In the past three-and-a-half decades, filmmaker Donald Barrett has been involved in 33 documentaries including "Scared Straight," the first program to win the Academy Award for Best Documentary, an Emmy Award for Best Documentary and the George Foster Peabody Award for Best Public Service Programming.His 34th endeavor, "Pain in America," is currently in pre-production and expected to be ready for multimedia release – theater, television, DVD / Blu-Ray and online – in early 2013. The film tackles an important topic – the chronic pain epidemic – and "endeavors to elevate chiropractic in the public's perception," according to Barrett, emphasizing that "physicians, chiropractors and other health care professionals will need to work together" to solve the problem. Barrett, who serves as writer-producer-director of the new documentary, shares more about "Pain in America" in this exclusive interview.
Why did you decide to pursue this documentary? What is your "chiropractic connection" that makes a film of this nature of interest to you and your production team? The gestation of "Pain in America" began when I sought out chiropractic help for back pain, which has been plaguing me on and off for decades. I admit I was a bit skeptical at first; much of my work has been in the hard sciences – for example, I've made at least nine shows in cooperation with NASA. Well, if you live long enough and keep an open mind, it's remarkable how much you can learn. The fact is, since beginning a regimen of adjustments and exercises under the care of June Rogers, DC, my back troubles are behind me (pardon the pun). I am fully convinced that chiropractic works and deserves better treatment in the general media than it has received. As a filmmaker, that opportunity intrigues me.
In addition, I came into possession of a report that states 100 million Americans suffer from some sort of chronic pain. I believe this widespread problem can only be addressed by the various health care professions working together. To my astonishment, I've met and interviewed MDs who feel the same way. By making the public aware of the problem and discussing an interdisciplinary solution, I feel as though I can make a small contribution to the overall health of our country.
What is the general theme of the documentary, both from a professional (chiropractic) perspective and a consumer perspective? In other words, what do you hope DCs and consumers, respectively, will learn / appreciate? I believe the last paragraph expresses the theme of the show, but to make it especially interesting and visual, I am pulling out my filmmaker's bag of tricks, including computer graphics you'd be more likely to see in the latest summer blockbuster. I'm no stranger to special effects and in the first 30 seconds of the program, we'll be putting 100 million people on screen to provide some sense of proportion.
As the show continues, I'll be intercutting narrative, interviews with DCs, patients, health care administrators, chiropractic college presidents, faculty and students to illuminate the challenge of educating the next generation of chiropractors and keeping the current generation up to date. All in all, the documentary has something for nearly everyone. Most especially, I'd like to inspire the young to consider the chiropractic profession as a lifelong commitment to their fellow human beings. Of course, there will be some history, but this program is also about where we're going.
We'll also have some fun along the way. Back in the day, when I was making television shows for Dick Clark, I did a lot of music-video work, and I'll be including a 53-second "Pain Ballet" that will demonstrate many of the reasons people need to see a chiropractor.
What is the current production schedule in terms of filming, final release, project length from start of filming to wrap, etc.? We began pre-production on July 1, lining up the show – booking people to interview, including some rather famous ones from the worlds of sports and entertainment. We plan to commence principal photography at the [Florida Chiropractic Association] convention (mostly B-roll). Then beginning in October, we'll be traveling from the Atlantic to the Pacific, shooting for seven weeks. In addition, during this time, we'll be creating the original CGI that will also bring the subject to life. Post-production starts at the end of November, with a final edit master to be completed by early January .
What is your distribution model (theater, television, etc); when and where? We plan to exhibit the show theatrically in limited release (in order to qualify it for Academy Awards consideration). Then it will get three plays on PBS nationally. Beyond television, it will also have a life as a documentary on DVD and Blu-Ray in two versions, one for the nation's chiropractors and their patients, and the other for general release. Like all of my contemporary product, it will be shot in high definition and Dolby 5.1 surround sound. Film composer Gregor Narholz will pen the music score for a full symphony orchestra. In other words, the production values will be large-scale theatrical.
What can you tell us in terms of a "preview" of the people (DCs, etc.) we can expect to hear from? My staff is in the process of booking some rather well-known figures in the fields of chiropractic, pain management, entertainment, sports and other fields. We have meetings with many of them in Orlando [at the FCA Convention] to arrange specific shoot dates. I promise to release the names once everybody is signed. Even our narrator is one of the finest "voice-overs" in the world; his voice is recognizable to more than 100 million filmgoers of all ages.
Anything else you'd like to add? Honestly, at the end of the day, I expect to deliver a documentary that will do right by the chiropractic profession. A show I made in 1990 titled "The Voyager Odyssey" was voted the 6th Best Documentary of all time by the editors of Entertainment Weekly ("The Greatest Movies Ever Made" – Time-Life). I'd like to see if I can top it!