The following article is presented to you by Miguel García, Pablo Sanz & Jane Weiner
For all the general public.
Today we have the luck to interview a filmmaker, that has been working during the last years in a documentary on myopia. She had the patience and time to answer to all of our questions.
Ms. Weiner born in New York. She studied Biology and American History at San Francisco State University, where she graduated in English Literature and majored in Filmic Studies. She also taught communication at the University of Syracuse.
Jane Weiner began as a young filmmaker and nowadays she is well known for her filmographic and audiovisual works. Currently she is making a documentary film related to myopia.
There is no better blog than this to know more about her myopia documentary work!
Good morning, Ms. Weiner!
It is a huge pleasure to see you again. First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to conduct this interview.
I think that there is no better place than the International Myopia Conference to introduce us to your work.
- Have you been previously in other editions of the IMC? Are you enjoying the experience?
Well, this is my third IMC. I went first to California, then to China and now, here we are. I really, really enjoy it! At my first IMC, I knew absolutely nothing about myopia, well I can’t say nothing about myopia, because I am myopic, but I knew nothing about eye science. Before my first IMC experience, in fact, I didn’t have time to read anything about the subject, so you can imagine, sitting through those complex lectures was really a challenge, quite a challenge.
But as it happens, I already knew many of people involved in eye science quite well and they were available to answer my questions and guided me through the basic eye science of Myopia. And then over the years, attending both International Myopia Conferences and the ARVOs in United States as well as some other conferences in Europe, I began to really, genuinely understand. So, for the last 3 or 4 years I’ve had the privilege of studying eye science with the top professors around the world.
- So, talking about the people…what do you think when you see so many people dedicating their research to the fight against myopia?
Well, my best friend in all the world is Josh Wallman, so I’ve know these people for a very long time, not as scientists but simply as friends, which is a different kind of relationship. Their work is absolutely amazing, but I didn ́t really understand most of it – and, the key to making a movie is that the filmmaker must understand the subject extremely well in order to translate the science into an audio visual experience using everyday language and images that a wide audience of all ages and backgrounds can easily understand. I’m not working as a journalist — making interviews and editing them together — I’m trying to develop a very clear comprehensible story of what Myopia is and why the current epidemic presents a worldwide public health problem.
- About the general concern… Do you think that the general public is aware of this problem and its possible causes and consequences in the future?
No, I don’t think the general public knows anything about myopia, in fact in the United States they don’t even use this word. They say ‘near-sighted’ or in England they use ‘short-sighted’. And, many people don’t have a clue as to why they are wearing glasses. I’ve heard so many people saying: “Yeah, I’m absolutely near-sighted, I can’t see far” but, when you look at their prescription, it is all plus diopters – so they must be ‘far-sighted’.
So you know, it’s just that people are not well informed by their eye doctors. They go and get an eye exam, get a prescription for eyeglasses and it ́s all magic!
- Talking about your Myopia documentary…what drew you to telling this story?
My goal is to use images and small stories in conjunction with those images, with the voices of the experts telling the story. We will cover everything from birth to old age, and the main point of the film, although we say it very gently, is that this is a very, very dangerous subject.
- Maybe with this documentary the general public is more concern about…?
If you say ‘glaucoma’ to the people it’s just a word, they don ́t know what it means. Even from my personal experience, my father had glaucoma and I knew he had to take eye-drops and he could not drive anymore but I didn ́t really know what that meant in terms of reduced vision…
I didn’t understand it at all, until I got it myself, and that’s the same for most people.
- What was your prior knowledge about myopia?
My prior knowledge of myopia was that almost everyone in my family was myopic: My father was strongly myopic and he was photographer, architect photographer. I knew that he had retinal detachment and glaucoma but I didn ́t know about its association to myopia.
- During these years you’ve met some of the greatest researchers in the field, what have you been most surprised to learn about?
