response to stress. As I look backward I can see that I am in a profoundly better place emotionally, so it is kind of surprising to me to have symptoms like this. However, as Dr. Sarno points out, he understood the problem so well because he had so many different symptoms over the years. Often times our reaction to the symptoms creates a very effective distraction from the emotions we are unconsciously suppressing. I know have to slow down a bit and give myself a little more room. I’m much better about not working myself into the ground- but my body is clearly telling me I haven’t perfected it.
I was a bit more focused today. My daughter was home sick so I helped her with some math, and I got a number of emails out. Later in the day I went for a run. I didn’t let my hives bother me too much during the day, but as I headed down the first hill I noticed that my eyes were feeling particularly swollen. In fact they were making it a bit hard to see out of as my eyelid started to hang over my eye. I thought about the thing I had written a few days ago about how my sagging eyes made me feel old, and how they also made me think of my father who had a little bit of an eyelid tuck because it was getting hard for him to see out of them. In my post I talked about how he had really done it out of vanity. It struck me then, how strange it was that the hives would surround my eyes. Our symptoms have a lot to tell us, if we listen to them.