Sunday, August 30, 2009's funny who ends up in a rehab

“Alcoholics are like barking dogs – if you don’t have one, the lady down the road does…”

- from the floor of an AA meeting.

About five years ago, a guy at a meeting said to me - You know what you ought to do?

(man, I just LOVE it when people at meetings just up and tell me what I ought to do)

You oughta write a show about a drug and alcohol rehab center.

(man, I double love it when people tell me their ideas for shows I ought to write. Like I haven’t got enough ideas of my own that I’ll never get around to writing)

'No, I’m serious,' he said. 'A half hour show. Like M*A*S*H*. You know, shows both the funny side and the sad side. You know, a comedy based around the war on drugs instead of the war in Korea.'

I have to tell you, I didn’t take any notice of him right then. But somehow that idea got stuck in my head and in my heart and it has never let me go.

Not too long after that, I wrote a pilot for a half hour comedy set in a rehab centre called The Bridge. Owen Johnston, my producer on another project also fell in love with my script and we became partners in it. The Bridge won a competition called Seriously Funny that took us to the Melbourne Comedy Festival where we won equal first place for best new comedy project. One of the judges there suggested that it would make a good feature film.

So I wrote a feature.

That feature script was then invited to a competitive hothouse workshop called Indivision where Gillian Armstrong and Andrew Fierberg (pictured at right) worked as mentors with us for a week long intensive to refine the project. They were very cool and what is more even more attractive about them is - they loved the story!

A little later we realised that The Bridge was simply too good of a title. We could tell by the way there were already about eleventy-seven films and musicals and plays and TV shows called The Bridge. So we changed its title to The Phoenix.


The Phoenix tells the story of the most exciting dangerous journey known to man. Of course, others will think that there are far more adventurous journeys to undertake but I can only talk about the one I identify most deeply with; the journey from crazy to sane. Well, almost sane. A reasonable facsimile of sane anyhow. There's a famous saying in AA - We're all here because we're not all there.

Crazy people can get sane by following the 12 steps and also by telling their stories and listening to other people tell theirs. The biggest story telling machine today is cinema and we want to tell a real story of recovery on the big screen. It’s fiction; no anonymity will be harmed in the making of this movie. It’s a little bit of every story I’ve ever heard in my twenty year plus association with recovery from alcohol and drug addiction and the characters in it are a little bit of every redeemed brother and sister I’ve met along the way.

Those in recovery are hungry to see representations of their stories up on the screen. Who hasn’t tried to get hold of Michael Keaton’s Clean and Sober to show a newcomer? Or Sandra Bullock’s 28 Days? But the films that generally make it to screen are either air brushed and sanitised to try to appeal to a mainstream audience or so sombre and sentimental they completely lack the gallows sense of humour so common to those in recovery.

So anyhow, The Phoenix has got the miracles and the madness. It's got those who are so broken that they never really get fixed and those who take off in recovery like a hang glider on clear blue day. We’ve got the triumph and the tragedy. We’ve even got the Salvos! In other words, we’ve woven together a story that shows the whole range of addiction experience and we hope that every addict who has recovered will find a little of themselves in it. We hope even more that addicts who haven't yet recovered will see themselves in it and begin to look for the road back from crazy.

After five years, we are still kicking this thing around. It costs a few cool millions to make even the simplest film and the truth is, films about recovery are not generally the kind of thing the folks who invest in movies think will bring a good return for them. Nobody is beating down our door to give us money.

Anyway, watch this space - this film will get made. I can feel it in my water. I'm not altogether sure how yet...

But it will get made.

You can help by hitting the button to follow this blog. The more people who express interest in seeing a film like this, the more likely we are to eventually fund it!

Comment. Write to me. Tell me what you think. We'd welcome your company on this new leg of the adventure.