The Creative High is described as nine artists in recovery from addiction who are transformed by creativity in their turbulent search for identity and freedom. The journalist and film critic Micheal Fox said, “The Creative High taps into our basic profound impulses to reveal, rage, let go, vent, invent and reinvent. That is to create and express.’
In today’s episode, you’ll learn more about the artists and some unique challenges for creatives engaging in recovery. Dianne Griffin, the producer, and Adriana Marchione, the director, will share their hopes and dreams for this beautiful movie.
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Please find us at www.thecreativehigh.com
See full transcript below.
You’re listening to The Embrace Family Recovery Podcast, a place for real conversations with people who love someone with the disease of addiction.
Now, here is your host, Margaret Swift Thompson.
Welcome back, The Creative High is described as nine artists in recovery from addiction are transformed by creativity in their turbulent search for identity and freedom. On today’s episode, you’ll learn more about them, their artists, and their hopes and dreams for this beautiful movie, let’s rejoin Adriana and Dianne to learn more.
The Embrace Family Recovery Podcast.
So don’t want to disclose too much about the film because I want people to go and see the film. But you know, we know the nature of this disease. It’s not linear, the recovery is not linear. And people have challenges and struggles within their recovery. And Dianne, you candidly shared that you had slips and it took a while to get back in the rooms. So, I would assume that part of the challenge was life on life’s terms with where people were at who you were sharing screen with and asking to be a part of the film.
Yeah. And it’s and it was hard. I mean, I think there were times with the film subjects with those, the artists that that they especially when they started seeing the film felt wow, this is going to be out there in public. And I brought these really deep, vulnerable parts of myself to the table, and how is that going to be received? And also, that I’m trusting us to tell their story in a certain way? Because of course, there was so much material like how do you whittle down someone’s recovery story and their life story? There’s a lot of trauma and grief and different things in there. How do you whittle it down to a very short period of time, where we’re telling something about who they are? So, I think there just had to be a lot of good communication along the way. And yeah, I’m sure still will continue to be sensitive as it widens to a broader audience. So, we’ve taken a lot of care to the relationships along the way, too. And that’s also recovery.
Right? It’s beautiful. Dianne with some of the audiences who’ve seen it so far. Have some of the creatives in your movie? Have they been a part of the festivals at all. Been there when audiences have watched it? How has that been?
Yes, thank you so much for bringing that up. Because, you know, that is the ultimate part of the documentary, too, is showing it to an audience. You know, that’s why we made this piece, and we make sure to bring in our collaborators, subjects, creatives, you know, how do you turn people when they’re in your program? We’d like to say collaborators, and then we’ll change to another word, but yeah, because you know, without them, I mean, they were so brave, to reveal themselves. And just making sure and again, that’s something that we went back to them with, is this going to be okay? Is this going to be okay for you to reveal this, and talking to them about that, and building community along the way to support us? And we hope that we’re successful in doing that, and we try, we tried our best to make a meaningful film. And that was respectful to the people in our documentary. So yes, in answer to your question, yeah. And when we did our opening premiere, we had all of them come except I think two of them were not able to make it.
Yeah, some of them could come because they were local, and a couple of them aren’t local. So it was too hard for them to fly in and, and make it. So whoever was local and could show up did and it was it was it was such a peak experience that, our opening night because it was one of those moments where all of a sudden, people were willing to come back to the theater. We got in that window of time with the pandemic where things were, things were waning a little so we had a full house, sold out show for our premiere, and it was just a peak experience. And I think the artists for everyone I’ve talked to that showed up just, they were so, so thrilled, so excited. And they got great feedback, just like when they came to the front of the stage, at the end, just the applause. And the reception was just beautiful. And some of them, they’re going to continue to come yeah to different screenings.
And just to see it on the big screen. And we made the film during COVID. So, it’s taken everyone’s vision down to their computer screen to watch a film. So being able to have that crowd seeing it big, hearing all of the work that went into the sound design. And as you know, there was something like 27 songs, I think, in the film, so. And then we had a sound designer come in and make everything sound better than, what a sound designer does.
So many aspects to making a movie that one doesn’t know until you do it.
