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This feature-length film will explore the human impulse to create, concentrate and discover the mystery of self.
This feature-length film will explore the human impulse to create, concentrate and discover the mystery of self.
65 backers pledged $6,550 to help bring this project to life.

Recent updates

FOCUSED LIFE Film Screening and Grant Update

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Hello generous and patient supporters,

The project is still alive and I have wonderful news to share.

1)  Since I last updated you, The Film Collaborative, an LA based 501(c)(3), accepted our request for fiscal sponsorship. Here is our fiscal sponsor page if you'd like to have a look! It includes a trailer, more info and the option to give a tax deductible donation.

2)  On November 1st I received a $10,000 grant from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation to finish the film. These funds will be used for 6 weeks of editing, travel, and music recording, among other costs.

3)  FOCUSED LIFE, in its current work-in-progress state, will be screened at the Salt Lake City Main Library on November 21st at 7:00pm. The event is free and open to to the public. I hope you can make it!

I am so grateful for your support and patience while this film continues its process. My apologies that it is such a long-term effort. At the same time, there are many documentaries that take 5 or more years. I think it's important to give any project the time it needs to properly develop, especially one as broad and ambitious as this.

Life is full of distractions - depression, doubt and despair - and I have struggled in past years to keep moving forward. At times I lost momentum and/or confidence in the vision, exhausted by so much talking about it, writing about it, thinking about it, and doing the hard work of meditation training, all while expending energy seeking funding.

But in the end, the film - as though a friend helping me in times of need, would encourage me to persevere: to be patient, pro-active, organized, and ask for help. I have learned so much about filmmaking. This has essentially been a masters degree without a diploma. I am very grateful for the experience.

There is a quote I like:

"Vision with out action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world."

Best Abundant Wishes,

Conor Provenzano


Focused Life

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Hello supporters, friends, family and curious minds... 

Remember this project? The one with a vague premise, having something to do with concentration, which you supported way back in May of 2012? It has been so long since the director has provided you with an update on its development that perhaps you’ve given up on it, or thought about it on occasion but only with a sense of bewilderment as to the lack of anything tangible resulting from your donation. As you read this very sentence now, you may be wondering why so much time has passed since the campaign was originally funded in May of 2012 and where the money has gone to and what you are ever going to be able to see. Has the director been jailed? Is he in a coma due to an unfortunate accident that has left this project in the hands of some family member or caretaker who does not have the will or desire to complete it, much less carry out the process of creating personalized, specialty gifts to send off to it’s funders? 

No! If such a thing were true, I would not be able to inform you that the film originally called "The Serpent Fire" is almost finished and will screen at the Tower Theater in Salt Lake City later this year. This will be the first release of a strong draft, with a running time around 100 minutes. I will send a formal invite as soon as the date and time have been decided.

I am overjoyed by the shape this film has taken, slowly but surely over the course of the last three years, into a rich narrative about the mind's potential. There will be roughly 30 interviews of people engaged in various applications of focus, as well as street interviews with strangers. Everyone has contributed insight to this complex topic, whether or not they decided to speak on camera.

I am sorry it has taken so long for me to update you. Please understand that this film has required me to develop a strong mind, one capable of rewiring the brain, and I assure you this takes time. I had some questions that needed answering, questions about the nature of mind, and the information presented itself when I was ready for it. As much as other people provided clues, ultimately those answers needed to be sought out within myself. 

As much as I have shaped this film, it has shaped me. Through the film I came to Vipassana meditation, which has become the cornerstone of my life, guiding me towards insight and away from things unworthy of my time and attention. Interestingly, the character strengths I have developed through making this film have been necessary for me to be at all successful in meditation, and such developments are gradual. The film, by nature, required of me a constellation of patience, persistence, intuition and action, all of which helped me through periods of great inspiration and great doubt. There were moments when I felt maddened by the cacophony of ideas in my head – like blurry jigsaw puzzle pieces to fit together somehow. But despite the initial lack of clarity I was sure of one thing – that there would eventually be a beautiful picture. Nothing could dissuade me from entering the process with all the force my mind and spirit could provide. Confidence in a vision is sometimes all you need to persist. 

