Growing up, I was often referred to as quiet or shy. I don’t think people realize it, but by constantly hearing those words, you start believing them yourself. When I was 11, my parents divorced, and over the following six months, I attended three different schools in three different states. I believe this is when my shyness developed fully. I felt like an outcast who was misunderstood, and I had very low self-esteem. My sensitivity towards certain sounds started at age 7, and while it exacerbated that not-fitting-in feeling, I didn’t feel it was something to be concerned about. I just thought it was a quirk that really didn’t affect my day to day…not yet, anyway.
When I was 13, my mother gave me an 8-mm movie camera, and my friends and I started producing and appreciating films. Around the same time, my school began offering Filmmaking 101. Suddenly, a whole new life (and a potentially new career choice) opened to me. Although some family members mocked my early childhood career dream of being a filmmaker, and I even started to question it myself, I pushed forward with the help of my film teacher, who recognized my talents, nurtured my skills, and gave me a feeling of self-worth. My teacher included this comment in a letter to my parents:
“You and I both know that Jeffrey always seems to have a silent self-assuredness and confidence in his own potential.”
By age 28, I had started my own production company, specializing in corporate and healthcare videos, and eventually found a niche in senior living marketing videos. My sensitivity towards sounds that started in childhood had also grown, and several years later, a friend told me about a segment on 20/20 about a condition called misophonia, which, literally translated, means “hatred of sound.” (To be clear, I don’t hate all sounds—just the ones that cause me to have physiological reactions such as an adrenaline rush, increased heart rate, and a feeling of rage that has to be released. Sounds like chewing, sniffing, throat clearing, and tapping can be triggers). It was that feeling of knowing that I wasn’t alone in how I felt that was cathartic and empowering.
During this realization, I was working on an Alzheimer’s awareness documentary. It was then that I became aware that every project I’d taken on as a filmmaker was a stepping stone towards me becoming an educator about and advocate for the sufferers of misophonia.
As I learned more about my self-diagnosis, it became evident that exploring it deeper through the medium of film was something I desired to do. I knew I had to have a passion for the film I wanted to make, and at the same time, I was becoming an advocate for myself as a way of coping with my misophonia. Everything was leading me in this direction.
As much as I wanted to do this project on my own, I lacked the confidence and subsequently asked a friend to co-produce the film with me. While collaboration can result in some wonderful ideas, it has to be with the right person. As an introvert, I am easily overwhelmed with constantly being questioned, and that’s why our collaboration didn’t work out. But as it fell apart, I started reaching out to the misophonia community on Facebook, and they responded in a big way. I asked several support groups if they were interested in a documentary about misophonia, and in 24 hours, I received an avalanche of comments, likes, and people reaching out, asking to be involved. I began recruiting subjects and forming a following. It became evident that people in the community were looking to me to bring this condition to the forefront—a huge responsibility and one that I finally had the confidence to move forward with, on my own.
I filmed a trailer for Quiet Please that I felt was a good representation of what I wanted to accomplish with the film and launched an IndieGoGo campaign. I met my funding goal in two weeks. I also received emails from people around the world telling me how the trailer changed their lives and empowered them to speak up about their misophonia. Some even wrote to say they shared the trailer with loved ones to prove that the way they reacted wasn’t personal. Hearing people telling me that the trailer was a great vehicle for them to advocate for themselves inspired me to a level that I never thought possible.
I hired two assistants, and we spent six months filming. We traveled to Florida, California, Missouri, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and throughout New England. For most people filmed, I was the first person they met who shared their condition. I finally felt like I was doing something that mattered and had the respect of many highly-regarded medical professionals and sufferers alike. I started to receive requests for radio interviews, TV interviews, and podcasts. Interestingly, I was enjoying being in the spotlight—something I was never comfortable with before. Sure, it was totally consuming (tasks included shooting, producing, directing, handling the social media, emails, texts, and messages, and managing the crowd-sourcing campaign), but I was on a high.
The premiere of Quiet Please takes place on June 18th, 2016, just five days short of one year since the launch of the project, and I couldn’t be more proud of the end result.
Riding high on the positive feelings about the film and the feedback it received has empowered me to defend myself in my struggle with misophonia. My hope is that this energy will transform into helping others who feel like they don’t have a voice in protecting or respecting themselves. I have learned that helping and working with others has to start with self-respect and confidence, and when you have that, no one can knock you down. I was the guy most unlikely to take on a project like this, which is in and of itself quite an achievement. But with the new confidence I have in my skills as a filmmaker, the passion I possess, the support from the community, as well as being sensitive and empathetic to the sufferers of misophonia, I feel that I’m the perfect person to advocate for those with this life-altering condition.
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