I have always been fascinated by the practice of listening. It set in most deeply when I lived in a remote Alaskan cabin near a waterfall where, for seven years, the sound of water and nature had their way with me. I wanted to make a film about sound, one with a spiritual core. While in southern France in 2009, Sophie and I were researching a film about Mary Magdalene. We met Tom Kenyon and Judi Sion who were doing a workshop on Magdalene near Rennes le Chateau and they agreed to meet us.
I was aware of Tom Kenyon and had listened to one of his CD’s, which he said was inspired by Mary Magdalene. The most dramatic thing I can say about our meeting with him in France is it led directly to Sophie and I getting married. Tom performed a toning for the two of us and within the hour I had proposed to Sophie. How that occurred is a longer story but eventually, it led to us deciding to do a movie about Tom and his work.
Tom was a very interesting cat to me, analytical by nature, he defined himself as a musician, and a researcher on the brain and how sound influences brain states. Meanwhile he was experiencing psychic, spiritual or paranormal events that most of us would love to experience – such states named samadhi by the yogis or satori by the Japanese Buddhists.
Abandoning all conventional musical forms, Tom has invented a way of chanting or “toning” using his nearly four octave voice and taking audiences on sound journeys to deeper states of consciousness.
As a filmmaker, I was intrigued to make a film about one man’s relationship to and use of sound. Secondly, I saw a film that might normalize psychic experiences. Thirdly, I wanted to make a film that might challenge an audience to go within for some insight. And lastly, I saw a film that carried a message for a planet in peril.
So began a four-year odyssey following Tom and Judi around to spots in many countries, including caves in France, chandeliered symphony halls in Vienna and a remote island in the San Juan Islands in Washington State where Tom and Judi live.
The biggest challenge to me was how to make a film about things that are essential invisible: psychic experiences and sound. The solution was a combination of nature imagery and animation. The latter led me to discover the genius of Seattle animator Drew Christie, who was a delight to work with.
One of the unfair advantages of being a director is you get credit for other people’s amazing work. Key to the collaboration was Editor Eric Frith, composers Jason Staczek and Ian Moore and sound designer Dave Howe. None of it – and I mean none of it – would have happened without the creative brilliance and divine insight of my co-producer and partner in life, Sophie Jane Mortimer.
In the end, my greatest interest with this film is not to tell just a great story but to also invite audiences to have an experience with sound that transcends the story. I am immensely curious about what will happen.
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