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My Fifth-Year Anniversary

I’m on the other side of my 5th-year anniversary after saying good-bye and good riddance to clonazepam. Wednesday, April 17, 2019, marked the fifth year that I’ve lived without the cloud of doctor-created illness hanging over me and living inside me. That monster, that benzo beast that snuck into my life and stole too much, is gone. For the most part.

From the vaults. My tapering kit

While the first signs of healing were bright and clear — for example, the ability to see and appreciate the blueness of the sky and the sublime sound of well-played jazz — as I roll into the sixth year, the signs of healing are more subtle and perplexing. At their best, they feel like a nod from the universe that I belong in the world again, that I am okay. And I am so grateful. Nevertheless, I am not like the former me that I hoped would return. To my regret, I have a new kind of anxiety experience and a sort of PTSD that is very much a post-benzo-post-concussion condition. I still have trouble forming words, making sentences, and carrying on a conversation more often than I’d like…but not all of the time. And that is a huge improvement. Now, even if post-benzo and concussion symptoms have merged or overlapped, I can state without hesitation that I do feel 90% healed. Sure, I’d like to be at 100%, but I’m not certain that is possible, and I now believe that it does not need to be possible.

The Gobbo Films crew and I began production on As Prescribed reasonably early in my post-taper life. I was still struggling with akathisia, and on the ride to Boston to film benzo survivor Geraldine Burns, I described this weird horrible inner agitation to our production assistant, Sabato. He did not judge me, that kind and wise young man. What a world of difference his acceptance of my vulnerable state made. I will aways feel deeply thankful to Sabato for getting me through that first shoot. I was still so terribly fragile. The shoot went well, and, at this point, I feel confident that some of that footage is ending up in the final film. You never know with film editing — what you end up keeping, what you decide to cut. It’s always changing. Alas, all that brilliant footage that ends up on the cutting room floor — such is the nature of filmmaking.

So, 4 1/2 years have passed since that first location shoot in Boston; we completed production in 2018. Though we might choose to do some simple pick-up shots as we put together the fine cut, for all intents and purposes, we are now absorbed in editing and our post-production flow. Our rough-cut edit is going smoothly. The narrative and thematic pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. We recently met with animator Adam Teninbaum, whom BIC Director Stephen LaCorte introduced me to. Adam and artist Anna Puchalski will collaborate on our animations.

A sample of Anna’s work

Last year at this time we were cutting together a rough assembly edit. We could see that we had the first two acts of the film, and though we had hoped to complete the edit by the end of 2018, at least two of our storylines and one of our theme points needed further work. The benzo story is complicated, and we have been determined to serve the benzodiazepine story thoroughly and accurately. So we organized location shoots in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and California. We finally had the film in the can by late summer 2018. But in no way could we have had a solid rough cut by year’s end 2018, as it turned out.

Now it’s just a question of not rushing ourselves. Needless to say, our work is significantly better when we don’t rush, when we go back and review over and over and turn it all upside-down and then, and only then it seems, it comes right side up.

One example: A couple of weeks ago we were stewing over a missing point that we wanted to make. Months ago we had dropped a sub-story about a doctor who had helped some people taper off of benzos. We weren’t convinced. There was something about the story that didn’t ring true. Then…lightbulb moment…”Remember that he said…” Reconsider the footage…take another good look at what we filmed…Voila! Movie magic. The sub-story now makes an important point about the medical culture. We were able to include it organically, and, I’m happy to report, the scenes are startling and key to a point that needs to be made.

Personally, I am hoping to have the rough cut completed by July. Cam says that might be rushing it. I’m also hoping that the film’s animations can be completed by August or September. As freelancers, our team still has to work on other projects, so that is always a factor when putting together a completion timeline. Anna works on Cake Boss, by the way. Tune in to the show to see some of her incredible work. Okay, so the rough cut should be done in July — at the latest August (don’t quote me) — with music composition, sound editing, effects, color correction, transfers, and completion to follow. So that would take us to late autumn/early winter. I cannot provide a hard and fast date for completion. But we’re on it. It’s on my mind all the time.

Next week I head to Toronto. As Prescribed will participate in Hot Docs Distribution Rendezvous —I’ll be meeting with some of the world’s top documentary sales agents, distributors, and broadcasters. After completion we need to know where we will go, who will partner with us to help get As Prescribed out into the world so that the film can be all that it’s meant to be — a compelling film that will bring global and well-aimed awareness to the iatrogenic benzodiazepine epidemic. As Prescribed’s voice will be loud and will travel wide!

Feeling 90%. Dinner with my cousin Chris who is helping to raise funds for As Prescribed

Wish me luck in Toronto!

Fundraising to take us to completion is ongoing. We need your support. And please spread the word.