Margaret: And I admire courage in any human being, and the enormity of the courage it takes to share your story and share your art. The two together seem incredibly vulnerable. And so, I can’t imagine people won’t be in awe. And then add on top of that, the reality we know of the millions of people whose lives have been touched by this disease can relate on some level, even if it’s uncomfortable, because they haven’t dressed it or faced it yet. That has to come through when you show this in your premieres or your events when people get to see the movie.
Yeah. And we’re also hoping that, you know, we’re open to screening. So, if someone happens to hear this podcast and has some suggestions, please contact us.
You’ve mentioned the cost. I mean, that’s another factor I assume people can contribute to help.
Yes, they can donate to support a distribution and our outreach, because we are wanting to outreach, and this film is for the communities of recovery it’s for the communities of mental health and behavioral health. It’s for artists, right, it’s for artists, it’s for students, it’s for, for people who really want to learn more about the power of creativity, but also just about, again, like you said, like being human in this in this complicated world. So, you know, people can donate
And we’re taking screening requests to show the film virtually and in person. And that I mean, that is being able to have dialogue too. We want people to be able to have an opportunity to dialogue about these issues. And we want to facilitate that over time.
So, for people who don’t know what that means, paint the picture of an ideal screening experience of what it would look like. You know, I have amazing people who are in recovery, who have contacts, you never know where. So, paint that picture, and we can maybe let people know that this is an option.
So, let’s do that together. Dianne let’s paint a picture. Let’s paint the picture. (laughter) And part of it and Dianne went with her previous film, she did tons of screenings, you know. So, I know that she has a lot behind her in terms of doing that. So why don’t you jump in. And then I’ll dovetail.
Well, like, for instance, you know, classroom settings, and rehab centers, for instance, at some of the audience that we’re thinking of teaching, helping to facilitate teaching the creative process?
Well, I think it’s a combination that sometimes organizations will just show the full film, right, and then we can do a Q&A afterwards. Especially if it’s local in the San Francisco area, or we’re happy to travel places, or could be virtual. Then sometimes some of the artists can come or other people that have experienced with creativity and recovery, and that we have a dialogue afterwards. And people can ask questions.
And then the expanded version is that it includes a workshop component, so that we actually guide people to experience art themselves and do a process. And then also because Dianne is a meditation and recovery teacher, right, that there’s also that like that mindfulness piece and that experiential piece that both art and the work that Dianne does, you know, that can bring to people to support them in their journey. Yeah.
So, if I knew someone who wanted to do this, say in a community with recovery, but also maybe a little festival or something. Nuts and bolts, there’s a cost to it? Is there a process to get accepted that that would be a good place for you know to go with your creative idea. That this is what you want. What does that look like?
Well we just encourage people to email us first and tell us a little bit about what you’re thinking about how would you like this presented? Or would you like it over the internet? Or do you want a live event, and then we could, you know, develop and work with what ideas people have. And my other film traveled a lot around this. And, you know, there’s so many venues we can play in. And we have shorter versions of the film to where it’s only showing clips. The film itself is 75 minutes. So, if you need a shorter kind of experience, we have that also. So, we can tailor it to fit folks needs.
Yeah, we have some upcoming things happening, that we’re going into treatment center next weekend. And we’re gonna show a short version of the film, so a 15-minute version. And then we’re gonna dialogue, and one of the artists is going to come with us. And then we’re going to dialogue with everybody, the clients there at the treatment center, and then we’re going to guide them in a process, like I said, a little educational, experiential. So yeah, yeah.
Love that. And so really, it’s reach out, never know if the idea will work, but float it to you and see what can be created and pulled together. I love that.
Thank you. We appreciate you bringing us on today to talk about The Creative High.
I think it’s wonderful. I really enjoyed the movie, I knew I would, the different artists in their craft and their different stages of recovery. And even the sounds you mentioned the sculptor. The mesmerizing effect of watching him do his craft, and the sounds that went with it, it was it was just beautifully done. You, I hope feel good about it, and that it doesn’t have to be as hard a job as it may have been to get it to the place, we all get to see it. That now that it gets to get out there it started creates this energy that people want to share it and it becomes a little less of an effort.
