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I recently had the opportunity to interview the documentary filmmaker, Laura Dyan Kezman. She is the creator of a documentary called Just Eat, which is the subject of an Indiegogo campaign. We chatted on the phone on Sunday morning after connecting through magic of cyberspace and our shared interest in raising awareness on eating disorder issues. I wanted to get to know the woman behind the movie and she was kind enough to oblige.

What inspired you to become a film director?

I went to school for print journalism and documentary film making. I fell in love with documentary medium. My first film was based in Milwaukee and was about homeless LGBTQ youth. This project solidified my desire to tackle journalism in a visual, narrative way. I later worked at Al Jazeera, then freelanced, then worked at National Geographic for three years. I started this project in January of 2011. I worked on it on the side, when resources permitted. I have a passion for producing. I took a break from this project this summer to produce a film in Norway.

What do people get wrong when they imagine the life of a director?

People think that it’s glamorous and easy. Producing is something that does come naturally to me. The business side is tougher and it’s been a humbling learning experience. There’s a lot more to making a movie than just producing a great story: solidifying a budget, marketing, starting a campaign. This is the more difficult, raw part of filmmaking.

What do you find most rewarding about directing?

The reward for me is envisioning the end result of people consuming a product that will get them talking. It’s changing viewpoints on eating disorders. Filmmaking is opening the door for people to change their minds about something. It provides an ability to connect the dots. I want to invite them to learn about something new. I love telling stories and sharing information.

What advice would you have for women who want to pursue a career in filmmaking?

Filmmaking takes a good story and a lot of passion. There has to be a lot of commitment. There is an instant supply of good stories that make for good documentaries. It’s important to know how to recognize a good story and how to figure your way around a lot of road blocks.

What is your self-care plan like when you are busy trying to raise awareness on important issues?

My self-care plan involves relying on people closest to me who have been there through my recovery. I have to be committed to being honest and transparent with everything that has become difficult in the process of immersing myself in this topic. I protect myself by being objective about the issues at stake and tackling the subject matter from a more pragmatic way instead of emotionally. Being surrounded with people going through the rawness, it’s not difficult to revisit that place with empathy. Guarding yourself is so important to stay healthy.

I live away from family and a lot of my friends so phone calls are important. Running was a recovery behaviour for me. I find it meditative and empowering. I like to go out and go for a run. It reminds me I’m capable and it helps center me a lot.

Who are your biggest supporters?

Joel Van Haren. He was co-producer on the homeless documentary and is also from Milwaukee. He is a cinematographer and producer.

Liza Day. She is the featured musician whose voice narrates the trailer and close friend.

Spencer Chumbley. A producer and cinematographer from Milwaukee.

Catherine, my roommate. She’s been in the background championing this project, keeping me on track and accountable.

What is your personal experience with eating disorders?

I was diagnosed with anorexia in 2006. I had no idea I had a problem. I was confronted by my family, who were paying attention and did their own research. I thought I was making healthy decisions for myself and my body even though I knew I didn’t need to lose weight. I knew what I was doing wasn’t sustainable but my mind was telling me otherwise. I was consumed unexpectedly by something that dictated my whole life. I went to the ER with my parents. They were trying to find resources and they didn’t know where to turn. I was bounced between doctors. I saw a nutritionist twice a week and participated in an outpatient therapy program.

The doctors were asking very brash questions and it was anxiety provoking. The nutritionist requested my admission to a psychiatric ward where I stayed for a couple days. I was the only eating disorder patient. I was surrounded by people with a myriad of other issues and by professionals who didn’t know what to do with me. The psychiatrist gave me an antidepressant. Insurance didn’t cover the short, unproductive stay and the bills were expensive. We found a Wisconsin treatment facility but the intake fee was between $15-20,000, which insurance wouldn’t cover.

What inspired Just Eat?

My own experiences inspired the film, as well as my concern about how high the death rate is for this disease. I was struck by how high the likelihood was of not having access to treatment and proper care. People know eating disorders exist but don’t understand them. It’s perceived to be a privileged affluent disease of women. It’s not about vanity and I want to tell that story.

What message do you have for eating disorder patients about recovery?

Recovery is an option. You will not be stuck in this place forever if you choose to put forth the work, because it is work. It is incredibly hard but you are not alone. These thoughts and dark places that come from eating disorders can feel isolating and shameful, but you are not alone. There is hope. Talk about it for what it is, this helps lessen the power it has. When I started talking about it, it had less power over me. There is power in exposing it.

What advice do you have for family and friends of eating disorder patients?

Be patient. Educate yourself. Recognize that it’s not about you and it’s not your fault.

I am grateful for Laura’s candour about her experiences and wish her the best in her goal of raising awareness on eating disorder issues. If you are someone in Canada who is struggling with an eating disorder, you can find information about accessing treatment here. In the USA, you can find information on resources here.

1 Comment

  1. You picked the right person as Fearless Female! I enjoyed the interview and wish Laura all the best with her film!