Some of the best advice I have received is only two words: “Keep going.” I am still learning how to stay on target while developing several tasks, always looking for the next step (instead of thinking about how many steps there may be). I’ve learned how to get over fears that prevent me from connecting with people, from being a strong person and director. Sometimes this means filming a stranger from three feet away, or talking with someone without needing to interview them. Whenever I feel impatient or frustrated, I remembered something Stanley Kubrick said in an interview: “You can’t allow yourself to be frustrated because it just proves to be too much of a distraction.” 

And there were countless times in the past three years, each day, when I noticed my own vulnerability to distraction (you can imagine the kind of neurosis that caused…). Invariably it came down to a preference for low-effort, high-excitement experiences. In these moments I earnestly made an effort to build impulse control because it would have been insane for me to do otherwise – to make a film about focusing the mind, interviewing people who are saying all kinds of inspiring things about how to avoid distraction, thinking about focus practically all day, everyday for three years, and yet remain in the same predictable habit of being unfocused and unwell. Herein lies the value of art as an intentional approach to the acceleration of self-awareness, self-regulation and self-transcendence. It provides a great opportunity to directly observe the subject of investigation within oneself. 

The documentary has a new title: "Focused Life”. The title makes a statement about how focus is influenced by everything in our lives – the people we surround ourselves with, the conversations we have, what we choose to do, think about, and consume. It’s also a reference to the seriousness with which any person striving to liberate the mind from negativities must treat concentration – as a very high priority. One gradually starts to leave behind everything that impedes its development. Additionally, true focus is a long-term process cultivated across the lifespan, although the experience of it is always now. 

As a unique application of focus, meditation makes clear just how much negativity is unknowingly lying beneath the surface. When the mind is still enough to observe itself, when the capacity to focus is expanded and turned inward, transmutation of negativities happens by its own accord. We go into the suffering, observing it with understanding, and find more and more layers of reactivity from past experiences compressed deep into the psyche. I believe this is the real reason people are afraid of meditation. We are a culture that generally runs from pain, trying as best we can to distract ourselves from our own mind, which is conducive to more misery in the end. 

Even though our capitalistic culture is designed to distract us in every possible way from observing the reality inside, one should never doubt the possibility of becoming a highly moral, pure-minded and concentrated person, capable of great humility and wisdom. All it takes is the right application of our focus. The mind can be transformed, and so can the brains very structure. It may be hard to do, it may require repeated effort and regular devotion of time, but my own experience has been that the benefits far outweigh the cost. We have to remember that humans do all kinds of incredible things by way of rigorous mental application, and this is nothing but a reflection of our natural propensity to expand our understanding of this ephemeral reality. Is meditation really so hard to do? In about 10,000 years of evolution we’ve managed to expand our knowledge from rudimentary agriculture to the splitting of sub-atomic particles, creating spaceships capable of flying to the moon and back. Imagine what the human race would be capable of if meditation were seen for what it is and given priority. In my opinion, for whatever it’s worth, all of societies ills would start to fade away, because the roots of our problems originate in the mind, and that is where we can begin to transmute impurities. 

So you can see how this film has become a subject of great importance. It’s not just about focus and distraction, or rather, the subject does not end there. It’s about the greatness of our inherent potential, the road to self-mastery, and our ability to dissolve our own ego. It’s also about maturation of the nervous system and the brain, self-regulation, misery reduction, and creating a genuinely peaceful situation here on earth. But most of our energy is wasted on pleasure-seeking distractions from the reality within. This is the age-old lesson which humans find so hard to learn. 

Moving forward, I would like to thank you all again for trusting in this vision, one that will soon be coming to fruition. Filming is almost done and I’ve edited roughly half of the material. Expect to get an update in the next few months regarding a screening in Salt Lake City. Below are links to three sequences from the film. They should give an impression of how the style and content will look and feel. Please enjoy! - password: joanofarc - password: inkwell - password: focusedlearning

If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me! I'd love to hear from you.

Warm Regards,


Conor Provenzano

Patiently, Persistently

Hi Everyone,

It's been a while since the last update, so I just want to let you know what I've been filming recently and what my plans are.

I just finished filming/interviewing folks down at the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City. It was a great experience! One of the participants (Alfred Rordame) practices Yoga, and our interview session explored the necessity of focus as applied to violin building. He spoke very well about the subtleties that demand hours of work in order to refine. I think this film is very much going to be about "work". You could say, how humans benefit from putting work into things ("work" here meaning nothing but concentrated mental effort).

