Daytime Tiger

In 1999, NZ writer Michael Morrissey was diagnosed with manic depression. He has suffered eight manic episodes since, and been briefly hospitalised three times. Despite this, Michael rejected traditional medication, believing it would inhibit his creativity. Instead he chose to try and control his condition – to “tame the tiger” through willpower. The results have not been easy for his long suffering wife. Daytime Tiger is a feature length documentary that explores its subject with astonishing frankness. It makes for unsettling, even provocative viewing at times, but there’s much humour, and the final message is more hopeful than bleak.

“I felt like I had company.  I felt relief.  I felt hope.”

Daytime Tiger had its world premiere at NZ International Film Festival in 2011.  It is available for sale on DVD, please click here:

https://costabotes.co.nz/products/daytime-tiger-dvd

Trailer

Archive – NZFF2011.

Daytime Tiger began with a somewhat mysterious message from Michael Morrissey. I had not seen him in several years. Back in 1986, I adapted one of his short stories, Stalin’s Sickle (see short films section of this site), and it was a positive experience for all concerned. Michael would occasionally send me other stories but nothing quite fit my interests in the same way.

And then I got a call from Mike, strongly urging me to meet him for lunch. He’d found out I was coming to Auckland for a screening, and insisted I stop by his place for lunch. he said he wanted to pitch me a project that I would find it impossible to resist.

I had my guard up, but he turned out to be correct. The account Mike gave me of his travails contained a number of extraordinary details which indeed convinced me to try and make a film about his situation. Of course, our perspectives and aims were rather different. I know now that Mike was in the grip of a manic delusion when he pitched his proposal. I must have caught a touch of mania myself to see a movie in such an unruly topic. But art and life have a way of colliding in the most interesting ways when making documentaries and I hope that audiences find this to be so when they watch the film.

News Article

A troubled mind | Stuff.co.nz.

Michael was interviewed by Kim Hill on her popular Saturday morning show on National Radio. You can listen to the interview here:

sat-20110528-0830-michael_morrissey_manic_depression-048

Hill read some emails from listeners after the interview. A common response was, “there’s nothing romantic about bi-polar”. I could not agree more. I believe there is a great deal of pain and destruction suffered by people with this disorder, and those who live with them. It’s a horrible illness, which the film plainly shows, but it’s not all bad, and it’s not hopeless either.

Michael’s book about his condition doesn’t shirk from describing the realities of his situation, but like the movie, it’s intended to promote understanding and empathy in an entertaining way.

Taming The Tiger: Michael’s Manic Memoir

http://www.polygraphianz.com/site/ViewItem.aspx?pageModuleItemId=1659213

Music in the Film

Tom McLeod wrote the principle cues heard in the film. Tom is a valued collaborator. His original music adds just the right notes wherever it is heard.

The end credits feature “Lonely Soul”, a beautiful song by Cy Winstanley and Her Make Believe Band, from their album “AM Radio”.

The band has since been rebranded as Tattletale Saints. Here is their web site: http://www.tattletalesaints.com.

Email from a viewer

Hi Costa

 Well, it took until this evening for us to watch your DVD, and I wanted to write and tell you that I really appreciated your honest and candid portrayal of Michael and Ann.  It was not the harrowing experience I had been fearful of.  Sure – it did evoke some emotion and responses in me relating to my own experience as the partner of someone with bipolar disorder, but I was saved from myself by your skillful editing.  The potentially distressing parts weren’t dwelled upon and the inclusion of your own exasperation with Michael in the midst of his mania, along with Ann’s personal commentaries really illustrated how hard is it to be around someone in that state.  I felt like I had company.  I felt relief.  I felt hope.

We both had read Michael’s book before watching the doco, and the two go really well together – the book for the first hand account, and the doco for the perspectives of others alongside Michael’s experience.  

I am genuinely grateful that both the book and the documentary are out there.  The book has helped me understand more about what it is like to experience mania and psychosis, and the documentary has helped me feel less alone as a partner.

