Making the film Wasted with Mike was complicated. I have to say my documentary director brain sometimes overrode my “decent human being brain.”
Pretty well everywhere we filmed, the booze flowed. A few times we took Mike back to Penticton to film, back to where his life had unravelled. He’d tear up, overcome with emotion as he related how he lost everything that mattered to alcoholism. My TV brain would go, “Yes! Very compelling scene,” and then immediately I’d be chagrined and ashamed, recognizing this process was hurtful to this man I love. I was getting “great material,” but at what cost?
That cost increased exponentially after Mike relapsed. As the year progressed and as we came to understand how the brains of those who battle addiction are different than the rest of ours, I realized even submitting Mike to the scientific tests, for the sake of the film, actually put him at risk of drinking again. One of those tests involved wiring him up in an MRI and showing him pictures of very enticing drinks. Look, but don’t touch.
I’d ask Mike during these particularly challenging shoots, whether he wanted to keep going. And, sometimes, the answer had to be “no.” Then we’d down tools, delay shoots and challenge ourselves to take a break from talking endless about addiction. We’d have a “housecoat” day one day a week. Play with our 2-year-old grandson Elliot. There’s nothing like a 2 year old to teach you how to live in this moment!
But most often, when I asked Mike if he wanted to continue filming, his answer was “yes,” even knowing that the camera was capturing some of his most vulnerable moments; that’s how strong is Mike’s passion to change the conversation about addiction. He can’t do that until people see it less as a moral problem and more as a medical one. That’s what we hope to accomplish with this film. And I am immensely proud of my partner that he had the strength of character to keep going through some dark times.