Episode 290: Clean Slate | A Conversation with the Filmmaker Jared Callahan

When it comes to creating a compelling documentary, the process surprisingly often starts with putting the camera down. As Host John Sheldon’s guest on this episode of Beyond Belief Sobriety explains, establishing a relational trust element is essential to capturing those intimate moments that make us forget we’re watching a film. In his absorbing new project, set in a real-world rehab facility, Director Jared Callahan integrates us into the minute-to-minute struggle that is addiction, changing and re-shaping our understanding of it as a disease.  “Clean Slate,” a release from People People Media, tells the raw and very personal story of two roommates who hatch a plan to make a short film about their recovery journey – while still on their recovery journey.

By putting a vulnerable and unflinching lens on addiction, Jared and his team personalize its grip on sufferers and their families. The hope, says the director, is to cultivate new levels of empathy and broader awareness. “I could have used more statistics or graphs, but for this film the best way was just to say these are the guys and this is the reality at this time,” says Jared, who is also a pastor. “These are people who are your family and neighbors.” The film-within-a-film narrative opens a unique window onto recovery, highlighting the healing power of creativity, even in the face of relapse and isolation. You’ll come away from this conversation eager to watch “Clean Slate” (available on these streaming platforms) and share it with others. Community, says the director, is what knits together hope and progress along the lifelong journey that is recovery. It’s all about building trust and accountability, capturing the beauty of returning to things we have loved and lost along the way. “People who work in recovery circles laugh really hard and cry really hard,” says Jared, “and in that they are not pretending to be perfect. They are just very real.”

“Clean Slate” is available now across all streaming media platforms, including at Amazon Prime, Apple TV and on YouTube.

Key Takeaways

  • About the inspiration behind “Clean Slate”: How Jared surprised himself by getting sucked into the compelling story of two roommates – aspiring filmmakers – in rehab.
  • How Jared used both the film-within-a-film and a foundational trust relationship as a portal into a very specific, raw season of his subjects’ lives.
  • The recovery environment itself is a sort of central character in the film, holding space for the laughter, tears and vulnerability that form the heart of the documentary.
  • The Brutality of Relapse: About the real-time story of a principle in the film whose course to recovery is not straight.
  • What Jared Hopes People Get Out of “Clean Slate”:
    • A more nuanced understanding of addiction as a disease.
    • The stark aloneness and isolation experienced in relapse.
    • An opportunity for people – both addicts and their loved ones – to feel seen and understood.
  • About the ethics of documentary filmmaking and the essential intimacy that develops when the process is relational and integral.
  • Why the up-close and personal approach taken in “Clean Slate” is important – and deliberately different from a more medically or institutionally oriented approach.
  • Mental Health and Addiction: The downward spiral and legal challenges associated with trying as family members to support those suffering one or both afflictions.
  • Understanding the “long-term, forever” nature of addiction and the multi-pronged approach (including treatment and community) necessary to support recovery.
  • Balancing Story with Education: In the process of exploring topics and sharing messages, Jared is himself being schooled on both life and the art of filmmaking.
  • Jared is at work on a new podcast project that will blend storytelling with important information and insights related to a specific group’s unfolding experience of a12-step-based program.
  • From Step Zero to Step One: About moving from the lowest lows towards those first tentative rungs on the recovery ladder.
  • Jared’s origin story as a filmmaker, a journey that has taken him from chronicler of a teen skateboard scene to directing feature-length films to starting his own production company and retreat space for artists, People People Media.
  • A Parting Request: Visit one of these links to watch “Clean Slate” and share it with people in your life who might be touched or helped by the film’s message!

Key Quotes

“As a documentary filmmaker, a lot of my job is creating a safe environment.” (Jared)

“I try to put a mirror up to who my subjects are to show both them and the world a portal into this aspect or season of life.” (Jared)

“People who work in recovery circles laugh really hard and cry really hard … and in that they are not pretending to be perfect. They are just very real.” (Jared)

“There are some moments on every project that I put the camera down on purpose because filming is relational. They’re trusting me. It’s not just filming everything and putting a camera in their face.” (Jared)

“If you journey with (the characters) you can add empathy to your life because you can see from their own experiences and words what it’s like to be them and what it’s like for them daily, hourly, minute-ly working on being healthy and staying sober.” (Jared)

“I really appreciate the recovery communities we’ve experienced in the way they value community and a multi-pronged system. No one thing is going to solve everything.” (Jared)

“Feeling like you’re in the room and the camera goes away … that’s the best thing I can do as a filmmaker.” (Jared)

“I could have used more statistics or graphs, but for this film the best way was just to say these are the guys and this is the reality at this time … These are people who are your family and neighbors.” (Jared)

“I want to be shaped, change, grow and learn. So when I do it with a video camera I kind of get to invite you along with me on a journey I’ve experienced in a really deep way.” (Jared)

“Recovery communities are so good at word of mouth and sharing their lives and things that matter to them, so I hope we’ve made something that matters to them … and that they share it with other people.” (Jared)

Further Resources

Learn more about People People Media.
Additional films offered by Jared and his team.

About Our Guest

Jared is a national Emmy-nominated filmmaker whose work has been released through PBS, The New York Times, GQ, The Atlantic, Sundance, Tribeca and 250+ film festivals worldwide. His NYT Op-Doc, “Saltwater Baptism,” was nominated alongside Lady Gaga for a 2018 Webby Award. Jared also founded People People Media, a boutique production and collaboration space for artists working in a variety of media.

FOLLOW Jared and People People Media:

Website | Instagram | Trailer | LinkedIn

Show Notes Written by knwhelmick at Fiverr