Sober Minds

Sober Minds explores the hidden beauty of our urban wildlife in a powerful autobiographical documentary that touches on a universal and natural cure for depression.

  • Charlo Johnson
    Gone Viral, Positive Discrimination
  • Charlo Johnson
    Gone Viral, Positive Discrimination
  • Paul Hughes
    Key Cast
    A Doorstep Wilderness
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Genres:
    Nature, City Life, Mental Health
  • Runtime:
    16 minutes 39 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    May 10, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    7,000 EUR
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Director Biography - Charlo Johnson

Charlo Johnson is an award winning Irish filmmaker who has written, directed and produced a number of short films and documentaries in recent years.

In 2015, POSITIVE DISCRIMINATION won in Miami and LA, and was nominated for numerous other awards before securing a worldwide TV deal with London based

In 2016, GONE VIRAL premiered at Galway Film Fleadh and critics labelled it “A Must Watch”. It subsequently played at the Oscar qualifying Edmonton International Film Festival in Canada in addition to Tacoma Film Festival, DocUtah International Documentary Film Festival, Traverse City Film Festival and Newport Beach Film Festival in the US. Following a busy festival run, Gone Viral received a theatrical release with IMC Cinemas, featured on Aer Lingus transatlantic flights in 2017 and aired on TV with the Irish national broadcaster, RTÉ.

In August 2017, SOBER MINDS will premiere at the Oscar & BAFTA qualifying Rhode Island International Film Festival before heading further West to DocUtah International Documentary Film Festival in September.

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Director Statement

The goal with this short documentary was to showcase the wonders of urban wildlife that the vast majority of city dwellers are unaware of. As we go about our busy lives, distracted by smartphones and the latest Apps, few of us have the patience or time to stop and appreciate the therapeutic effects of witnessing the heron on the hunt, fox cubs playing or a mother duck trying to protect her young from hungry predators.

Self-trailed photographer Paul Hughes from Dublin has dedicated years of his life to capturing moments of intense awe and intrigue that form the basis for this short documentary. His passion and sheer love for what he does, coupled with his ability to deliver anecdotes and describe the events he photographed, was always going to enhance this documentary but it was his own life story that challenged me as a director.

Due to the magnitude of the struggles from "only ever being good at scrapping" and "losing his imagination" to having his footage on hundreds of publications across the world (including the National Geographic) I needed to ensure that this was Paul's story without any interference.

For this reason, I shot casual interviews with Paul which are enhanced with footage of him armed with his Canon 7D as he goes about his day in the city. By excluding contributors and commentators I sought to recreate the sense of solitude that Paul experiences when observing the wildlife. This, coupled with enchanting music from Rob Smith's Swedish Railway Orchestra brings the photographs to life.

However, I discovered that Paul didn't quite open up on set and that he's personal story sounded more glossed on camera. So we held additional interviews but with only three of us on set (Paul, myself and Tom on sound) and without any cameras. This method succeeded in getting Paul to be more open about his adventures to date.

So how would I describe Sober Minds? It's short documentary that's autobiographical in nature (pun intended!)...

Without being too cliche about it, if just one person that sees this short decides to spend time with nature as a way of coping with life's difficulties, then that's our job done.