I think the most important thing I’ve learned was how serious this subject is and how difficult it is for the scientific and professional community to communicate this to the general public. There is a real disconnect, even between the scientists and the practitioners and, then, onto the general public. A double disconnection…
- When you started getting to know what scientists were discovering about myopia, has there been anything that surprised you a lot?
I try to think something that was really the most surprising… I actually do remember, yes… One of the most amazing things for me was that when I began to getting involved in this — I looked first to the Josh Wallman publications, I think the most amazing thing for me was to understand that he had discovered the importance of defocus in the periphery quite early on and that is only recently that contact lenses are being made to ‘manage’ the problem of myopia progression. The scientists weren’t thinking of solving the problem; they were just looking at what was occurring to make an eye myopic. And we are, right now, at the nexus of where science, discovery, and practical applications come together.
- Well, yes, there is some slowness to transform into something can be exported to the practice…
Yes, that ́s very slow. It took many stages, first trying to control peripheral defocus with spectacles, understanding something… then, finding better ways to do it. And, as everything seems to happen in this particular science, discoveries all happen by accident. Those are the great stories!
- Talking about the documentary…what was the biggest challenge in making the documentary film?
Technically the biggest challenge is that I decided to try to simulate different aspects of vision. Video and film are both two-dimensional while vision is three-dimensional, so that ́s a handicap of making a film. Working in digital you have little bit of room to modify the depth of field and depth of vision but I’m looking into using equipment that is truly three-dimensional in order to obtain a real taste of what is like to see with different eye modalities.
- With this documentary, are you trying to show what being myopic means for the public?
Oh yes! Absolutely, the purpose for making the documentary is to get the word out about how dangerous any amount of myopia is, particularly in children. I mean, I have spoken to many, many adults who have never in their life get an eye exam and then they start to have problems, so I say to everyone: Even if you think you have no problems, go now, get an exam so at least you have a starting point, so that when something else happened you will know at what point you can say, when I was 20 years old, I saw it like this, and when I was 40 I saw like this. So that it gives you some basis for understanding where you are when something goes wrong.
- Is there any deadline? When will the documentary be released?
I need to rise 500.000 € to make the film properly and I need another one 500.000€, because it’s quite an involved project: 1) a creative feature-length film for cinema distribution, 2) a one-hour TV version – using the same footage, which that is delivered to the public in a more straightforward, basic style, and 3) I’ll also make short little pieces for web distribution or that could be used in eye doctors’ waiting rooms, etc. Plus using this three-dimensional equipment, we’re creating an educational exhibition for science museums where the people go and discover the different aspects of hyperopia, myopia, astigmatism, and the diseases associated with myopia – glaucoma, detached retina, macular degeneration and cataracts.
From the moment I acquire full funding, I set a deadline of 18 months after so, the time it takes to finish depends on when I am able to obtain the financing. At this point, we’re anticipating the release date to be Autumn 2019.
- What are you working on next? Is it related to myopia?
It ́s funny, I take a lot of time to make each film. People that I worked with in France told me: “You have 6 weeks to go to Burgundy and film this subject”. And I said: “No, no, no, no…” I spent 3 years living there, meeting the people, and staying on there, filming almost every day…a little bit every day and really gathered an impressive story…so I don ́t really have much headroom left to think what the next project is because when I started this project I thought, “oh no problem, I know all the scientists, it will be very simple, they know what to say and we have a film…!” But first I had to learn a lot, it was like going back to school and then I realized that the project to do in the way that I wanted to do was not a low-budget film.
It turned into a large project, so right now I don ́t really think about what I am doing next, After this is over ideas will come to me but I don ́t have a wish list.
Once again thank you very much for your time. It has been a pleasure to have been able to conduct this interview. We are really looking forward to watching your project.
All the best!
You are welcome! By the way, I love your blog!
LOSING SIGHT – Inside the Myopia Epidemic – a documentary by Jane Weiner.
Disclaimer, all the rights from the trailer above are hold by the author Jane Weiner. The copy or reproduction in any way is not allowed unless explicit permission from her.
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