Experiencing Interruptions?

How to Make a Pearl

For 53 years, John Kapellas frolicked underneath the bright sky of the American West. Without warning, he started breaking out in rashes and feeling as if his entire body was on fire whenever he was exposed to light. Diagnosed with a rare photosensitivity to the entire spectrum of light, Kapellas (now 63) has lived the last decade in darkness. “How To Make A Pearl” explores Kapellas’ current reality, his coping mechanisms, and the shadows in his past.

  • Jason Hanasik
    Eyes On The Water
  • Jason Hanasik
    Eyes On The Water
  • Jason Hanasik
    Eyes on The Water
  • John Kapellas
    Key Cast
  • Orlando Bagwell
    Creative Advisor
  • Spencer Nakasako
    Creative Advisor
  • Mark Berger
    Creative Advisor
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    22 minutes 1 second
  • Completion Date:
    May 10, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    900 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital 4k
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    New York City
    United States
    November 13, 2017
    NYC Premiere
  • Camden International Film Festival
    United States
    September 16, 2017
    Domestic Premiere
  • IDFA
    November 17, 2017
    International Premiere
  • Oxford Film Festival
    United States
    February 9, 2018
    Mississippi Premiere
  • Salem Film Festival
    United States
    March 23, 2018
Distribution Information
  • The Guardian
    Country: United Kingdom
    Rights: Video on Demand
Director Biography - Jason Hanasik

Jason Hanasik is an American artist, filmmaker, curator, and essayist. His investigations focus primarily on trauma, reintegration, addiction, the military experience, and human rights.

His work has appeared at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, in The Los Angeles Times, in Routledge's academic journal Critical Military Studies, and on Gap's screens worldwide.

Hanasik has served as an advisor to students in the graduate program in Fine Arts at California College of the Arts, taught photography classes at the ASUC Art Studio at UC Berkeley, and was the first Global Storyteller for Gap. In 2016, Hanasik served as the first intern in 360 video at The Los Angeles Times.

As a lecturer, Hanasik has delivered talks on his work and other artist's artistic practice at SFMoMA and various colleges and universities nationwide. Hanasik's first photography monograph, "I slowly watched him disappear" debuted at Printed Matter's LA Art Book Fair in 2015 and is in the collection of Stanford University and the Rhode Island School of Design.

Hanasik has a Master of Journalism focused in Documentary Film from UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, a Master of Fine Arts from California College of the Arts, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts Summa Cum Laude from the State University of New York at Purchase.

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Director Statement

There are two major artistic components which informed the construction of “How To Make A Pearl.” 

When building the 5.1 surround mix, I worked with Jim LeBrecht and the team at Berkeley Sound Artists to make the verité dialogue occur in the center channel and the voice over —John’s inner dialogue— in the surround mix. This way, audience members would literally be sitting inside of John’s thoughts during V.O. as opposed to his internal thoughts/stories projecting straight at the audience.

The second major artistic consideration was finding a technical way to produce the cleanest possible low light signal so that when viewers experience the film in a dark theater or a dark room, they have a phenomenological experience and feel as if they’re with him in “his cave.” Had I not been able to produce a clean signal, the noise would have interrupted the experience and subsequently separated the audience from having a sense of “being” with him.

Due to the h264 compression, the cleanliness of the signal is a good but not great representation of the 4K ProResHQ Master.