Behind the Scenes of Seeds of Awareness
Behind the scenes of Seeds of Awareness
Many Vipassana meditators feel deep sympathetic joy when children receive the Dhamma. Young people’s minds are very fertile and walking on the path of Dhamma will prepare them to live a happy, peaceful life. In our last Newsletter we announced our aim to produce a multi-lingual Inspiration from Enlightened Nuns and DVD of Seeds of Awareness, in order for old-student groups to use this film as an outreach tool, even in locations where the Internet is not reliable enough to stream it online. We are grateful and happy to announce that since then we have received enough funds through old-student donations to go ahead! May the Dhamma keep spreading…
‘Seeds of Awareness’ depicts the experiences of children and teens meditating on Anapana courses, where they learn to observe their breath at the entrance of the nostrils. The film was created by volunteers over the course of nearly two years, in 2008-2010.
The original film came out in 2011. In the years after, translation teams worked on subtitles in 13 different languages, with most of them out by 2016.
Small Production for a Big Message
Film productions often can be enormous affairs with large crews, but for this entire project the film crew only consisted of one to three members. Not that there wasn’t a lot to do… The director (a center manager at the time) organized locations, interviewees and volunteers, manned the camera and edited the footage.
The producers (of which one was the Vipassana Children's Course Coordinator for North America) raised the funds needed to cover expenses*, did the bookings, arranged for transactions, helped with filming and reviewed rough cuts right until the final edit. Both director and producers took turns in the actual interviewing of the young meditators, while different volunteering professionals helped out with the lights and sound. Once even one of the mothers jumped in and held the ‘boom mic’. (She did a great job; the day's footage came out really well!).
The first session was filmed at Dhamma Mahavana, California Vipassana Center (CVC). As it turned out, it took up almost the entire weekend! The crew had to improvise and come up with some inventive solutions…
As Dhamma Hall is naturally quite dark, it was difficult to get a good shot of the children. Luckily the crew had anticipated this and lights were set up. These lights are hot and the Dhamma Hall warmed up quite a bit, but the young meditators seemed to manage ok.
In total seven children were interviewed for the film. The second filming session took place in the Bay area, where Parmita lived (this was straight after the CVC shoot). Parmita is the girl that builds a ‘blue fort’ to meditate in, using curtains. The scene was lit with one a desk lamp from behind the couch, and it’s remarkable it came out so vibrantly!
The filmmaker noticed a migraine had come up since she had left the CVC (probably from the hard work and lack of sleep combined), but when the nine-year-old spoke about her meditation, the headache began to dissolve into soft vibrations.
“By the time I asked her where she meditated, and she began setting up her little blue ‘cell’ with her mother's curtains and couches, the headache was totally gone. Her sincere enthusiasm, intelligence, and manner of peacefulness had touched me deeply. I [felt] a kind of giddy joy at having such a rare opportunity to work on this Dhamma project.”
Another remarkable interview was that with Rosie. Rosie’s mother, a very active children's course teacher from Canada, had died of cancer several years earlier. Rosie, who was 18-years-old and had just completed her first 10-day Vipassana course at the time of the interview, agreed to talk about the effect children's courses had on her growing up. The filmmaker joined her for a one-day course on the new-center land on Vancouver Island. As Rosie was a busy teenager with a new job, the interview was squeezed in just before dark- at her friend's house, where they had horses.
While brushing the horses Rosie spoke about how her mother had put equanimity into practice during the last eight years of her life, how inspiring this had been to her (Rosie) and how it had helped her to deal with her mum’s illness and death at such a young age.