Fear Strikes Out

A diagnosed schizophrenic chronicles his illness -- and his meltdowns -- on camera

Sooner or later, every documentary maker runs into a prickly, unhelpful subject. For Palo Alto artist and novice filmmaker John Cadigan, a diagnosed schizophrenic who set out to chronicle his illness on camera, that uncooperative interviewee was himself. "When I'm feeling awful, I can't film," he admits in People Say I'm Crazy. Just as disturbing are the sequences in which he expresses a distrust of his sister, Katie, who produced the doc with him. "We included those scenes," Katie says, "because they were some of the most clearly articulated paranoias he had in the course of filming." Wisely, the siblings figured out long ago how to skate through rough patches. "If the paranoia erupts, we have a regular system of checking in," Katie says.

An alumna of Stanford's graduate doc program who profiled John in her 1994 thesis film, Out of My Mind, Katie reports that shooting People was much easier for her brother -- since he controlled what got recorded -- than editing. "Looking back at the darker moments could trigger minor meltdowns for him," she explains. "But by the time we were to fine cut, he was able to watch the whole thing through comfortably." And when People had its world premiere six weeks ago at the USA Film Festival in Dallas, John signed autographs for the folks who lined up. "Through the process of making this film and going so public with his intimate story, John has become quite comfortable with public audiences," Katie says.

The Cadigans are collaborating on another documentary, about the hysterical and misleading portrayals of schizophrenia in popular culture. As its title (Wacko) suggests, it's intended to be funny as well as scathing. John and Katie Cadigan will be on hand when People Say I'm Crazy premieres locally on June 7 at 8 p.m. at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as part of HBO's documentary showcase, "Frame by Frame." Scout the lineup at www.hbo.com/ framebyframe, and order tickets at 978-ARTS.

The Marrying ManAlec Baldwin, a dimming star since his memorable Mamet monologue in Glengarry Glen Ross a decade ago, has joined the honorary committee of the Palo Alto-based United Nations Association Film Festival. Jasmina Bojic, the enthusiastic founder and director of the annual showcase of social-issue documentaries from around the world, pitched Baldwin in April when he participated in a panel, "Patriotism vs. Dissent: Free Speech During Wartime," presented by the Creative Coalition at the S.F. Film Centre in the Presidio. To be sure, the actor did his homework before agreeing to have his name added to the UNAFF letterhead. "He carefully checked our web site [www.unaff.org] and called me twice to discuss the mission of the festival," Bojic notes in an e-mail.

Baldwin promised Bojic he would come for opening night (Oct. 22) on the Stanford campus -- if he's not on a set somewhere -- and he may introduce a traveling program of UNAFF films slated to play New York in September. "As he is a well respected person, very careful when associating his name with organizations and institutions, his scrutiny and acceptance in itself increase our credibility," Bojic writes. "Since he has been involved with organizations which have parallel goals, like Riverkeeper, Standing for Truth About Radiation (STAR) Foundation and the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund, his mentioning of our festival in those circles might bring attention to us by some who had not known about our efforts before. Third, we have consistently tried to connect with the 'Big Film' world, since we know that many celebrities are not vacuous or disinterested in the world around us, and use their interest to bring the doc scene closer to the limelight." Baldwin's next outing is the made-for-cable psychological thriller Second Nature, premiering June 22 on TNT.

The MuseA fading Elizabeth Taylor reluctantly handed the mantle of the A-List Celebrity AIDS Fundraiser to Sharon Stone at the Cannes Film Festival, or so one gleaned from press dispatches. Ms. Stone is reportedly admired for her AIDS work, which gives her a backup if Cold Creek Manor bombs in September. ... David Chierichetti, author of The Life and Times of Hollywood's Celebrated Costume Designer, Edith Head, will be at the Mechanics' Institute Library, 57 Post, at 6 p.m. on June 5 for a slide show and talk. ... The legendary Mike Kuchar joins his equally renowned brother George on June 6 at 8 p.m. for a program of their more outré short films at Artists' Television Access, 992 Valencia. ... Jonathan Parker (Bartleby) is gearing up to shoot The Californians with Illeana Douglas, Noah Wiley, and Kate Mara later this summer in Marin County.

 
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