The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Stories from MPA is an accidental documentary created in an unorthodox fashion.
Whose idea was it anyway?
In June 2010 Geertje Boschma, Megan Davies and Marina Morrow started gathering oral history interviews with early MPA members. Struck by the profound, experiential-based interpretations of the past which they were hearing, and aware of the potential of using the History of Madness website, the three academics decided to invite the people who founded MPA to help tell the story of the organization that they had founded. This is a decidedly unorthodox way of doing history.
At our first project meeting in February 2011, the MPA Founders elected to create a collaborative documentary about the organization's first decade. Lacking experience in filmmaking or any real understanding of the magnitude of the task, and with Geertje out of the country, Megan and Marina replied,
And so we began...
The group determined that participants would select what they considered to be the most important segments of their interviews, and these segments would comprise the basic building blocks for the film, another unorthodox method. Megan then grouped the interview selections into topical categories – an easy task because there was wide agreement about the important aspects of the early MPA. Then the group placed these topics onto a documentary story line and refined a core project values statement. We turned these pieces over to our film editors in the summer of 2011, and rough cuts of emerging documentary and decisions about audience and dissemination were brought back to the group over the next year.
Fueled by the skills and enthusiasm of a host of talented youth, and supported by helpful friends and family and kind strangers, the finished film premiered simultaneously in Vancouver, BC and Glasgow, Scotland in May 2013. Three years later it had been viewed by an estimated 7,000+ viewers. This audience base will grow with the use of the film as a teaching tool in the History in Practice / Histoire en tête website and through further community screenings.
Inmates co-creators Lanny Beckman and Megan Davies wrote, "Democracy Is a Very Radical Idea," about making the documentary. This piece appears as a chapter in Mad Matters: A Critical Reader in Canadian Mad Studies , B. LeFrançois, R. Menzies and G. Reaume, eds. (Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press, 2013) Reproduced by permission of Canadian Scholars' Press, Inc., copyright is retained by the authors and Canadian Scholars' Press Inc.
Film Screenings and Media
The Inmates has been shown publically in Vancouver, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edinburgh, Hornby Island and Maple Ridge. It has been screened at the Congress of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Victoria (2013), York University and the University of British Columbia (2014), the Birkshire Conference in Women's History at the University of Toronto (2014), and the Northern Ontario Medical School (2014). Team members have participated in public screenings and radio interviews about MPA:
- Interview with film producer from CKCU radio (audio clip, 10min)
- Audio interview podcast with producer and one of MPA original members (article with audio clip, 28min)
Interested in screening The Inmates?
The MPA Founders who made the film want it to be shown to people who work in mental health and those who use mental health services. They are particularly interested in youth audiences, and in using the film as a demonstration of the importance and potential of peer-led and peer-directed mental health services. Groups and individuals wishing to screen the film are welcome to download and use these posters and screen the film from the History of Madness in Canada website or Youtube. If you need a DVD copy of The Inmates , or want someone to come and speak about the documentary or the history of MPA, please contact Megan Davies, producer of The Inmates.
With a screening time of 36 minutes, The Inmates works well combined with a panel discussion of themes and questions raised by story of the early MPA. Facilitators can make use of discussion materials used in our linked teaching pages History in Practice / Histoire en tête website.
What happened to the people in the film?
This is a popular question from audiences, so we have provided a snapshot post-MPA biographical profile of each of the people in our documentary. Those who helped create the documentary are indicated with an asterisk*.
Ian Anderson* is still a MPA member and volunteered there and at The Kettle for many years. He trained as a mental health worker at Douglas College in the mid-1990s, and has also attended the University of British Columbia. Ian worked on the mental advisory committee of the Vancouver Richmond Health Board between 1993 and 1999. He was an active member of the West Coast Mental Health Network, serving as member of the board and vice president.
Dave Beamish* developed a host of public speaking and organizational skills at MPA which he took into the larger mental health community after he left the organization in the early 1980s. He worked first on the Pioneer Housing project in New Westminster, and then to extensive advocacy work and consumer engagement with the West Coast Mental Health Society and the national and provincial branches of the Canadian Mental Health Association. Dave was a pioneer in Canadian patient advocacy. He participated in the early stages of the documentary, but died in December 2011.
