Defying All Odds: a documentary about Dr. Wahls’ recovery journey
Enjoy this guest post from Filmmaker, Caroleen Moise. To read in French, click here.
I am often asked how I came about making a documentary about Dr. Wahls’ recovery journey from MS. Today, I would like to share this story with you…
In 2013, I was at the end of the pre-production phase of my first feature documentary, We Love Paleo (aka Love Paleo).
It was my debut feature and I was finalizing my cast list. I already had 13 people who had confirmed their interest in appearing in my doc. One day, one of my interviewees, Cain Credicott, told me “you should interview Dr. Wahls, she has an amazing story”.
I vaguely knew the name and let him know that I would look into it.
I eventually watched Terry’s TEDx talk ”Minding Your Mitochondria”. What I saw was a woman who had achieved what seemed impossible: recovering from multiple sclerosis after becoming wheelchair-ridden. This incredible woman, herself a medical doctor, had found a way to effectively recover from a disease no one thought one could recover from. I was in awe. Then it hit me: I had seen that TEDx talk circa 2011 when I used to walk several miles a day as part of my daily fitness routine and would listen to podcasts, talks, and audio books—any reliable source I could find—about the paleo lifestyle which I had recently began following… Not knowing that I would eventually make a film on the topic a couple of years later.
I kept reading and digging… and I kept being amazed with every new blog post, interview or news article covering Dr. Wahls phenomenal feat.
In fact, I was (pleasantly) surprised to find countless interviews and docs featuring her as a medical expert, with very few productions focusing on her personal story.
What shame! Or was it?
I decided right there and then that, in time, I would approach her with a concept for a film about her recovery journey. I kept this to myself, secretly hoping that no one would beat me to it.
Once We Love Paleo was finally done and dusted and we were now in the distribution phase, I got to work on what would eventually become Defying All Odds. When I reached out to Dr. Wahls’ she was open, warm, and curious about my concept. It was still early days but I think she could readily understand my vision and agreed to explore the ideas I had for a film. A few months later, we were discussing shooting dates, financing, and what have you.
I must admit that sometimes I wondered if Dr. Wahls and her wife Jackie would “stick with the program” as they say: I was an independent who was going to rely on crowdfunding to make this film and given its small budget, it was going to be a long haul project! But, somehow, they both stuck with it and remained patient for two long years! I never felt a sense of impatience or frustration. Dr. Wahls, who I now dealt with multiple times a week was always helpful in providing me with what I needed, whether it was information, access to something or someone or archival material… In itself, the experience of liaising with her, galvanised me in my resolve to see this project through and to make it the best it could possibly be with whatever means would come my way.
And girl, am I happy we made this film. Three years later it has gained distribution and festival recognition. Not a week goes by without someone thanking me/us for making this film and wanting to educate people about alternative ways to manage or even reverse their disease using a lifestyle approach.
I’m very proud of what we were able to achieve and I am forever grateful to everyone who contributed to this project whether by backing it, acting in it, producing it.