In a world where instant gratification and quick fixes are king, alternative approaches to healing are commonly dismissed. Director Michael Galinsky explores the world of psychosomatic pain in All the Rage ( Saved by Dr. Sarno) by documenting both the teachings of Dr. Sarno as well as the Galinsky’s own experiences of applying Dr. Sarno’s theories to his immobilizing back pain. The documentary boasts big names whose lives have been changed by Dr. Sarno, like Howard Stern and Larry David, and is a refreshing angle on a medical innovation. Rather than relying on the more clinical approach of talking heads and client confessions, watching the director himself go on this journey gives a point of view that isn’t often shown in medical documentaries and is a key factor in successfully persuading the audience on something that could be a very hard sell. All the Rage ( Saved by Dr. Sarno) is world premiering at the DOC NYC 2016.
We interviewed Director Michael Galinsky to give us more insight on All the Rage.
Can you briefly tell the readers what All the Rage is about?
All The Rage began as a film about Dr. John Sarno and his mind body approach to back pain. We came to the story because of a personal connection to it. Michael’s father read Dr. Sarno’s book “Healing Back Pain” in the 80’s and healed from years of chronic whiplash pain. Later Michael’s brother went to see Dr. Sarno when he had such bad hand problems that he could not type or drive. Michael read the book at that point and banished his own recurrent back pain for a decade. When it came roaring back and he was slammed to the floor in incredible pain, he went to see Dr Sarno as well, and thus began a 12 year odyssey to make this film. Over the course of filming it became an increasingly personal story.
What was your main motivation for making the documentary?
We at Rumur knew that Dr. Sarno had a powerful story that needed to be told. We have made four other feature docs about characters who are fighting for what they believe in against great odds. We originally tried making this film as a verite documentary, but quickly found it difficult. In fact, it ended up getting put on hold for many years because we couldn’t raise any funding and we weren’t convinced that we knew how to make it. When Michael’s back problems flared up again in 2011, we were more determined than ever to finish the film. The good news was that the culture had shifted dramatically in the time that the project was on hold. People were much more open to the idea that many health problems had a psychosomatic connection. That made it much more exciting to work on it. That process has only ramped up over the last 5 years.
Being that psychosomatic pain is so often dismissed, were you at all reluctant to make a film about it?
We weren’t reluctant to make, but we did find it hard to fund, and hard to conceptualize. The idea that pain has a psychosomatic basis was widely dismissed as unscientific a dozen years ago. Both doctors and patients found it hard to wrap their minds around the idea that back pain might have an emotional cause. Because of that reality, we needed to be very deliberate about how we told the story. Now the idea is much more accepted and there is a flood of research supporting this idea.
How long did it take to shoot? Did you run into any challenges while making it?
In our first 3 years of trying to get the film off the ground, we shot only 6 hours of tape. By contrast we shot nearly 300 hours on another doc that we were working on at the same time. The first challenge was funding. We applied for dozens of grants, many of them multiple times, but the ideas at the heart of the film didn’t connect. While Dr. Sarno’s ideas are controversial with the mainstream, he does have a large and dedicated following thanks to the success of his best-selling books on back pain. Hundreds of people have said his books changed their lives. That way, we were able to raise funding via kickstarter once we restarted the film. At that point, the only way we could think of a film was in terms of direct cinema. We had no interest in doing talking head interviews. At the same time, there wasn’t much action we could follow. Dr. Sarno would not introduce us to patients and we couldn’t find anyone to follow, so we were kind of stuck. Eventually, we made it more personal as we went along, using Michael’s story as a way to give the audience a character to relate to. We were thenable to make use of the footage we had shot and we ended up interviewing a number of people because it was a complex story that needed many voices.
Can you tell our readers why they should see All the Rage and what you want the audience to take away from the film?
All The Rage won’t provide people with an easy answer to their problems, but it will give them a way to view their lives, and their emotions, in a more open way that should put them on a pathway towards healing. We were very conscious of making a film that honors Dr. Sarno’s legacy without making a film that was just for people who are already fans of his work. We also didn’t want to make a film that was essentially his book in a shortened form, but instead a film that would inspire people to do their own work in coming to understand the ideas. Almost everyone we have shown the film to so far has asked, “Can I show this to my brother/father/friend”. Most people have also said, “This will help so many people!” Last week we saw that a well know comedian cancelled a show due to back pain. We sent him a link that night and in the morning we got a message that said, “Fabulous Film!, Finish it! I’ll promote it!” That same day we heard from another comedian who had just read the book and echoed the sentiments above. The goal was to make a film that drove home the idea that our minds and bodies are intimately connected. I think we accomplished that.
What would you say to nonbelievers in psychosomatic pain? How can a friend or family member convince a nonbeliever with chronic pain to get this kind of help?
As Dr. Sarno points out, you can’t convince anyone of anything. For this reason, we tried to make a film that wouldn’t feel like we were trying to convince them. However we did want to show, to illustrate that connection. By the end of the film it can’t be ignored.
Can you give tips to any prospective Documentary filmmakers?What did you learn while making All the Rage?
Making films takes time. There’s always a way around no. This morning on the way to NY we ran into a friend who works at the airport. We met her when she inquired about our camera bag last year. Turned out that she was interested in film. A couple of weeks later she started to shoot a documentary about a transgender co-worker who was becoming a major advocate for transgender rights. We started to help her shoot and conceptualize the film. There’s been a learning curve there for sure, but she showed us something she shot earlier this week just before the election. It’s going to be a several year shoot and she is coming to understand what needs to get shot and what she can let go. It was awesome to see how much she’s learned- which leads to you learn by doing!
What’s next step for both you and the doc?
We hope that the film changes the conversation about health care. We have a half dozen films in the fire- but we know we are going to spend the next year getting this film out.
All the Rage World Premiered at DOC NYC 2016 and will screen again on Tuesday, November 15, 2016, 9:45 PM at the IFC Center.
For tickets and more information click here.