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A new chapter of Lisa Anita Wegner's storytelling.

Filmmaker Performance Artist

The following are literally excerpts of Lisa’s life leading up to and after her film debuts at Cannes. They are pieces of a puzzle – and what Lisa remembers of this time.

“I remember packing; I had all these fantastic red carpet gowns on loan from people, all my gowns were hanging in the kitchen, on the door, because my place was so small. I remember one of the my interns saying I’d been running at about 45% leading up to Cannes, but I thought it was normal, you know I was working on seven different projects at the same time, of course I was tired! Cannes was coming up and I have the dresses and a generous donor paying for the flight and tickets to really cool parties and we’re gonna do this! I’ve got seven scripts, it all felt really fun and I realized who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do.

“I needed to sleep. I had an overwhelming need to sleep. I scared the hell out my PA – I lay down on the floor and went to sleep and she couldn’t wake me up.”

“I found myself in this place, literally unable to function or do anything normal. I was living in a condo where I could see Cannes from the window; I had wads of cash and a BMW but couldn’t figure out how to get myself an orange juice – my kingdom for a fucking orange juice!  My PA had left and I don’t blame her one bit, I couldn’t handle what was happening to me, how could anyone else handle it?”

“I remember going down to the front desk, saying to the front desk staff that I was really ill and asking them to help me make a phone call and they said no. I wasn’t asking for a handout or charity, I just needed help in something as simple as making a phone call because in the state I was in I couldn’t figure out how to do it myself. I felt terrible, helpless, and although I knew something was really wrong, I couldn’t figure out what – I kept trying to figure out what the fuck was going on…”

“I finally managed to get internet service in my room, I knew I needed to email home but who do you email when you’re that messed up? I finally managed to email a couple of people and of course that turned into a wild version of broken telephone – people had heard that I’d  died, that I was in a mental institution, everything under the sun.”

“My t friend TV producer Morgan Drmaj finally managed to change my flight. There was a stopover in the UK where, because I was acting oddly, the decided I needed psychiatric assessment before could get on the plane. It was weird because although I was behaving oddly, I was lucid, I was making sense, but I guess not enough. So there I was sitting in a room with criminals, completely terrified, waiting for a psychiatric assessment. They wouldn’t let me communicate with Kate, or let her in to see me. I didn’t know if they were going to let me out of the country, or let me go home. Something I found funny later was that my ticket had  been booked as “needing special assistance” because I was ill. This is what they called “special assistance”, I guess – lock up the sobbing woman.”

” After years of personal difficulties i was in an emotional darkness – this was what led to my diagnosis of complex-post traumatic stress disorder, which is very similar to a head trauma. There’s a really cool TEDtalk link to the left that might give you a perspective on what i was going through –  “Jill Bolte Taylor watched as her brain functions — motion, speech, self-awareness — shut down one by one.”

“I knew who I was but it felt like a lie. Like I wasn’t who I was. It’s absolutely surreal experience to feel like you’re a toddler trying to explain a university thesis. You know logically, all the strange things happening to you are not real, but emotionally they are very real.”

“I didn’t really leave the house for about a year, because I didn’t know myself. I also had my childhood friend Malika Scott move in with me when she realized i needed help. She was my caregiver from June 2008 to June 2009. I had a  weird dissociation from who I was, I remember thinking “purple is my favourite colour” but then seeing it, questioning, “is it really? I’m looking at all these colours and it’s not standing out for any reason”  – and this is how the art started. As a way of finding myself again.”

I was still recovering – I started making videos, just quick ones. It’s how I started to realize I was doing the right thing because when I was working on them, it was the only time I felt focused and calm with energy. An example is on the left – I shot it, cut it and went back to bed.

I got a placement at Gerstein Centre – it was amazing. It’s a short-term respite house  I have no idea how they got to me or found me, but one day they were at my house saying  pack a  few things for a few days.  I stayed for 8 days. I did nothing but sleep. I slept. Nothing but slept. They encouraged me when they saw I was awake to come downstairs and talk – I went back to sleep. Finally I went downstairs on the 8th day and talked to them. They said that I should start making videos (Butterfly Boy) and that’s where I learned claymation techniques. I figured out drawing and words at the same time was good therapy.

It took about a year in between to get me into trauma program at Women’s College Hospital– a year where I just existed, too much medication as they tried to sort out the best way to treat me. I felt really disconnected from everything. I kept wondering, “How will I find my way back?

I got into the art therapy program.  I was like a kid, excited all summer about the potential of concrete help knowing I was the exact person they wanted to help. I’ve graduated from their art therapy program, and I’m on a waiting list for an upcoming six months of work with a PTSD specialist.

I started SpeakArt– it’s group art program. They give you a theme, they have an amazing art room where you and the rest of the group would work individually for about an hour. You could talk or not depending on where you were at that day, and then we’d talk about the art – give each other feedback. The themes were all problem solving.

When I got home I started really doing art, really focusing– I already had all the tools, and my anxiety so high I needed a list of things to do to calm myself. I needed a list because what if I become so anxious; I forgot what would calm me down? And the list included – make art, make a video, watch The Golden Girls.  It’s weird, the more anxious I am the more art that I make – before there were days I couldn’t create anything if I tried, and now I cannot stop. It was a really crappy pathway, but what a gift for an artist. It dawned on me that this was the way back – art saved my life – literally.

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