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  • Jonathan Isserow

Do not be an extra in your own life-movie!

My research aims to scope out innovative digital and participatory practices in mental health and how these might inform men's mental health interventions in the UK. Towards this, I had the unique opportunity to spend time with Dr Josh Cohen on the 26th floor of the US Bank Tower building in downtown LA. Josh is the creative force behind Film and Video-based Therapy that draws complex parallels between film making practices and therapeutic processes. Drawing on Cambell’s 'Hero's Journey' as the archetypal narrative arch, Josh is an advocate of process-orientated, community filmmaking that may includes transformational outcomes for the individual and the collective. His work creatively extends digital story telling by firstly, deepening meaning through the extensive symbolism and metaphor of film language, and secondly, by opening up practices of film making as a group experience. This suggests interesting pathways for community filmmaking to offer transformational processes in men’s mental health.

Curiously, the conversation oscillated between two main positions. On the one hand, we explored the role of creativity and community filmmaking as a means of keeping hope alive. On the other hand; we discussed how anger may or may not be experienced, as a core determinant in mental health, particularly that of men. Josh thoughtfully suggest the importance of acknowledging anger as a vital life force that needs to be attended to, rather than avoided or denied. He was careful to articulate that this is not about aggression or violence, but rather part of our humanity that needs socio-cultural spaces to give it a productive meaning. He suggests how creativity generally, and therapeutic filmmaking, specifically, might offer a vessel to further 'sit' with anger. Josh movingly spoke about the need for the film and video based therapy to promote hope and that film might provide an artefact that can acknowledges the journey taken to date. Josh wittingly summed up his philosophy saying 'Do not be an extra in your own life-movie!'. Clearly this is a call to lead an intentional, creative life, kept hopeful by the arts in all its form. It was an honour to speak to such an innovative thinker! Thank you Josh!

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