Waiting for My Real Life

WAITING FOR MY REAL LIFE, CANADA, 2008, 80 MINUTES, HD

A trailer for the film made by the producers, Michael and Jonathan Harrison of Corazon Productions in Vancouver.

Waiting for My Real Life is about living with obesity. It’s especially a love story and a tragedy. Jeremy Norman died at just 23 after spending more than 3 years bedridden because of complications following gastric bypass surgery. Throughout this time his wife Roberta and his family stood by him and took care of him.

Denise, Jessa, and Fran also tell their stories with happier outcomes.

The film also features several of Washington’s outspoken public interest lawyers who are pushing the fast food industry to make healthy choices available in their restaurants and to let their customers know the fat, salt, and sugar content of what they are eating. Doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request.

Then Karre Norum, a prof at the University of Oslo talks about fast food as the death of the culture of food — a much deeper problem.

DISTRIBUTION – Once the film was finished the producers were looking for a distributor. This is an email exchange with a potential Australian distributor that raised important issues in the film.

Dear Michael

Thank you for sending me your film which I have now screened. The subject is indeed of great interest and your key character Jeremy was a fascinating character to hang the emotional arc of the story on. The production values are also high and I appreciated your understated on camera approach. I do have one major issue with the film and would like your feedback on this in helping me come to a decision on whether we would represent your film or not, and that is – the cause of Jeremy’s obesity was not junk food consumption ( regularly it is pointed out in the film that he had a healthy diet with soda being his prime weakness yet this could not have been the factor that caused his abnormal weight gain and eventual death and if there
were a link, then in the film, the link at best seemed tenuous ), yet the core message of the film revolved around the relationship between the increasing consumption of junk food and obesity.

I’d like your thoughts on this,

Ewa Bigio
Managing Director
Smiley Film Distribution & World Sales

My reply to the producer Michael Harrison

Hi Michael,

Jeremy’s story is more about the effect of obesity rather than the cause. His story is about the turmoil and the pain of obesity and its ultimate price and also about the humanity of the obese. The cause of his problem is certainly more complex than “he ate way too much junk food”. He had the issue of anti-seizure medication taken as a youngster and his undiagnosed Frohlich’s syndrome. But as far as causes are concerned it’s the same with all of the characters in the film (and probably with most people who are obese). As we get to know each of them, it’s evident that there are a complexity of serious emotional, physical, economic, social, cultural and nutritional reasons behind the epidemic levels of obesity found around the world today. But, as the nutrition activists in the film make apparent, reducing the consumption of fast food COULD BE the most easily preventable cause of obesity.

Waiting for My Real Life” juxtaposes our characters complex emotional stories about obesity with the political/economic operation of the US based global fast food industry that works day in and day out to protect and expand its business. This industry is evidently part of the cause of obesity and yet it blocks and denies and relies on half-truths etc to resist becoming part of the solution.

And Jeremy and the other characters are connected to the consumption of too much fast food. Jeremy had his explicit addiction to one of the ultra junk foods — soda pop. We also find out almost incidentally several times in his conversation how familiar he and his wife are with Wendy’s, McDonalds, and Subway restaurants and it’s evident they have thoughts and opinions about fast food. What becomes apparent is that the culture of fast food completely surrounds Jeremy and his family and all Americans. After all, if you don’t live in a major city in North America, just about the only restaurants around are fast food restaurants, if not nutritional deserts like the Eat ‘n Park near Jeremy’s house. And talk about global reach, wasn’t it amazing that McDonald’s was the official restaurant of the Beijing Olympics! This is a large reason for why Karre Norum emphasizes that obesity is a social problem requiring policy changes rather than uniquely a personal problem.

I think the film is also about obesity as a bizarre embodiment of the free market run amuck. All corporations have the goal of selling more and more product in a global market and they put enormous resources and brain power into achieving their goals. But when you apply this approach to selling food, that is the sustenance of life, to one of our most intimate and indispensable activities — eating — things go topsy turvy. The logic inevitably leads to junk food — to high sugar, high salt and high fat foods — and lots of them because humans love it.

Note: My letter of explanation didn’t help. The company turned down the film for distribution. But two other companies did pick it up. In 2009, it also played in 94 theatres in the Carmike chain across the eastern United States.