PSYCHEDELIA is a documentary about the rich and complex history of psychedelic drugs in human society. It explores their origin among tribal peoples and ancient mystics, their influence on the counterculture of the 1960s, and their recent reemergence in medical studies at major Universities in the United States.
The film is FINISHED, but I lack sufficient funds to license old photographs, films, and music so that I can legally screen the film to audiences. This money would allow me to share this important story with public audiences.
BACKGROUND ON THE PROJECT:
I started this project as a senior at NYU Tisch School of the Arts after learning about a study at NYU School of Medicine exploring the use of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, to treat end-of-life anxiety in cancer patients. After learning more about the study and psychedelics in general, I uncovered a history that I had not previously known. I felt that it was important to convey the historical background of these agents in order to give context to the current studies.
WHY I NEED YOUR HELP:
Copyright laws in the United States forbid me from showing this film to public audiences due to unlicensed copyrighted material in the film. Knowing this ahead of time, I searched for material in the National Archives and public domain, but not everything fell into those categories. I have contacted publishers for estimates on the costs and have based my goal on those numbers.
SUMMARY OF THE STORY:
Since before recorded history, mankind has sought ways to expand consciousness and answer the great mysteries of existence. Researchers have traced evidence of psychedelic plant use in shamanic, religious, and spiritual contexts throughout cultures around the world. Among other things, they have been used to prepare for war, to locate lost people, and to glimpse into unseen spiritual realms.
In the late 1950s, J.P. Morgan Vice President R. Gordon Wasson traveled to a remote village in Mexico to participate in an ancient mushroom ritual. He published his profound experience in Life Magazine, helping spread the word to Western civilization. Among those influenced by his writing was Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary.
After the discovery of LSD in the 1940s, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals distributed the drug to researchers and psychiatrists around the world. Therapists found that under the right conditions, LSD produced a mystical experience, leading to promising therapeutic outcomes for a variety of conditions including chronic alcoholism. Many of these conditions had proven impervious to conventional methods.
Due in good part to the proselytizing efforts of Timothy Leary, LSD escaped the laboratory and became entwined with the protest movements and cultural explosion of the 1960s. Partly because of headline-grabbing suicide attempts, and partly as an attempt to stamp-out cultural upheaval, psychedelics were placed under tight control by the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. Research faded out and the agents largely vanished from our culture.
During the 1990s, Rick Strassman broke the seal with a research study exploring the psycho-spiritual effects of DMT. This helped pave the way for research using psilocybin at Johns Hopkins, UCLA, and NYU. These studies have used psilocybin to treat anxiety for individuals with terminal illness. They have shown promise in reducing end-of-life psycho-spiritual distress.
PEOPLE IN THE FILM:
PSYCHEDELIA features a number of interviewees prominent in the field of psychedelic research. Some led pre-1970 studies while others are involved in current research. In addition the film features a participant in the NYU Psilocybin Cancer Anxiety Study.
Dr. Herbert Kleber
Charles S. Grob, M.D.
Dr. Stephen Ross
Jeffrey Guss, M.D.
Anthony Bossis, Ph.D.
Matthew Johnson, Ph.D.
Neal Goldsmith, Ph.D.
Risks and challenges
Making a film, especially independently, is a challenging endeavor. There is a lot of work required by the various stages. Pre-production, finding your story and developing a strategy to make the product. Production, searching for and traveling to various interview subjects, shooting b-roll footage, and climbing mountaintops in time to catch the sunset. Post-production, taking hours and hours of footage and seemingly endless intellectual tangents and turning it into a cohesive story.
After all that is done, you have to make sure you are legally permitted to show the film to audiences, as documentaries, and especially this one, use a lot of copyrighted material. And even though it's for purely editorial purposes, it costs money.
I feel prepared to take on the task of securing licenses for all of the material. If a piece of music or archival video is out of the question in terms of costs, I feel comfortable enough that I can find ways creatively to work around it. I have contacted most of the holders of the copyright and have gotten estimates so my goal is based on real numbers.
By working in the documentary industry and being a graduate of NYU Tisch I also have a number of different advisors I can ask questions. They are people who have been doing this for many years.
Receive a customized RESEARCH PACKAGE including extended scenes, archival documentary films, research papers, and resources for your own investigation into all things psychedelic... as well as the above.
Meet some of the people involved in psychedelic research. Attend a screening of the film and afterwards join the filmmaker and some of the interview subjects for a dinner out. And, of course, all the above.