The Phoenix Project seeks trauma victims for doc series

A new documentary series that explores the pervasive effect of trauma in our culture has begun development and is seeking prospective participants.

Charles Shaw
28 October 2013

The Phoenix Project

A Documentary Series on Trauma & Healing

You Will Live Again


Whether they emerge from the shadow of sexual abuse, the wake of a hurricane, the rubble of a terrorist attack, or the smoke of combat, survivors of traumatic events all have one thing in common — picking up the pieces of a life shattered by violence. Trauma, especially when left untreated, has a devastating impact on the victim’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, as well as those of his family, friends, and co-workers.

But the problem is not just a private one. Like the shock wave from a bomb blast, the consequences of untreated trauma radiate far beyond an individual ground zero, inflicting damage throughout our society. The affects can be felt from our hospitals and prisons to our schools and businesses — costing our nations billions of dollars annually. With war, increasing acts of terrorism, rising crime, and the affects of climate change, we face a growing public health crisis caused by trauma that touches us all.

The vast scope and scale of this issue demands our urgent attention. Yet this crisis remains neglected by elected officials, policy makers, and a majority of citizens, due to the lack of public education, awareness, and support for an integrated “trauma-informed” approach to assisting the spectrum of survivors.

What we propose is an in-depth examination of what trauma is, its human and social costs, and both the science and spirituality behind traumatic behavior, and models of therapy. Since trauma is the common denominator, then healing is the common goal we all must share for the sake of our society's public health and welfare.

Trauma is the Common Denominator, Healing is the Common Goal


  • Since 2000, an average of 7,000 US veterans commit suicide every year, at a rate of 22 a day
  • In 2012 it was revealed that more UK veterans committed suicide than were killed in the line of duty.
  • 280,000 veterans are currently suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • PTSD affects over 7.7 million Americans
  • The National Institute for Drug Abuse estimates there are around 26 million addicts the United States.
  • 90% of all addicts return to use within 5 years and 50% go back to active addiction within one year
  • There are over 200,000 rapes and sexual assaults every year in the US and over 400,000 in the UK
  • Around 16,000 Americansdie every year by violence
  • Nearly 60,000 American children die every year
  • One in five Americans suffering from some form of Mental Illness, including over 12,000,000 children.
  • Around 2000 people die every year in gang violence, most are young people.
  • Over 3,600,000 cases of child abuse are investigated every year in the US involving over 6,000,000 children
  • The Phoenix Project will follow the life stories of a collection of people in the US and UK (EU) who have all undergone massive trauma at one point in their lives, plunged to the depths of despair, had a moment of awakening and a turning point, and then proceeded into a long healing process, emerging at the other end a recovered individual, engaged in art, community, and social justice.

    The overall message of the project is that a person can experience the worst life has to offer, can go to the darkest places within themselves, suffer horribly, but then can heal, and come out a stronger person in the end, committed to making world a better place

    There has been ample material on the gore of trauma and the dark allure of and fascination of those in the throes of self-destruction. What there is a dearth of--which we hope to remedy with this project—are stories about the detailed minutiae of the healing process, and the challenges of long-term recovery in all forms. If we are to help people learn how to heal, we must show them a way, a path through the wilderness, and we show them them that by offering these selected stories as representative examples of those who have done that journey and are now thriving.


    War Trauma

    Sexual Trauma

    Death Trauma



    Main Complexes to be covered:





    Behavioral Disorders

    Somatic Disorders


    "Artistic performance, in all its variations, is a primary integrating mechanism in an organism highly susceptible to the protective, but ultimately destructive mechanism we call dissociation. The traumatic nature of our evolutionary history necessitated the development of adaptive coping skills, but the result of employing these skills is fragmentation and the loss of integrated functioning.Human beings are uniquely capable of altering reality in many different ways, but this altering capacity can become so profound that we are equally capable of losing our way, trapped in our self-created, self-deceptive, dissociated reality that may bear little relationship to the fundamental nature of earth, air, and other living beings. There is already a large accumulated body of knowledge about the relationship between creativity and individual healing... This framework has not just individual, but social implications as well. We must keep in mind the lessons of our ancestors about the essentially social nature of human survival and of artistic performance - creative expression may turn out to determine the state of health or illness of an entire society as well.”

    ~Sandra L. Bloom, M.D, Bridging the Black Hole of Trauma: Victims, Artists and Society


    Creativity & Artistic Expression<


    Social Justice Activism & Community Organizing

    Psychedelic and Shamanic Plant Medicines

    Somatic Therapies

    Spiritual & Related Practices (Yoga, Meditation, Cleansing, etc)

    Western Psychotherapy, Counseling & Occupational Therapies

    Diet & Health

    Traditional Chinese Medicine & Holistic Medicine

    "Esoteric & Mystical Healing” (exorcisms, energetic clearings, cord cutting, etc)


    Charles Shaw – Director, Executive Producer, Writer

    Cara Lavan – EU/UK Coordinating Producer/Director

    Bernhard Guenther – Consulting Producer

    The Tedworth Charitable Trust of the Sainsbury Family Foundations

    Nomad Cinema - Lucidity Productions - Filament Features

    Principal Team: Charles Shaw, Tiffany Naiman, Ronnie Pontiac, Tamra Spivey, DJ Turner, Daniel Garcia, Dennis LaFollete. Cara Lavan, Boris Austin.

    Films: Exile Nation: The Plastic People, Viva Cuba Libre

    Mangusta Productions

    Principal Partner: Giancarlo Canavesio; Producer: Tao Ruspoli

    Films: 2012: Time for Change, Neurons to Nirvana

    Elevate Films

    Principal Partners: Mikki Willis, Akira Chan

    Films: Neurons to Nirvana, Be Brave


    Please email the following to Charles Shaw (US Residents) or Cara LavanEU/UK Residents):

    FOR SUBJECTS: A summary of the full nature of the injury/traumas you suffered, the ongoing consequences of this trauma (addiction, violence, crime, prison, hospitalization, etc. At some point, this will most likely require actual photos, video and documents for use in the film) the turning points in your life when you made the conscious decision to change your situation, and a list of healing practices, modalities and philosophies you have used, both those that succeeded and those that failed, and why.

    FOR EXPERTS: A summary of the work in which you or your organization is involved.

    A professional bio (Subjects) or C.V. (Experts)

    A portfolio of your creative or activist work and a direct statement of how your experiences relate to the work you do (Subjects)

    A short letter explaining why you want to participate in this documentary series. We ask this because we feel that your intention is a key component to your story, and its important to have that articulated clearly. We also are asking people to commit to a deeply intimate and personal exploration of their lives, and we ask that each person be prepared for the experience well in advance.





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