The Art of Recovery
A national film festival created by Writers in Treatment spotlights addiction and recovery.
By Kathy Moser
Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Hunter S. Thompson—what do they all have in common? Great writing and notoriously heavy drinking. Together with many of their contemporaries, they contributed to the dangerous myth that drinking and drugs enhance creativity.
An organization called Writers in Treatment, through its growing REEL Recovery Film Festival, is working to bust that myth while also reducing the stigma of addiction and the anonymity of recovery. Now in its fifth year, the festival showcases more than 30 films in a lineup that mixes contemporary and classic productions with documentaries and shorts by American and international filmmakers—first-timers and veterans alike. This event is a celebration not only of film, but also of writing and creativity in general. All the featured works offer an in-depth look at addiction, alcoholism, gambling, self-harm, behavioral disorders, treatment, and recovery.
The annual festival is held at multiple sites, each with panel discussions and other special events. For the New York Edition, addiction specialist Donna Chauvous of A&E’s Intervention hosted the panel “Artistic Freedom in Recovery.” New York was also the site for the panel “Chasing the Muse . . . Stone Cold Sober.”
In Los Angeles, actors Robert Downey, Jr., and Ed Begley, Jr., joined comedian Bobcat Goldthwait and other celebrities in honoring Duran Duran co-founder John Taylor, recipient of the Experience, Strength, and Hope Award from Writers in Treatment.
The 2013 festival included the shorts Brightwood, The Art Fix, and Sober St. Patrick’s Day; documentaries Behind the Orange Curtain and Invisible Young; and feature films Owning Mahoney, Acts of Worship, and The Man with the Golden Arm. Following productions, festival goers often enjoy discussions with the directors and casts.
David Carr of The New York Times, who wrote the stunning memoir The Night of the Gun, had this to say during one panel: “I spent $400 on coke to write a story I got paid $250 for. The economics of this production did not make sense. Everything is simpler when you are sober—not easier but simpler. You can make meaningful commitments. If someone asks you a question, you can answer it. If someone asks you to show up, you can show up. The tough thing about writing sober is the same problem you have in life—you cannot change channels. There’s no pharmacological solution to your problems.”
Based in Studio City, CA, Writers In Treatment is a nonprofit organization founded in 2008 by Leonard Buschel to support recovery and the arts by helping to get treatment for writers suffering from addiction. Writers in Treatment believes that the solitary nature of creativity can put writers at risk of succumbing to the deadly combination of isolation and addiction.
Throughout REEL Recovery’s five-year history, the festival has traveled to Los Angeles; Vancouver,
BC; Delray Beach, FL; New York; Denton, TX; and Las Vegas. Spring festival sites for 2014 are San Francisco and Sacramento, CA.
To get more information or to submit a film for consideration, visit reelrecoveryfilmfestival.org.
To learn more about Writers in Treatment, visit writersintreatment.org.
San Francisco Edition
April 24 – 27, 2014
Delancey Street Theater
San Francisco, CA 94107
May 2 – 4, 2014
2508 Land Park Drive
Sacramento, CA 95818