My father used to say that stories are part of the most precious heritage of mankind.
— Tahir Shah In Arabian Nights
Telling stories is not just a way of passing time. It is the way the wisdom gets passed along. The stuff that helps us to live a life worth remembering.
— Rachel Naomi Remen
I never expected to be making films. I had no training, no degree but I liked taking pictures and I liked listening to people’s stories and finding a way to share them with others. I got interested in doing this when I was working as an Occupational Therapy Assistant for Hospice Austin. I was always encouraging the patients I saw to make something–paintings, poems, audio tapes..to leave behind for family and friends.
One of my patients was a man named Peter. Peter had a brain tumor and not long to live and he wanted to make a little video. My son Andy was getting his degree in RTF/Radio, Television, Film at the University of Texas-Austin and so we were able to fulfill Peter’s request. We made a very short, not very professional film and Peter and his wife loved it.
I didn’t think much of it but I got a call from a reporter at the Austin American Statesman about doing a story. Peter, his wife Joanne and I were interviewed and when the story came out, it was on the front page of the Sunday paper.
So that was the beginning.
Peter died not long after we made his video and not long after that, I founded a non profit called AIDS CARE & ASSISTANCE/Rites of Passage to provide care for people with AIDS. I wanted to take what I had learned working at hospice and add some things I felt were missing and I definitely wanted to incorporate art into what we were offering.
The patients we were providing care for had a a lot of stories to tell–it was a time of extreme prejudice and judgement and many of these patients were shunned and rejected by their families.
Most of them were gay men in their 30s and 40s but a day came when we were asked to provide care for a baby with AIDS. His name was Jason, he was 6 months old and his parents were HIV positive also. This family, like many other people helped to change the face of AIDS. Neither gay nor IV drug users, they did not fit into the expected “people who have AIDS” category.
They seemed to be the perfect family, living the ‘American Dream’.
Two weeks before they were all three diagnosed with AIDS, Jim and Gerri were watching a TV show on prostitutes with AIDS and when the show was over, Gerri had turned to Jim and said “If AIDS is so bad, how come we don’t know anyone who has it?”
After we had been caring for Jason for a while, Jim and Gerri decided they wanted to share their experience and make some sort of educational film to bring more awareness about AIDS.
And so we made Jason-the Way we live today. Consisting of interviews with both Jim and Gerri, with both grandmothers and with Jason’s pediatrician, ‘Jason’ is an emotional film about being 24 and 22 years old and watching your baby die, knowing all the while that you are facing the same fate.
I was never very good at getting grants but we did get one–from the Texas based Hogg Foundation. The grant was small just $5000–the purpose of the grant was AIDS education. I was supposed to give talks at churches, nursing home and community groups and help people understand the truth about AIDS….to go beyond the prejudice. And this I was able to do through Jason the way we live today. Jason was able to reach people in a way that others could not and
we eventually gave him the title of ‘The AIDS Ambassador’.
Andy and I went on from there to make probably 15 documentaries:
on AIDS, on Agingon Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, on Loss and Grief, Near Death Experience,
on Native American Teachings, on Sustainable Living and on the US Prison System
All of our films are just as relevant today as they were when we made them…maybe some of them even more so. We filmed mostly in Texas but also in New Mexico, Manitoba and Saskatchewan and at Cambridge University and Glastonbury in the UK.
And our filming took us to wonderful places we never would have seen otherwise…
to the Starblanket Reserve in Saskatchewan
to the TURTLE LODGE in Manitoba
to traditional powwows
to Cambridge University
and to Glastonbury
to a traditional New Mexico Bean Field ceremony
and to the farm of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in Headwaters, Virginia
We met people from all walks of life, cultures– young and old, world famous and completely unknown
and they told us their stories..
and we put their stories into a format, into films which which have brought hope, inspiration, understanding and education to many, many hundreds of people.
The films are available below or in the main menu as Award Winning Films. They can be used for education, for hope and inspiration and for story telling. They can be used for in-services in Hospices, Nursing Schools & hospitals, for Adult Sunday School classes, in bereavement groups, in University Social Work classes, in prisons, for military chaplains, for drug and alcohol rehab centers and for Peace and Justice groups.
They serve as a reminder that we are all in some way…the same
On Death & Dying, Near Death Experience, Loss & Grief, Aging, AIDS, Hospice, Native American Teachings and Sustainable Living
MY SON ANDY PICKARD AND I began making films in 1990. Our first film together was a very short documentary called called Jason-The Way We Live Today which we made at the request of a family with AIDS.