Yeah, thank you. Thank you. Yes, I hope that as well. And that is, that is a gift of it. That is to me for sure that when I’m sitting there and seeing an audience, or having hearing people’s experience with it, that that gives me so much. Like, there’s a relief in it. And there’s also, it fuels me again, to feel like I want to keep going and want to keep sharing. So yeah, it’s the gift of all the hard work.
Hmm. Is it good to go mainstream that people can see it, if there’s just a person who wishes to see it?
Well, we have some ideas about we, you know, we’d like to put it on public TV. So, we’re kind of exploring that idea, we’re going to be needing to raise some more funds to do that. So that’s something that, you know, we would want to pull this message across. I mean, the arts are so important. And we realized that during the pandemic, when people weren’t able to go to see live performance or go see a film in a theater. So, a lot of attention has been put into that now, because people really miss it and need it, I really need that myself anyway.
And it really is a processs, the distribution process and bringing a film out into the world. It’s, I mean, every film is different. But there’s a phase we’ve been doing film festivals, right. And then and then we’re starting to add the private screening so people can book private screenings with us and, and there’s going to be different events happening also. Like we have one for Recovery Month, that’s going to be happening. And then eventually, right there’s going to be, but it may be on down the line where it’s more available, like people can stream it. But that will take some time because it really needs to be cultivated. So, there’s an interesting process that a film goes through, but there’s gonna be plenty of opportunities and people can just get on our film list. So, if they want to sign up and get updates, they’ll stay informed. So, they’ll know when they can see it.
Building community. That’s what we are. Yeah, we’re building our community.
Margaret: I will need to get on that list because I don’t think I am.
yeah, we’ll make sure to add you and we’re also on social media right so people can also find us like we are on Instagram, we’re on Facebook.
We have a trailer that people can experience a little bit of The Creative High and we hope they do so check out our social media like Adriana saying because it rests there at different times while we’re you know during our screening adventures.
This podcast is made possible by listeners like you.
Michael Fox, journalist and film critic described this movie in the following words. ‘One needn’t be in recovery or an artist to experience the transformative power of art. The Creative High taps into our basic profound impulses to reveal rage, let go vent, invent and reinvent. That is to create and express’. Head over to their website,
To watch the trailer of this beautiful movie, to understand more about ways you can engage with the movie, to donate to assist the dreams of this team coming true. And this movie getting to more members of our public around the world. You can even follow the creative high on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or subscribe to their email list to get the newest releases opportunities to stream and places to watch this gorgeous movie.
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So, if you were to put it into the universe, how you would manifest this to go forward? What would be your ideal? Because you never know, right? Put it out there. What’s the ideal for this movie’s journey.
Well Dianne just touched on community. And I think for me the overriding vision is that there is a creative high community that develops and that people have a place to come where they can talk about art and recovery, they can talk about mental health issues that pertain to art and art solutions or their struggles as artists. And I think that that’s my hope is the broader vision that it will be a place people can learn and experience this and feel less alone in their process. And I’m not sure exactly what that will look like. But that’s the broader vision.
But also, that the film gets to go around the world. I know. There are already people I know in Korea and in France that are like what is it going to be in subtitles so we can show it to our audiences. But that it can affect people in many different ways and be inspiring to people. And so that’s my broader vision.
I love that. Dianne?
You know, The Creative High was made for an audience. That’s what filmmaking is about. And yeah, we hope that The Creative High is going to change some lives and introduce new ideas and inspire, inspire people. It certainly did me during the making of.
For families, because of a lot of my audience, are loved ones, you know, people who are on this journey with someone they love in various places. What can this movie do or offer them?
