Escapology: The Art of Addiction
Follow the five steps below to get the most out of your UnLonely Film Festival experience!
Step 1: Watch the film.
A non-judgmental exploration of addiction that avoids gritty drug clichés. Using powerfully simple line-drawing animation, we hear this stultifying syndrome — and the possibilities of help and hope — explained by Nick Mercer, a former addict and now psychotherapist and addiction counselor.
About the FIlmmaker
Alex Widdowson is a London-based documentary animation director and writer, specializing in the topics of mental health and neurodiversity. He has lectured on the field and published over 40 articles on animated documentary.com, the UK’s leading blog in the area. He chronicles his own research and practice at DocumentaryAnimationDiscourse.com. He has studied at the Royal College of Art and served as artist in residence at the Philadelphia Association, a psychotherapy organization founded by the radical psychiatrist R. D. Laing.
This film was made with support from the Philadelphia Association and distributed by Vice.
Did you set out to explore loneliness in your film and if so, what prompted this focus?
This was a film about addiction. I feel isolation is a key factor in that process.
Alternately, did you recognize a theme of loneliness as your project developed?
It hadn’t occurred to me until the festival approached me, but I can see its relevance.
What do you hope UnLonely Film Festival audiences, trying to make sense of loneliness and isolation and navigate a path forward, take from your film?
If an audience member recognizes addictive behavior which has developed in correlation with their isolation I hope they are able to confront that, whether it is either facing up to a major addiction or noticing more subtle unhealthy relationship with a substance.
Any other information of backstory you want to share about your film?
Nick Mercer, a psychotherapist with the Philadelphia Association and former heroin addict, reflects on his experiences and the nature of addiction. His journey is depicted through a simple set of metaphors rather than the gritty realism we associate with documentary images of drug abuse.
Step 2: Explore these things after watching the film.
- Are there times in your life that you feel you are dwelling in illusion versus reality? How so?
- Nick Mercer described his relationship to drugs/alcohol as transitioning from excitement to the mundane when drug use became habitual and routine—he says it’s a dreary and conservative life, that it’s not a “wild or romantic business.” Did this film change any of your views about drug or alcohol use? If so, how?
- What is important about Nick Mercer sharing his story? What element of his narrative might be most useful to someone who is using drugs and alcohol to become more whole, as he did?
- Draw a square, and another square overlapping it, connect the corners of these two squares with lines. You have created a simple cube. Try varying the placement of your squares and draw the lines between. We may be very familiar with this basic illusion in drawing that draws from re-creating 3-dimensional space on a two-dimensional plane. Experiment with creating other drawn illusions warping cubes in different ways and adding on with your own creative ideas.
- Perform a basic Tai Chi exercise. Rub your hands together briskly for one minute. Gently pull your hands apart slowly in a cupped formation, as if you are holding a ball. Notice the ball of energy you have formed. Slowly move your cupped hands around this energy, your charged chi, and expand your ball of energy. How can you describe this sensation? Could this be described as magic?
- Create a dream board. Gather favorite magazines, newspapers, photocopies and cut-out images that resonate with what you want to manifest. Glue the images to a piece of paper or lightweight cardboard. Dream boards can be used for their potential to create magical results. Put yours away, and revisit it in a few months to see what may have shifted as a result.
Our Try This page has even more creative expression inspiration!
Step 3: Join in the conversation about the film.
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