From there we went on to make another film about AIDS, one on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and her work with dying children, 2 films on aging,……
a film specifically about Hospice and one on near-death experience,
3 films about Native American teachings and wisdom,
one on sustainable living and one which is as yet unfinished on the US Prison System.
Several of these have won awards and all of them remain as relevant today as when they were originally made. They have been purchased for use by universities, libraries, hospices, bereavement groups, nursing schools and health organizations including The National Institutes of Health as well as by individuals…throughout the US and Canada.
DEATH AND DYING, LOSS AND GRIEF
Turning Toward the Morning
“Turning Toward the Morning is a celebration of the human spirit. It is one of the most powerful expressions of love, compassion and transcendence I have ever seen. It is a reminder that we humans, for all our faults and failings, also contain the Divine. We are capable of great strengths, great visions, and great wisdom, which often surface in the wake of great pain. Watch this documentary with someone you love, and be prepared for magic.”
-Larry Dossey, MD, New York Times bestselling author of “Healing Words”
A film of unusual power and beauty, Turning Toward The Morning brings to light stories of parents who have lost a child to illness, to accidental death and to suicide.
Filled with the special wisdom of dying children and the heartfelt thoughts of their parents, its message is one of hope, not only for bereaved parents but for all of us.
“I watched Turning Toward The Morning with a lump in my throat, tears in my eyes and a sense of profound awe and sacredness……Since watching Turning Toward The Morning I live life with more passion, compassion and hope.”
Robert J. Bos, M.Div.
Coordinator of Special Programs
for Community Grief Support
Hospice of Michigan – Grand Rapids
2003 TELLY AWARD WINNER
We’re Almost Home Now
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and her work with dying children
* This is one of the only films ever made on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She was not easy to film but because of our close personal relationship with Elisabeth, we were able to make this documentary.
Cindy Pickard, co-producer
“It’s understandable that it’s very, very sad to lose a child. But parents need to know that their are children who have to pass very few tests, learn very few lessons, and teach a lot of unconditional love, and then they can graduate. And, to me, death is a graduation.”
~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D. from We’re Almost Home Now
This very sensitive and moving documentary weaves together the stories of 6 families who have each experienced the death of a child, along with the wisdom and knowledge of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross….Both families and professionals will come to understand more about the bridge of life, death and the healing process as this famed professional brings a message of hope to EVERYONE.
Gold Plaque Award – Intercom ’93
Jason The Way We Live Today
Jason-the way they live today is a short film about living with AIDS, about being 22 and 24 years old, watching your baby die and knowing that you also are destined to die…of AIDS. But more importantly it is a story about extraordinary grace and courage and making the most of each day…in the face of death.
Jason the way we live today was our first film. I showed it often to church and community groups as well as to people who were interested in becoming caregivers for AIDS patients….and I watched it dissolve the prejudice about AIDS and the people who have it.
~Cindy Pickard, co-producer
Angels Watch Over Me
“They truly could be any of our families…their vulnerability is ours, their experiences are ours and their heartbreak became ours. What we can all hope to learn from them is courage, love and above all the importance of educating our children.”
~William E. Sterling, D.D.,
Suffragan Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Texas
The VERY EMOTIONAL sequel to Jason the way we live today, this documentary follows the Brigg’s family through Jason’s death, Jim’s death and Gerri’s determination to continue on. Although Angels Watch Over Me about AIDS and the way it was in the early 1990s, its most significant message is in the wisdom it brings forth: about facing death with courage and dignity and coming to terms with great loss . If you’re ever feeling like the challenges you’re facing are too much, this is the film to watch!
“Maybe we are serving as a wakeup call to the entire nation..if other people can learn from our experience, maybe they connect with us more than some other people they’ve met, then I feel that we have a purpose in life.”
NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE
As It Is In Heaven
An interview with Dannion Brinkleywith music by
“We are not from here, we are from there
and all we do is just go home”
For me, it provided an opportunity to ask of one who has died and returned, such questions as “What is it like over there?”, “How does it feel to die?”, “Why is there suffering?” and “How can we live through these times that are so often frightening and unsettling?” As It Is In Heaven answers these questions and many more.
