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Collaborative Conversations:Getting to Know Laura Dyan Kezman

May 25, 2016

An American dies nearly every hour due to an eating disorder. Although our field has made significant strides in increasing awareness about these disorders, stigmas and stereotypes still exist and prevent people from accessing the care they need. One Milwaukee-based filmmaker is on a mission to change that.

Laura Dyan Kezman’s film Just Eat aims to deconstruct common myths and expose the devastating reality of life with an eating disorder. This month we sat down with her to hear about the film that illuminates a story untold. Here’s what she had to say:

Name: Laura Dyan Kezmanlaura dyan kezman

Title: Filmmaker

Years as an advocate: Depending on which benchmark I use on the road to becoming an advocate, I think it’s safe to say over 5 years.

What inspired you to create a film about eating disorders?

The inspiration for the film was born out of my own experience with an eating disorder that took hold in 2006. I very rapidly confronted the destructive, warped, and lethal nature of what an eating disorder really is, all the while not knowing I had one. Uninformed doctors, denied insurance claims, and the insistence to “just eat” minimized the severity of my illness, and is something I wouldn’t understand until years later.

In 2010 I moved to Washington, DC after graduating college to pursue a career in journalism. I will refer to my eating disorder at this time as “stabilized”; my recovery was really just starting. It was the first time that I started asking questions about my experience that led to understanding the societal significance of my story:

Why did the doctors not know what to do, even while I was standing in front of them quite obviously in the throes of anorexia?

Why did my insurance company deem my need for treatment not medically necessary, despite being dangerously close to death?

Why were the comments I received about my physical body complimentary, yet the conversation about what was really going on was cloaked in shame and secrecy?

The isolated nature of my eating disorder quickly transitioned into realizing that my story is no longer about me, it’s about the millions of women and men who’ve experienced, and are currently experiencing, the same thing. That realization turned into a responsibility I couldn’t walk away from.

How is the film progressing? 

just eat logoThe film is currently in production, meaning we have certain key things to film before we begin the editing process. Momentum is high and I am excited for the road ahead. After 5 years of filming, I am eager to see the final product. But I also know that the length of time it has taken thus far has been necessary for the story to evolve and to get the breadth of material required for the end result to be what it needs to be.

You have a unique perspective behind the camera. What things have you seen in the making of your movie that reinforce the importance of collaboration?

I think the most important thing I’ve concluded behind the camera is the power and importance of engaging in transparent conversations about eating disorders. It’s our most powerful tool against them. Wielding this honesty swells awareness on a societal level, it deepens understanding by those who are in a position to facilitate change, and it lessens the grip the eating disorder has on the sufferer. For an illness that thrives in darkness, shame, and secrecy, candor is the kryptonite. To me, honesty is an intrinsic part of collaboration.

Who or what was most influential on your road to recovery?

My recovery has been most influenced by the making of this documentary. Prior to starting the film, my trek towards recovery was a very isolated one. It wasn’t until our very first shoot, the EDC’s Spring Lobby Day in 2011, that I knew for certain I was in the accompaniment of people who intimately knew what I had been through. At the time I couldn’t have predicted that five years later I would be immersed in an expansive community of eating disorder activists, joining together survivors, medical professionals, lawyers, directors, and those who are still fighting for freedom from their disease. Being able to switch between the lenses of filmmaker and survivor has made it possible to deconstruct my own experience with the level of objectivity necessary to neutralize it and channel it into something with a clear purpose.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned throughout your journey?

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my journey thus far is that discomfort, risk, and uncertainty are key ingredients to success. Success for me is by no means a destination, but a fight for personal growth, lasting recovery, and using my experiences as tools to enrich the future.

If you’re interested in donating to Laura’s film, you can do so by emailing her at laura@justeatmovie.com.