Making the Movie
The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Stories from MPA is an accidental documentary created in an unorthodox fashion.
Whose idea was it anyway? In June 2010 Geertje Boschma, Megan Davies and Marina Morrow started gathering oral history interviews with early MPA members. Struck by the profound, experiential-based interpretations of the past which they were hearing, and aware of the potential of using the History of Madness website, the three academics decided to invite the people who founded MPA to help tell the story of the organization that they had founded. This is a decidedly unorthodox way of doing history.
At our first project meeting in February 2011, the MPA Founders elected to create a collaborative documentary about the organization’s first decade. Lacking experience in filmmaking or any real understanding of the magnitude of the task, and with Geertje out of the country, Megan and Marina replied, “Sure!”
And so we began… The group determined that participants would select what they considered to be the most important segments of their interviews, and these segments would comprise the basic building blocks for the film, another unorthodox method. Megan then grouped the interview selections into topical categories – an easy task because there was wide agreement about the important aspects of the early MPA. Then the group placed these topics onto a documentary story line and refined a core project values statement. We turned these pieces over to our film editors in the summer of 2011, and rough cuts of emerging documentary and decisions about audience and dissemination were brought back to the group over the next year.
Fuelled by the skills and enthusiasm of a host of talented youth, and supported by helpful friends and family and kind strangers, the finished film premiered simultaneously in Vancouver, BC and Glasgow, Scotland in May 2013. DVDs were distributed to all Canadian university and college libraries. Three years later it had been viewed by an estimated 6,000 viewers and in another eight years the total audience topped 17,000. This audience base continues to grow with the use of the film as a teaching tool in the History in Practice/ Histoire en tête website and through viewing via our Madness Canada YouTube channel.
Inmates co-creators Lanny Beckman and Megan Davies wrote, Democracy Is a Very Radical Idea, about making the documentary. This piece appears as a chapter in Mad Matters: A Critical Reader in Canadian Mad Studies, B. LeFrançois, R. Menzies and G. Reaume, eds. (Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press, 2013) Reproduced by permission of Canadian Scholars’ Press, Inc. Copyright is retained by the authors and Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc.
Film Screenings and Media: The Inmates has been shown publicly in Vancouver, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edinburgh, Hornby Island and Maple Ridge. It has been screened at the Congress of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Victoria (2013), York University and the University of British Columbia (2014), the Birkshire Conference in Women’s History at the University of Toronto (2014), and the Northern Ontario Medical School (2014). Team members have participated in radio interviews about MPA and the documentary project: