WRITER/DIRECTOR, WILHELM REICH DOCUMENTARY FILM PROJECT
Kevin has an M.F.A. in Film from the New York University Graduate Film School, worked as a screenwriter in Los Angeles and New York, is a member of the Writers Guild of America (West) in Los Angeles, and over the past ten years has been a film professor in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Since 2002 he has been a co-director of the Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust in Rangeley, Maine (www.wilhelmreichtrust.org) which helps to administer Reich’s archives at Harvard’s Countway Library of Medicine; works with New York publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux to publish Reich’s books; and operates the Wilhelm Reich Museum in Maine.
First of all, I’m good at research: delving into massive amounts of information for as long as it takes to extract whatever it is that needs to be extracted.
For example, for my current “Wilhelm Reich Documentary Film Project” I spent several years reading and studying over 7,500 pages of Wilhelm Reich’s published books and research journals; plus hundreds of pages of the U.S. government’s files on Reich (State Department, FBI, Immigration & Naturalization Service, and FDA); plus hundreds of pages of Reich’s unpublished archival materials at Harvard’s Countway Library of Medicine; plus many other primary resources from the United States and Europe.
I also listened to dozens of Reich’s original voice recordings from the 1940s and 50s, all of this to distill and to write a factually accurate storyline for a full-length (100-110 minute) documentary film. And I did this research and writing before ever going out with a film crew to shoot a single frame.
Secondly, I’m good at boiling down a lot of complex information into coherent narratives that are accessible to general audiences for films, conferences, public talks and classroom lectures.
While I think I’m better than some people at certain things, I’d never presume to call myself the best at anything. Two red flags for me are when someone says, “I’m the best” or, even worse, “I’m complicated.” Those are always my cues for a quick exit.
My immediate aspiration, of course, is to finish this documentary, and that’s probably two years away. This will be the first factually accurate film about Wilhelm Reich, a film that will be accessible to mainstream audiences and which can also be used as a learning tool for classrooms, conferences and other presentations.
This is a compelling story of a renowned psychiatrist, research physician and scientist who emigrated to America on the eve of World War II, only to have his books and research journals banned and burned in America in 1956 and 1960 by order of a Federal Court.
And for decades, previous filmmakers have squandered their opportunities to tell this story factually because of poor research, personal agendas, outside influences, and what I see as intellectual laziness. Meanwhile, the distortions about Reich proliferate.
A factual film about Reich is long overdue and is desperately needed to help correct these widespread distortions for future generations.
“Let us be sentimental, but never maudlin.” Which is more of a personal credo. For work, my guiding motto is a statement generally attributed to the late Senator Daniel Moynihan of New York: “You’re entitled to your opinions, but you’re not entitled to your facts.”
I’d love to meet some research physicians and scientists who are open to new modalities for studying the origin and treatment of diseases. That’s because one of the major plot threads in this film is how the traditional medical community and the Food & Drug Administration maligned, distorted and ultimately put an end to Wilhelm Reich’s promising research of cancer and other diseases..
Too many to mention: some sweet spots on the lakes in Maine, Civil War battlefields, old diners and abandoned railroad lines anywhere.
Anything related to high-definition video cameras, camera movement and post-production editing. But an old-fashioned antique compass would be nice for my outdoor adventures.
Good storytelling, whether as an audience or as a creator. Plus my usual outdoor pursuits far from any human voice.
How will you become the best?
I prefer the word “better”, rather than “best”. And I think I get better by always trying to master the material in whatever project I’m working on.
Mastering the material doesn’t mean you know everything or that you’re always right. Nor does it give you the right to go out and call yourself an expert.
But mastering the material—which requires time, patience and exhaustive research—provides a vast reservoir of facts and context which allows for better intellectual and creative choices. And for this documentary, it definitely enabled me to prepare solid questions for all of my interviews.
Being able to tap into that broad range of choices is essential for producing honest and accessible narratives.
What fascinates you?
History continues to fascinate me, how the past is always with us, how the past continues to shape us. The last four years have marked the 150th anniversary of the Civil War which has always been my favorite subject. And we’re now into the 100th anniversary of World War I which has me reading John Keegan’s excellent book The First World War. I’m particularly fascinated by true stories of individuals whose lives intersect with major historical events, which is one of the undercurrents of the “Wilhelm Reich Documentary Film Project.”