I think just like Dianne was saying, and I definitely have found to be so true in my work is that everyone in some way has been touched by addiction. That addiction is just part of the fabric of our lives. And that art is also part of the fabric of our lives. And it provides entertainment, it provides healing, it provides a different perspective, gives us empathy for others. So, art gives us so much. So I think that for people that have a loved one, right, so a son or daughter or mother or father or a spouse, that is an artist, that is a creator, that they might have specific needs, they might have specific struggles. You know, I really do think it’s, it’s different, as has been different for me. That I don’t always feel the same as my other fellow in recovery, who isn’t a creative person. So, I really do think that we are giving some very powerful examples. We’re also trying to provide a map for people to think about it like, oh, how could art support me or if I am an artist in recovery, or a family member that I know is an artist in recovery. And they need resources. We have also a great resource page on the film website. That they have more resources, and they can provide that or think about that for their family member. So that is something that I really do think we’re going to be continuing to talk about and think about over time.
Yeah, I want to just end that with one of my favorite quotes again.
“That creativity is our birthright. It’s an integral part of being human, as basic as walking, talking, and thinking”. So many things, you know, how we choose to live our lives is a creative act, and especially getting in recovery.
I think what you’re all saying is so great. I think that the collaboration of individuals where we put our story out there and they can look different and feel different. And it takes me back to Adriana. What you said earlier, sitting in a meeting, my fellow who’s not a creative or artist may feel differently than I do. And that makes me ponder what your experience might have been that was different. Because there are a lot of families of creatives, and there’s a lot of creatives in recovery or struggling in addiction, who fear their creativity will go away if they get sober. And how can they tap into it? And then families who fear if they give that up? What alternatives are they going to look to, to get that high instead? And can art really give them that? So I know, I’m asking a lot in one question. But any thoughts on that either of you?
Well, I was just gonna mention, one of our collaborators in the film addresses that. So, if you watch The Creative High, it does deal with that. And anyway, he says, he himself was an artist of, you know, a musician. And when he got sober, you know, you’re, you get more clarity, you’re able to look at things in a new way, the true you, who’s underneath all of that. ways of escaping. And recovery gives you that allows you to go deeper and experience creatively, who you are, it points toward who you really are. The whole process.
When you said what is different. I think there’s a sensitivity and I think that’s overplayed sometimes. But I do think there’s a different sensitivity, a different sensibility. There’s also a need, a need to find meaning there’s an existential need to find meaning. And that has been true for me throughout my whole life. And I really feel that from other artists as part of them just needs to create, needs to find a voice for what they’re experiencing. Whether that’s through again, painting, or through drama, or through writing, or etc., etc. And so, I’ve needed to talk to other people, I’ve needed to find other people who understand and get that it can be isolating if you don’t have people that understand and get who you are. And so that’s one of the things I think that’s really a key. And a lot of the artists in the film, definitely speak to that in their own way.
There’s a lot covered in the film, it’s almost something you can watch more than once to get the message in different ways from different people. And like you said, there was definitely people I was drawn to more than others, not that I didn’t find all of them incredibly powerful, and honest, and vulnerable, and courageous. How do you deal with the people who struggle after you’ve met them? And they’ve been a part of this because again, without disclosing.
Yeah, so people who are struggling, we know recovery isn’t linear, that sometimes people don’t make it, sometimes people fall out, or maybe even, right, they don’t maintain out there, they lose their abstinence, right?
For me, it’s really painful, it’s really hard to watch someone lose that thread of recovery, that lifeline, it’s a lifeline. And, and we’re all in it together. And then when someone falls out it, it’s scary. It threatens my recovery. So having to deal with that, and face that real truth throughout the film process, and see different, different things happen that could be revealed when people watch it. But as we know, it’s, it’s just a hard fact of recovery. So, for me, it can be very heartbreaking. And I’ve had to just, just remember, by the grace, right, there’s that phrase, the 12-step phrase, by the grace of God, there go I, like, Just know, that could be me too. But luckily, I’m still here. And we always help people find recovery again.
And I want to mention, too, one thing we also did, we constantly were in contact with this person’s family, reaching out to them, trying to stay connected. And we continue to do that.
Absolutely. And it puts you in the seat of my audience. When you love someone with this disease. They became a part of your family in a way that’s probably unique to you two in creating this film and making this come to life. But it’s also very much a familial type of experience, I would think. So here you are, as the family member watching someone’s journey, and you want them to find the thread and you root for them, but you also have to care for yourself in the process.
Yeah, yeah. I think you’re so true, Margaret, and, and it does become a family in some ways, right? I mean, if becomes a community, for me, the film became a community, the film team, the artists that everybody knew or even met each other, obviously because people are t in different places, but yeah, it has a big impact, it has a big impact, and how do we continue to provide resources for people also that are struggling with the loss of recovery with a family member? And yeah, it changes the whole changes the whole landscape.
Right. And also, you know, it’s a practice to and letting go of the outcome, letting go of who I want this person to be. You know, of course, wanting them to be the fullest selves they can be, but people go through these difficulties in life. And sometimes that’s where it takes them. But I just want to mention that one of our collaborator’s story, is also that they did incredible things while they were in recovery, like incredible things. And we really hope that he’ll be able to pull from that experience for himself. And that we really tried our best to honor them.
Oh, you did. You know, what’s that saying? Sometimes people in your life for a Chapter, a book, or lifetime, a moment. But I do think that the goal would be obviously that everyone find recovery, that’s what we want. On all sides of this coin, I want for my family members to be given the opportunity to have education and resources so they can understand the impact on their life. I want for anyone who has the disease of addiction, in any form, have access to care and find their path.
Margaret: But as you just said, Dianne, there’s nothing we can do to control that for any other person. And so, the gifts that were given in this movie was that authenticity of that truth,
Margaret: blended through the beauty of art and their humanity.
Margaret: and that’s such an honoring way to represent the people that were willing to make the movie with you.
Also, like Luis, who’s one of our other subjects, he practices harm reduction. So, there’s so many different pathways too, and so I also learned a lot from him about that process and his journey. And, and he had a lot of a lot of falls along the way during the film process and watching him go through all that, and he’s doing incredibly well now. But, you know, just seeing that, and also knowing like, someone may be doing it differently than we think they should. Right. And they might be following it from pathway. But they can also find, find their way and their health. So, I think that also to me, like art provides a pathway. But there’s all these different threads that we can follow. And that can look like health. And for some people, I would notice that much. There’s a lot of judgments around that too, right, that we have to find that for me a finding that equanimity and that acceptance has been also a huge part of the process.
I think that was beautifully said, because it’s one of the things I’ve been recently facing in joining an organization with many pathways. And I wonder in my own self-reflection, if some of it is the threat and the disease within me getting hmm could that work for me? When I know what works for me, doesn’t mean that it works for everybody. Why that threat, right? Why do I have that piece within me that goes to this is threatening rather than we can all find our own way. And it’s inclusive, rather than exclusive.
Definitely. And I’ve had those moments too, in the past where it’s felt threatening, or I felt like, this is the way, this is the way but it’s the way for me. And I have to keep coming back to that to like this works for me. But I don’t have to impose that on anybody else. Because that’s not being in recovery to me, being in recovery is really about having an open mind and continuing to be willing. But it also for me is abstinence, like that’s my path. And that’s very important for me to stay sober one day at a time.
Right. And I also feel like how we’re choosing to live our lives is a big statement for other people. It’s it’s inspired me when I was struggling watching other people in recovery and being open as Adriana is saying to other modalities of recovery. Because I can get, you know, fixed mind like it should be like this. And this is how I want it to be, and it just doesn’t work like that. Doesn’t work like that when I impose it on myself. And when I put it out there for someone else. It’s, yeah, it ain’t right.
It ain’t right. Well, I think your movie is right. I Love your movie; I feel kind of special because I got to see it ahead of other people. I feel very honored for that. But I’m also really excited for more people to see it. I’m excited for people to have their minds open to creative outlets and part of the healing that, that offers people. So, I’m very excited for this movie to continue to be out there and show people different ways to their recovery.
Outro: As an uneducated person regarding what it takes to bring a film to the screen and the world, I was struck by the many parallels in The Creative High’s journey, and a person in recovery his journey. It is not linear very often. There are many ups and downs.
If you find yourself feeling inspired to donate or bring a screening of this movie to your high school, college treatment center, recovery community. Reach out to Adriana and Dianne via their website,
I want to thank my guest for their courage and vulnerability in sharing parts of their story. Please find resources on my website:
This is Margaret Swift Thompson.
Until next time, please take care of you!