Illustrated by images from our own lives-hospice patients we have cared for, beloved family members we hope to meet again when it comes our time to cross over and places we have traveled -it is interwoven with the incredibly beautiful music of Andreas Vollenweider. We hope it brings you the peace, inspiration and love that it brought to us as we worked to produce it.
~ Cindy Pickard, co-producer
|*ABOUT DANNION BRINKLEYDannion Brinkley is a near death survivor and the author of the international bestseller, Saved by the Light as well as its companion, At Peace in the Light.|
Walking Us Home
The Hospice Experience
Created for the purpose of providing education and information about hospice for health care professionals, patients and their families and the public, this uplifting documentary includes insightful and informative interviews with staff, patients and family members -filled with many lighthearted as well as serious moments. This video is helpful for anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of Hospice-its philosophy and the services it provides, this video is also an excellent teaching tool for church and community groups.
GOLD STAR AWARD WORLD FEST HOUSTON
NATIVE AMERICAN/FIRST NATIONS
They will come to a fork in the road. One road will lead to Materialism and Destruction…..for almost all living creatures….The other road will lead to a Spiritual Way upon which the Native People will be standing…This path will lead to the lighting of the 8th fire, a period of eternal peace, harmony and a “New Earth” where the destruction of the past will be healed
Starblanket– A Spirit Journey with CD soundtrack
At the age of 24, Noel Starblanket was one of the youngest First Nations Chiefs in North America. At the age of 29, he became Chief of all Canadian Indians when he was elected president of the National Indian Brotherhood [now referred to as The Assembly of First Nations]. Outspoken, rebellious and sometimes outrageous, he was the subject of the 1973 National Film Board of Canada production titled simply, Starblanket. Now three and a half decades later, he shares with humor, honesty and emotion, his own healing journey and as he finds peace in returning to the teachings of the Elders, a greater appreciation of life through loss, and renewed hope for the future with the emerging Seventh Generation. Through the universal language of image, music and emotion, Starblanket: A Spirit Journey brings to light in a very personal way, the ancient teachings and the extraordinary wisdom of the First Nations people while offering a much-needed message for our time
*Noel Starblanket’s Keynote Speech for ADEC – Toronto, Ontario, Canada 2001
BEST SHORT DOCUMENTARY AMERICAN INDIAN FILM FESTIVAL SAN FRANCISCO 2006
THE 8TH FIRE
“In our troubled world, we desperately need a vision that can inspire us to greatness. This vision will be a recovery of the wisdom, sanity, and hope represented in The 8th Fire.”
– Larry Dossey, MD
Bestselling Author of Reinventing Medicine, Healing Words and
The Extraordinary Healing Power of Ordinary Things
Dave Courchene whose traditional name means LEADING EARTH MAN is an Elder and spiritual advisor from the Anishnabe Nation, Eagle Clan. Descended from a long line of chiefs and leaders of his people, he felt “Compelled by forces beyond his control” to quit his job as an educator and go on a ceremonial expedition of peace around the world.
Through his dreams, and visions, the experiences of others who have accompanied him on his journey and the words of the visionaries–past and present, we bring you THE 8TH FIRE One Earth * One Whole Circle * Again
A vision of hope…. for the future……for the Earth……for the children
THE 8TH FIRE TRAILER
*Read more about Dave Courchene
Manitou Api~ Where the Sun Rises
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR, Larry Dossey, MD:
“There is an old saying: ‘If you want to hide the treasure, put it in plain sight.’ Then no one will see it. MANITOU API reveals the discovery of symbols and wisdom lying in full view but forgotten — until they are brought again into awareness by those who have not forgotten how to see. MANITOU API is reminiscent of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, but with a decisive difference: It is true. Ranging from Canada to Cambridge, this fascinating film deals with life-and-death issues — because if we do not attend to the wisdom herein, we shall likely have no future on Earth, our only home.”
From – Diego Mulligan, KSFR Santa Fe Public Radio Host of “The Journey Home”
“Manitou API – Where the Sun Rises is by far the best Native American film I have ever seen. A MUST see
A First Nations Elder and an architectural historian together, uncover ancient symbols in a Canadian government building, symbols that validate a present day Native American prophecy that speaks of the Return of the People to the Center and the revealing of the 7 Sacred Teachings of the Indigenous People.
The return to the Center is to return to the heart. We¹ve all been called to wake from sleep to feel our power to dream again—a dream of peace.