Lanny Beckman* left MPA in 1975, beginning a 15-year career as editor and publisher of Vancouver's New Star Press. During the late 1980s he published critical reflections on mental health in This Magazine, Canadian Dimension, and Outlook. In addition to his role as co-creator of The Inmates, Lanny has recently worked on several projects relating to the History of Madness in Canada website, including serving as a community expert and contributor for the post-secondary teaching site History in Practice / Histoire en tête and lead editor of the After the Asylum / Après l'asile research pages. In 2000 Lanny was awarded a Pioneers Award by the BC Coalition for People with Disabilities for his role in founding MPA.
Avi Dolgin* served as housing coordinator at MPA and left the organization in 1974. He then worked in community radio as a manager of a training program at Vancouver Co-op Radio and a producer of documentaries of social concern. Avi later moved into teaching and worked in the special education and alternative schools and then as a science teacher.
Patty Gazzola* (nee Servant) continued to work at MPA until 1987, serving as Drop-In Coordinator, Residence Coordinator and Housing Coordinator. She then took a break from social services and became a courier for several years. From the early 1990s until her retirement in 2014 Patty worked at a safe house for street-involved youth funded by Family Services of Greater Vancouver.
Arthur Giovinazzo* was also a founding member of Vancouver's Gay Liberation movement. He left MPA in 1979 and relocated to Whitehorse in the mid-1980s, running the renowned No Pop Sandwich Shop and serving as president of the Yukon Arts Council. He is currently based in the greater Vancouver area.
John Hatfull* continued to be part of MPA until the mid-1990s, serving as drop-in coordinator in the late 1980s and then working there on a part-time basis. Involved with the Westcoast Mental Health Network (WMHN): he was also on the board of that organization. In the early 1990s John and Alex Verkade received funding to start the Unity Housing Society (modelled on the early MPA and part of WMHN), which established its first house in 1992.
Ruth Hess-Dolgin trained in social work at UBC in the early 1970s, the same as she was helping out with therapy groups at MPA. She continued her involvement in women's and health issues in the community. As a social worker her emphasis was on creating co-ordination in the many agencies affecting the lives of families where mental illness was present and in empowering the family members to be active agents in the decisions and treatment. Ruth died in September 2012.
Jackie Hooper* left MPA in 1977, graduating from UBC in 1984 with a Masters in Social Work. She worked until retirement in 1992 as part of the Grandview Woodlands community mental health team. Jackie has had a parallel career as an artist and writer, creating pastel landscapes of the mountains and coast of BC, contributing articles to the Vancouver Courier newspaper, and self publishing her own writing including Hiking in Colour (2006) and Big Ken (2007). In 2014 Jackie received Coast Mental Health's prestigious Courage to Come Back Award for her pioneering work in supportive housing for people living with mental health difficulties.
Geoff McMurchy was involved with MPA until 1981, as both a Drop-in Coordinator and Residence Coordinator. Geoff became active in BC Coalition of People with Disabilities in the late 1970s, developing an appreciation for community arts through his work with the Public Dreams Society. From 1998-2012 he served as Executive/ Artistic Director of Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture, presenting original dance, visual art exhibits, music, theatre as well as the acclaimed Kickstart Festival (2001,04,07,10). Geoff was one of the five artists featured in Bonnie Sherr Klein's 2006 film Shameless: The Art of Disability. He died in July 2015.
Tom Sandborn has had an eclectic series of careers since his involvement with MPA. Trained as a Gestalt therapist, he was one of the instigators of the Vancouver Emotional Emergency Centre (VEEC), a short-lived radical residential therapy. He then worked variously as cab driver, mill worker and handy-dart driver and wrote for the Vancouver Sun, the Globe and Mail, the Georgia Straight and many other publications. Having actively supported a multitude of progressive causes, Tom has more recently put his energies into BC's on-line newspaper, The Tyee, and the BC Civil Liberties Association. He was awarded a Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal in 2012.
Alex Verkade* was a MPA member from 1975 to the early 1990s, holding positions as drop-in coordinator and residence coordinator and assisting with MPA projects at Riverview and in the MPA office and woodwork shop. Subsequently, Alex worked for the original West Coast Mental Health Network and at Vancouver's Unity Housing. A dedicated and supportive colleague, Alex made substantial contributions both to the creation of The Inmates and to the History in Practice / Histoire en tête post-secondary teaching resources. Alex died in July 2013 at age 60.