Abundant is documentary film about giving. The main content features first-person stories from non-directed kidney donors (our society’s most extreme altruists) recorded before a live audience in a major theatrical setting. The casts’ stories focus on the unexpected experiences and effects of giving a kidney to a stranger.
Abundant is a feature-length documentary film about the complex, human experience of giving.
Buddhist Monk Bhante Sujatha describes giving with a literal translation from his Sri Lankan language, Sinhala. In Sinhala, giving means, “It leaves my hand.” That’s a clear, simple and elegant concept. Yet so many of us struggle with the true act of giving and the abundance required to give openheartedly.
Abundant enters the world of extreme altruism to investigate the complex nature and incredible impact of giving. Insights from abundance experts from the worlds of economics, spirituality, business, the arts, psychology and neuroscience, frame and explain the abundant mindset and altruistic psyche. Their informed expert commentary compliments the unique, extraordinary stories from Abundant’s cast of extreme altruists: non-directed living kidney donors.
A non-directed kidney donors gives away a kidney to a complete stranger. It’s an act of extreme altruism so rare there are only a few hundred non-directed kidney donors on the planet. With stunning, honest insight, Abundant’s cast of non-directed kidney donors share their personal stories to reveal what is possible through giving. Through talking about their experiences, ranging from the joyous to the heartbreaking, these extreme altruists open up a new understanding on what it means to be abundant.
Abundant is in production now with an expected release date in early 2024.
Science and Emotion
Abundant creates an intersection of medical science, behavioral science and social sciences to examine the nature and impact of giving. All of our living kidney donors have had the medical procedure to donate a kidney. It is a major surgery with many medical considerations. However, to be a non-directed living kidney donor, much more is involved and Abundant examines this sort of extreme altruism through different sciences. Thus, four of our experts hold PhDs in a scientific field and two are transplant surgeons.
In an effort to relate the extreme altruists’ experiences with that of the general viewer, experts we will interview for Abundant will connect the concepts of giving, abundance, scarcity and vulnerability to everyday life. These experts include a clinical psychologist, economists and a neuroscientist. We will rely on these experts from medical science and social science for context, relating the experiences of the extreme altruist cast to the general viewer.
Extreme altruists are rare, thus it’s easy to assume their actions and personas appear to exist above the norm. Our economists explain how and why that context is in place. Our behavioral scientists explain what needs to be present in a person to achieve a greater sense of abundance. And, taking all these expert perspectives into consideration, Abundant draws a conclusion about why we live in a world where some find it easy to give so much, while others find it nearly impossible to give at all. Without the research and practical experiences of our scientific experts, we would not have this perspective in Abundant.
Abundant targets a Millennial Generation audience. It is the sweet spot where our filmmaking objectives intersect with the kidney community’s objectives.
It is widely understood that Millennials makes up approximately 33% of U.S moviegoers and Millennials are the largest consumer demographic of documentary content. Millennials are also a purpose-driven generation which is a strong content match for Abundant.
From a living kidney donation perspective, UNOS data reports that Millennials made up 36.8% of all living kidney donors in 2022. That is the second largest generational cohort of living kidney donors behind Generation X at 38.76%. For the past decade, Generation X’s position as the top cohort of living donors has held between 38% and 43%, while Millennials have steadily grown from 21.34% to 36.8%. These trends forecast that Millennials will become the top demographic cohort for living kidney donation as early as 2023. Abundant will be ready to release in 2024.
Thus, for a documentary film that explores the topic of giving, featuring living kidney donors, the clear choice for us is to target this film at the Millennial generation.
The motifs of the Abundant are connection and community. At its essence a living kidney donation connects two lives through sharing. And you cannot have abundance without some sort of communal framework. So, all creative departments on Abundant are grounding their work in the inspiration of community. This is how we will bring the storytelling show content into the film, creating great visual interest and immersive sound design.
Typically, storytelling shows are performed in a black box setting with speakers behind a microphone. We are reinventing the presentation by staging it in a classic theater setting, adding background players for transitions and to symbolize the community aspect of the presentation, designing a set and lighting design that contributes to the themes and motifs and creating an original, immersive sound design.