I also just did some filming with a juggler named Mather, who does amazing stuff! I brought my gear down to the farmers market and found him juggling for money. It blew me away what he was able to do (up to 9 balls at once, for example). You could see the concentration very clearly...

There are many insightful people slowly becoming a part of this film. The main challenge for me is to be patient in allowing production to manifest. It can be understandably difficult to convince working adults with kids to be a part of this. I find that the key is gentle persistence, as with learning anything.

Here are some examples of sequences in planning: an avalanche survivor, an OBGYN doctor, a saxophone player, a piano teacher, a Vipassana meditator and a Yoga instructor. Additionally I am filming random people in the streets (mainly when they aren't aware), taking street photos and I'm about to start editing the rough cut as I go along!

I'd like to thank everyone for being patient, especially with these long stretches in between updates. There are some production stills below - enjoy!


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Set Backs & Strong Determination

Hi Everyone,

Just wanted to update you on what's happening with the film, and thank you again for donating and helping me kick-start this project. It has honestly been so helpful to me.

Unfortunately my camera gear and audio recorder were stolen from my car while I was visiting a friend/participant in Portland recently. We were going to shoot an interview that day, went for a walk, and came back to find that my car had been broken into. I felt responsible, frustrated, and shocked, although I tried to remain equanimous with the sensations. It served as a reminder not to react when things don't go our way - which is bound to happen again and again in life. Since we have no control over external circumstances, the only thing we can do is control our reactions to them.

Moving forward, I am revising a grant with the San Francisco Film Society, and hoping to get accepted into their Fiscal Sponsorship Program. This would assist me in writing a strong grant proposal, and from there I could expand the project overall (rent equipment and studio space, pay additional staff, etc). Whether or not I get accepted into this program, the film is on its way. I ask for your patience in its manifestation.

Thank you kindly for believing in this project.


Conor Provenzano

The Beginning of "Serpent Fire"

Hi Everyone!

It's been months since I've updated you all on the progress of the movie, which is getting off the ground slowly but surely. So, what's happening with "The Serpent Fire"?

I just returned from a road trip to Montabello, Quebec - which is almost a week from Salt Lake City by car. In a little town called Montabello, tucked away in the hills, I took a ten day silent meditation course. This was to further my understanding of concentration and meditation at the experiential level. Call it research for the film. During the ten days we could not speak, look anyone in the eyes (except the teacher when asking a question), and we sat in meditation for up to 10 hours a day. It was an intense, valuable experience in which I was to taste just a tiny drop of the mind made concentrated by continuous, gentle, persistent effort in the techniques of Anapana and Vipassana.

After the course I shot my first interview with a very beautiful person - a French man named Pierre-Henri Munier. He was there attending the course and I new I wanted to shoot an interview with him because we had talked before the course began.  He emanated a sincere calmness of mind, and his gaze was very gentle and compassionate.  He seemed very happy.  His walk was slow and secure.  I thought - this is what concentration of mind looks like!  During the course, when I was exhausted from sitting in long hours of meditation, he would always be there - sitting still.  This inspired me to keep working persistently.  After the course I inquired about his experience, then told him about the documentary and asked him if he would like to participate. He agreed. I shot him walking along a serene path in the forrest, then we did a 30 minute audio interview on the themes of "The Serpent Fire". Strangely, the footage looked exactly how I viewed it in my head while I took daily walks in the trees, and what he contributed to the interview was also very valuable. He told me he had taken 4 courses in Vipassana (which is not for the faint of heart, I promise) and it showed.

Driving through Quebec and across the United States I got some valuable footage of people, went to museums and shot sculptures which will add rich imagery for layering in post-production, and also took plenty of 35mm photos for the film. In Quebec the photos I shot were mainly Christian themed: striking cathedrals, grave sites, monuments, and the like. These images and the composition within the frame reminded me of the harmonious quality of Christ-like people - that is, people who have tamed their mind and established real equanimity. These images of Christ reminded me of Pierre-Henri, I guess because he struck me as such a saintly person.

So, after getting returning to Utah and getting established with a new living situation, a new day-job, and clearing some additional work out of the way - my mind is restlessly thinking about "The Serpent Fire" day and night. Day and night...

I am very anxious to start doing more interviews with interesting people, shooting rich imagery for abstract visuals and recording conversations (to be used in the film). I will update you in the next few months with more stories and information on the progress of the film. For now, enjoy these screen-shots from what I have been working on so far.

Thank you all so much!!!

Conor Provenzano

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