–Elder Dave Courchene /Ni Gaani Aki Inini/ Leading Earth Man] Anishnabe Nation, Eagle Clan
Trailer for MANITOU API~Where the Sun Rises
*Read more about Dave Courchene
On The Land~Together with the Earth
- This is a film for anyone who wants to learn more about off grid/sustainable living….
“The Earth will bring people from all walks of life together”-Jonathan Warm Day Coming, Taos Pueblo Artist
“The messages of our ancestors are always around if we will only open our hearts to listen..” –Ed Cardenas ~Social Worker/Teacher/Author
“Why get hung up in the negativity of the global world…..I don’t go there even though it’s out there. It doesn’t affect me..it just motivates me to do my job which is pretty much… Build to the SUN”
~Willie Groffman, Solar Builder, Juggler
“YOU CAN’T EAT MONEY”–Victor Garcia Rancher/Building Craftsman
“There was no greed….now days there’s a lot f envy, hate..if you do something, you always have to do it for money…back then people used to help each other…whatever had to be done..”
Jody Armijo, Artist, Craftsman
“The new technology is here. It just needs to be implemented”
– Mark Myers, Solar Designer
Representing the 3 primary cultures of Northern NM, seven stories of the land and its power to heal, provide and bring people together. From growing up on Taos Pueblo in the 50s to bringing back the old ways of planting and relating through a traditional bean field ceremony , to healing from a troubled and violent life, the land heals and sustains and provides all that is needed to live the good life. Advice and practical suggestions are offered about how to make a ranch or home completely self sustaining, using solar energy and building from materials on the land.
Visually beautiful and with an equally beautiful soundtrack ON THE LAND is interspersed with humor and as well, features the Pueblo and Spanish Art of northern New Mexico
The old ways are remembered and honored while respectfully blending them with new technologies. and the wisdom and teachings of the ancestors and grandparents are paramount and always present..
2 FILMS ON AGING
DRIVING TO UTOPIA
“A rich and precious story of 3 older women and their journeys with loss, isolation and discovery. A moving video for professionals, women who are bereaved and anyone interested in understanding the importance of staying young at heart…”
This captivating video takes viewers into the lives of three inspirational women who have each found peace in growing older. Despite the limitations and challenges brought on by aging and the loss of a spouse, they have persevered and found contentment and joy in their later years.
“Driving to Utopia offers an engaging and thoughtful window in the lives of three widowed women who have said ‘yes’ to life. They draw from the wellsprings of lives filled with faith and joy, compassion and humor. As well as being stewards to the memories of their husbands, they are keepers of dreams yet to be fulfilled. This a valued addition to our library.”
Optima VNA Hospice
Merit Award – Mature Media National Awards 1995
Bringing the Circle Together
“Bringing the Circle Together” is an inspired achievement. It richly portrays one of the greatest resources of the human race – the wisdom of our elders – and why we need to rethink our current attitudes toward aging. Highly recommended.
-Larry Dossey, MD
Author: The Reinvention of Medicine
and Healing Words Exectutive Editor:
Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine
EXCERPT FROM Bringing the Circle Together
You’ve seen the world change a lot and not for the better?
“No, it’s getting worse every day.”
Tell me what you see.
“Greed – greed’s what’s wrong with our government today. You take those people up there in Washington-congressmen, senators and the president. They done forgot the Constitution. The Constitution said “a government by the people, for the people…equal rights to all and special privilege to none.” You think them people up there…? Something’s got to give one of these days. If we have another depression now, it’s going to be a lot worse than that other one. I lived through that other one. I know what it was. Once in a while you hear them talking about the cost of living’s gone down two-tenths of one percent, but it just don’t happen – up, up, up all the time. Look at all the floods we’ve had up north that destroyed crops and everything. That’s going to have something to do with the cost of living right there. I don’t know how our government can figure they’re doing anything right.”
Alvin Ivy, age 96 Rancher, Cowboy
and life experience spanning almost a century – these are the legacies offered by four unforgettable men in their nineties, the stars of Bringing the Circle Together.
A retired surgeon, cowboy, road-builder, and professor….. they remind us that life is a circle in which we are all interconnected and in some way responsible for the care of each other.
Woven throughout are the comments of three young men in their twenties and the insights of Dannion Brinkley, near death survivor and author of the New York Times bestseller Saved By the Light.
Merit Award~Mature Media National Awards 1999