New York Film Academy Los Angeles Documentary Department Chair Barbara Multer-Wellin is producing a documentary, Orchestrating Change, on an orchestra made up of musicians with mental illness who are combating the stereotypes their illness carries. We spoke with Multer-Wellin about what drew her to this project, and what she hopes people will learn after watching.
Tell us a little bit about your film.
The documentary is being co-produced and directed by me and Margie Friedman. We’d been friends and colleagues for a long time and were looking for a project to work on together when we heard about the work of Me2/Orchestra. Ronald Braunstein, a Juilliard-trained conductor, whose spectacular career was derailed by his diagnosis with bipolar disorder, started Me2. He and his wife, a career orchestra administrator, have created two (and soon to be more) orchestras made up of musicians with mental illness and those who support them. Their mission is to combat the kind of stigma Ronald and so many other people living with mental health diagnoses have faced.
Most independent documentaries take a long time to produce because so few projects can obtain full financing up front. We’ve been filming Me2 for about a year now and that has given us the opportunity to document the growth of the orchestras and how much the musicians have gained from participating. Me2 is working towards a performance at a major concert hall that we hope will be the finale of the film.
I have to thank New York Film Academy for allowing me the flexibility to shoot in Boston and Burlington, Vermont on various days over the last year. I believe our students benefit because I, like so many of our Chairs and Instructors, am able to keep making work as well as teaching.
You can learn more about Me2/Orchestra and Multer-Wellin’s documentary, Orchestrating Change, by clicking here.