(We at Geek Goes Rogue loves indie artists who live on their art and who want to make a difference in the world. To that end, we try to highlight Indie artists as much as we can. Here, our intrepid Hollywood connection, Jo Schaffer, interviews Brian Higgins about his passion to use art to help those with mental disabilities. He has founded Create Reel Change for that purpose and is currently running an Indiegogo campaign to support his efforts)
Where did you get the desire to use the arts in creating a road for mental wellness?
As with all ideas the desire to integrate creativity into mental wellness came from personal experience. Growing up in the conflicts of Northern Ireland culminated in quite bad issues with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder once I had emigrated to America. You see I had no other reference or comparison of life until moving to Boston in 2003. Flashbacks, night terrors, anxiety, self medication along with other symptoms began to raise their heads and I was unaware of any outlet or avenue to seek for an answer back then. So I followed all the expected roads to wellness including therapy, psychiatry, support groups and medication. Unfortunately none of these resonated with me and I resigned myself to living with these disabilities as I and society perceived them. I had spent years searching for an answer and some relief but there seemed to be no light at the end of my tunnel. I had always had an interest in film as a hobby and I threw myself into production on a small scale beginning with storyboards, then writing then producing little shorts and progressing into larger pieces as I grew. It took a few years concentrating on these films along with working in conceptual architecture but after a while and with some perspective I realized that there were underlying messages in my work that were actually along the lines of my own story and experiences told through different characters and story lines. I also noticed that my symptoms had subsided over the course too. Since then I have dived into all aspects of creative expression to keep my own mental health issues on the straight and narrow and so far so good. My motto at the core of everything I do whether it is architecture, graphic design, film production or stand up comedy is “Make things better to help people”. Everything began aligning in my life to say that I should try to bring these concepts that I have developed in my life to a greater population and that is exactly what I have been trying to do.
How did the inspiration for Create Reel Change Come about?
I began reinterpreting my personal experiences into “fictional faction” by removing the emotions that were attached to particular situations and working with the emotions rather than reliving the situation. Yes these trigger periods where fearful and painful among others but so are a ton of other experiences. Basically I transferred my understanding and memory into positive outlets. By removing direct connection to issues and triggers, I provided a different perspective and experience. Allowing a new path to traverse. Reliving and learning from past trauma to enhance my understanding and healing.Vocational skills I learnt in digital arts opened professional advancement. Public screening’s encouraged my self esteem, communication and interaction skills. Really the proof is in the pudding so to speak in my own personal advancement.
The space that Create Reel Change will be occupying will provide a base of operations and an incubator for creative outlet. A safe space for participants to come and express themselves freely in whatever medium they feel is most suited to their recovery. It will be a place of learning both technically and emotionally. Of course we will also have public events where we will be showcasing the work people have produced as I believe that communication and promotion of mental wellness is important to bring down the stigma that is attached to such matters.
Why do you think mental issue discussion are still taboo in our culture?
Most people these days either have issues with mental health or know someone who is traversing the hurdles themselves but even with the prevalence of awareness there is still stigma attached to perceptions. I feel people are afraid due to number of atrocities that are committed around the world on nearly a daily basis such as school shootings and the like. These are always attributed to forms of mental illness but most of these can perhaps be intercepted with the correct outlets and attention. A lot of people are seen to been psychotic and out of control but I want to see how they got to that state and hopefully offer a helping hand. With community outreach we can communicate directly to people and hopefully change their views. Yes there are many disorders that can only be helped with institutions and medication but even in these extreme circumstances Create Reel Change can still offer some form of peace. As a world we need to look at changing Mental Illness into Mental Wellness instead of brushing it under the carpet.
What are you long range goals for Create Real Change?
Well my long term goals for Create Reel Change is just that! I want to Create real change in myself, in the lives of others and the world around us. It is my hope that someday these concepts that I have and continue to develop along with mental health and creative industry professionals will be available internationally and recognized as a functional efficient and effective way to a happier existence. As a one man band I can make a lot of noise but I need an orchestra to sound like a symphony. Create Reel Change will achieve these goals by putting one foot in front of the other in order to succeed in the long run.