An Interview with Louie Schwartzberg
On His New Film Gratitude Revealed
Image courtesy of Gratitude Revealed
Louie Schwartzberg, the director of Fantastic Fungi, shares details on his newest flick, which is about the roots of gratitude.
From New Orleans to a Buddhist monastery in Tibet, Gratitude Revealed includes people, places, and stories from all corners of the world. It’s clear that this film has been in the making for quite a while. What inspired you to go on this journey?
My parents were Holocaust survivors, and growing up in their home I observed how they were grateful for every little thing we often take for granted, like food on the table, a roof over your head, a steady job, and the miracle of having children after what they went through. They had hope and love in their lives, given what they went through. So, I love to tell stories about people who overcome adversity and still have hope, joy, and love in their lives.
Each individual subject in the film had their own unique experience with success, hardship, and gratitude for life. What was the process for finding your subjects for the film?
I did research by asking local media, newspapers, film commissions, if they could recommend remarkable extraordinary people in their community that fit the profiles I was looking for.
The film dives into complex emotions like wonder, curiosity, love, patience, resilience, scarcity, suffering, connection, and loss. Why choose gratitude as the overarching theme of the film?
Because all the above values add up to being grateful. Gratitude is a small step, a direction that can pull us out of a negative spiral. When you have positive thoughts coming in, it blocks the rumination of negative thoughts in your brain.
Gratitude and happiness are two states of mind that our society perpetually strives for, with seemingly little success. There are numerous studies, articles, books, and films dedicated to gratitude. How does Gratitude Revealed take a different approach?
Great question! Different from books and studies, it does not tell you what to do or how to practice gratitude. You observe remarkable, ordinary people living their lives with passion, having overcome adversity, being resilient, and it is up to the viewer to create their own personal context and meaning as to how you can integrate that experience into your life, your relationships, your business, your community.
What can the viewer do before and after watching the film to fully experience its intended effects?
Relish and savor the emotions that were stirred inside of you, and apply that revelation to your life and make it a practice. It will change your life.
Lastly, it’s obvious that you’ve put an immense amount of time and dedication into this film. How has your life changed since creating and sharing this work?
In creating this film, I interviewed and hung out with some extraordinary people, and spent months editing and distilling each story into its core essence. That means I have lived and dreamed each image, sentence, word, hundreds of times, so it is now embedded deep inside of my soul.
I do feel joy sharing the film with others—that is why I persevere through the obstacles and challenges required to capture these magic moments with people sharing their wisdom. It is hard yet rewarding work.
I don’t do it for myself. I do it because I want to share the gift of gratitude with others. Only then do I finally get the dopamine feeling by observing how it inspires others. Definitely delayed personal gratification, over many years, but that is another lesson in patience: having the intention, going on the journey, and letting it unfold.
Read our review of Louie's 2019 documentary Fantastic Fungi here.