The sound design and score for the film will be based on the sound design for the stage presentation. Our sound designer creates with an organic, ambient style blended with original music. The organic nature of her approach further emphasizes the community motif and will add to the sensation that abundance is all around us.
The storytelling show will be recorded before a live audience. Not only will that add a live edge to the performance, but the audience adds a greater communal context and live reactions.
Some of our experts for interviews were chosen for their experience with kidney donation and transplant. However, most of the experts are abundance experts from fields commonly understood by a general audience. These abundance experts are spiritual leaders, a clinical psychologist, economists, business leaders and a theater creative director. Using ideas a general audience will understand, our abundance experts’ content will connect the abundance of the extreme altruists with the everyday community.
In this way, Abundant is a layered exploration of giving, presented using interesting visuals, engaging sound design and the familiar framework provided by our abundance experts.
From The Film’s Director
While I am a first-time filmmaker, I have thirty years in writing, directing, and producing media along with thirty years of sales, marketing, and business experience. It’s safe to say, I’ve needed every bit of that experience to manage the challenges of making Abundant. Along the way, I’ve experienced a more fulfilling creative process with this production than I’ve ever had in the past.
Abundant is the most collaborative work I’ve ever experienced. I’m certain it‘s been an unusually pleasant experience due to my subject choice. Living kidney donors are generous, helpful, accommodating, feel-good people. That “feel” attracted likeminded supporters, funders, cast and crew. All involved shared a common vision of success: a feature film with accurate portrayals of living kidney donors that had a mass audience message and appeal. The greatest challenge on the production entailed galvanizing a singular vision of how our goals could be accomplished. Throughout that challenging teambuilding, the collaboration never once become negative or toxic. This is the tone I want for all my work at Maitri River Productions.
As I assembled our incredibly talented production team for Abundant, I looked for people who first say “yes” and who say, “Why not?” rather than ask “Why?”. This attitude is the fuel that met the creative challenge of lifting this subject matter to a major art form level. Staged storytelling is a minor art form. Kidney donation is a niche subject. Our cast are amateur performers. Yet, no one said our content can’t make an engaging feature film. That attitude and tone willed this production into reality. The inspired collaboration of our creative team has brought skilled writing and clever production value to our feature film production. All this was done by saying yes to the possibilities that this content could be bigger and more significant. Believing there is more possibility… which is the essence of abundance… has created this production. Seeing how people become attracted to great, exciting ideas, then want to help make them happen, has lit the fire under several other important social justice projects in my pipeline.
I mention all this because my experience with Abundant has formed my perspective on how to proceed with my career as a filmmaker. Early in the process, a friend warned me that “Show business is 90% business.” That may be true, but the realities of the business part do not need to detract from the creative environment. Despite being a small independent production, Abundant has shown me a way run a serious business operation that feeds and heightens the creative process. Personally, I feel like this approach has elevated my creative skills and vision for the production.
In this way, Abundant has been a watershed production for me. Through this amazing collaboration, I’m getting to tell the interesting, touching story of self-examination I first envisioned when I found this subject. And, as Abundant will show audiences, our society’s most extreme altruists can lead us on that journey with grace, humor and passion.
Intersection of Goals
When I decided to make Abundant, I started as a kidney transplant/donation community outsider with no personal experience with kidney disease, donation or transplant. Yet, kidney donation activists quickly embraced me. They saw a unique opportunity in my film, and we forged a partnership.
My goal was to make a debut documentary feature with an irresistible hook, rare and unseen content, and a message about our culture which would be appealing to a broad audience.
The kidney donation community’s goal is to break an awareness message out of its niche audience. I recruited Laurie Lee, one of the best liked kidney activists as a producing partner. She taught me about the kidney donation community, and I taught her about leveraging mass media.
Our goals intersect at a critical point: our culture‘s fascination with a person so generous that they would give a kidney to a complete stranger. After meeting some of these rare people, I knew we had a documentary subject and angle that could attract a general audience.
In developing the production and raising the necessary funds, the production modeled the abundant mentality and behavior of our film. We attracted a positive, supportive army of funders. And we are making a well-intentioned film about our society’s most extreme altruists which everyone will understand.