Insight blogger, Kasia Wiśniowska, asks John Viscount about Admissions, the shortlisted film he created.
1. What was your main inspiration behind your story?
I originally wrote Admissions as a response to 9/11. When that tragic event occurred, I felt enormous compassion for the family of humanity because I knew we were entering into another cycle of attack and counterattack that would greatly increase the amount of suffering in our world. This made me want to illustrate a more forgiving interpretation of life’s events so people could more easily find a pathway to forgiveness no matter what the world served up.
To do this, I decided to create a modern parable that not only included a heartbreaking terrorist attack, but also a teaching moment where those involved would have to face each other in the afterlife. Through the use of classic teachings on forgiveness, I hoped to demonstrate that by simply changing our thinking, we could create peace in any situation.
2. How long have you been working on the perfect draft?
When I first wrote the script after 9/11, I sent it to the producer of the film, Gavin Behrman, and he thought it was powerful. But we were busy with other projects at the time and didn’t do anything with it. Then 10 years later, I came across the script again and realised it was just as relevant as when I first wrote it. The subject matter seemed timeless,so at that point we decided to get the film made.
Admissions was a unique challenge because there were so many important teachings that needed to be included, but I had to make them sound conversational and natural. I definitely had a message I wanted to send, but I couldn’t let it be too obvious or the audience would be pulled out of the story. It is unique demands like these that make the creation of transformational content so difficult to execute, but also so rewarding.
When writing the dialogue for Admissions, I started with more than I needed. Then, I sculpted it down to the bare minimum that was required to get the point across. Once the script was put into the very talented hands of our Director, Harry Kakatsakis, and the extremely gifted actors in our film, this sculpting continued with the entire team. The actual time spent writing and then editing the script was probably about six months.
3. Where did the idea of combining those two uncomfortable topics – politics and religion – come from?
Anything that creates separation makes forgiveness and peace impossible to attain. Unfortunately, religion and politics can often be some of the greatest creators of separation and conflict known to humankind and nowhere on earth is this more clearly demonstrated than the Middle East. Therefore, what I wanted to illustrate with Admissions is that true forgiveness has to steer clear of these limiting factors, so it can rise above them and truly bring people together. It requires a spiritual point of view in which one sees past the material world of bodies to the underlying spirit that unifies us all.
4. What is the message you wanted to send to the audience by this film?
The message I wanted to send is that, despite all the seeming complexity of the modern world, there is really only one of two things that is ever happening – people are either expressing love or crying out for love. This means the perfect response every time, in every situation, is to be loving, even on a geopolitical, nation-state level. When this perspective is applied to the Middle East conflict, it becomes much easier to see that both sides have suffered tremendously and are simply crying out for love. Therefore, both need love and understanding in return – not only from each other, but also from the world at large.
Another message I wanted to put out is that the attainment of lasting peace in our world requires the establishment of shared interests. Contrary to popular opinion, the real evolution of life on earth is not from single cell organisms to the complex creatures roaming the planet today. True evolution is the journey from separate interests to shared interests, and one of my goals for Admissions was to illustrate this spiritual process.
When the characters first enter the Admissions Room, they appear to have nothing in common because they are from different religions and are on opposing sides of a never-ending conflict. But through the telling of the story and the dialogue they enter into because they have been brought face to face, they eventually discover the other side’s suffering. The sense of loss they share over their loved ones forms a bridge that they can now cross to reach common ground.
The common ground that all humans share is that we are love beings. Unconditional love is clearly our natural state because it is what’s most healing and sustaining. Therefore, when people are fighting it just means they have strayed from their loving essence. This doesn’t make them bad people. They just need to be gently redirected back to what they truly are. Once we are able to shift our perception in this manner, we quickly realize that to truly heal the world, everyone must be forgiven and offered the hand of unconditional love, without exception.
5. Describe in one sentence what faith means to you.
Faith to me is the knowledge that on the deepest level, all is love, all is forgiven, and all is one.