Deepest gratitude

Tanya

“Magneto” Q & A

Were you surprised by the absolute honesty with which Michael allowed such a taboo subject as manic depression to be explored? 
No. He wanted me to make the film, and it was obvious from the start he intended to be ruthlessly honest. What surprised me were the manifestations of his manic disorder. Appalling at times, yet endlessly interesting.
Allowing you seemingly unlimited access to his everyday struggles?
There was no point otherwise. There are plenty of tedious documentaries in the world already. I wanted to make something riveting. The only point of advantage I had was intimacy of access.
The film explores a correlation between madness and genius, yet many viewers may find Michael’s behaviour as self-centred, do you also see a connection between creativity and self-obsession?
Of course, yes. I think art is an absolutely selfish pursuit. But paradoxically, it offers humanity the greatest rewards. Who remembers the great healers, philanthropists, and samaritans of times gone by? Yet the great artists of history are household names. Many of them were not nice people!
You say that you don’t enjoy most “issue” films, which came across clearly in the technique you’ve deployed in Daytime Tiger. Why did you create an approach very different from most filmmakers dealing with mental illness?
It wasn’t that calculated. I don’t know how to make an issue driven film interesting. I am drawn to certain kinds of characters – all my films of late have been about people with a long distance commitment to their passion. I like dramatic stories – i.e stories about people with big goals and proportionately big problems.
One of the messages that came across in Daytime Tiger is the need for a more humanistic approach to those suffering from mental illness. Is this something you believe needs to happen?
I’m not terribly well informed about this, but I believe that has been part of a steady evolution over the last half century. I mean, we don’t lock mentally ill people up and throw away the key any more. A film like this essentially forces an audience to empathize and understand what life must be like for a sufferer and their families. That can’t be a bad thing.
Tell us a little bit about the strengths and weaknesses of making no-budget films, and is it something you’d recommend for filmmakers just starting out?
There are advantages and disadvantages. The bottom line is story and character, and capturing an idea as vividly as possible with the means available. If I’d had a big budget, I’d have probably made a different kind of film. But maybe it wouldn’t have been as good. One is closer to the truth working like this. There’s not much choice for emerging film makers when it comes to budgets. Nobody’s standing there with pots of gold for beginners. But the essential problems of storytelling have nothing to do with money. Regardless of budget, a film has to make an emotional connection with an audience. That’s what budding film makers need to concentrate on.
Was the use of handheld camera an attempt to create a claustrophobic and confrontational point of view, or simply a requirement in making independent documentaries? 
Hand-held can be a valid style in expensive films too. I use a tripod sometimes. but I just like the freedom shooting hand-held gives me. I can respond quickly to a developing situation. There are shots in Daytime Tiger that are ridiculously intimate. I am almost nestled in the subjects armpits at times. Handheld, we can all move in a strange dance together. Later on, in the cutting room, sometimes I can’t believe what happened. I like the sort of shots that can’t be planned. One shoots with a degree of instinct and anticipation. It’s guesswork because real life rarely conforms to storyboards.
The attraction of making Daytime Tiger seemed to be the chance to document something rarely seen on screen. Was this also a challenge in terms of producing an ethical approach?
Oh yes. I was privy to many personal details which I had to decide how to edit. These are real lives. It was important to me that the film play fair with its characters, and the audience; and above all that it not do harm. People trusted me, and I did my utmost to deserve that trust.
What do you hope audiences will gain from such an intimate and challenging experience?
I believe sufferers from mania and their families will find it a validating and maybe even inspiring film, but it’s really aimed more at ‘normal’ people. I hope they’re listening carefully to what is being said. Anyone in a long term relationship will recognize in this movie the normal stresses and strains of domestic partnership. But throw in the wild card of mania, and all the humdrum pressures of co-existence are magnified. It was like being in a wild parody of a Tennessee Williams play. If that sounds entertaining, please check out the movie.

NZ International Film Festival Programme Page

Archive – NZFF2011.

Dominion Post Review    30 July, 2011

4 ½ Stars

Wellington film maker, and once Dominion film reviewer Costa Botes has been amazingly prolific over the last few years. His documentaries are distinguished by a rigorous and refreshingly unsentimental way with an edit suite, a minimum of manipulation and flammery, and an absolute commitment to serving his story accurately and well.

In Auckland writer Michel Morrissey, Botes has found his most engaging and challenging subject yet. Morrissey is bi-polar/manic depressive. In the grip of his mania he becomes one of the most objectionable and obnoxious human beings you’re ever likely to meet. Bit in his quieter, post mania reflection, he will break your heart with his self loathing, vulnerability, and shame.

Morrissey invited Botes into his house to film his battles with his “tigers” and Botes has brought back one of the most honest, engaging, and provocative portraits of an extreme personality you will ever see.

It’s a troubling portrait at times, but Daytime Tiger is also enthralling, honest, and perversely entertaining. This is Botes’ best film yet. For now, that is some high praise indeed.

Graeme Tuckett

Reviewed by Helen Martin   ONFILM August 17, 2011.

According to legend, Orson Welles called RKO studios, “the biggest electric train set a boy ever had.” Shot largely within the confines of an Auckland home and garden, what happens on set in this film is more like a big train wreck …  “There are plenty of tedious documentaries in the world already,” says director Costa Botes on his website, “I wanted to make something riveting.”

And riveting it most certainly is. Central to and clearly the author of the wreckage is Michael Morrissey. Born in 1942, he has been a fixture on the New Zealand literary scene since the late 70s, a prolific writer of wonderful poetry, short stories and novellas, and a poetry anthologiser. The 1982 PEN Award for Best First Book of Fiction was the first of several awards recognising his literary and artistic worth.

What many of us did not know was that in 1999 Morrissey was hit by late-onset bipolar disorder, learning later that his mother and grandmother were also afflicted with mental illness in middle age. In common with other sufferers Morrissey, not wanting to suppress his creativity, steadfastly refused medication. A couple of years ago, having written about his condition in the memoir Taming the Tiger, but unable to find a publisher, he invited Costa Botes to his home to make a documentary (Botes had earlier filmed an adaptation of Morrissey’s short story Stalin’s Sickle). The purpose, says Morrissey, was to show that through willpower he could use the illness to his advantage. “As long as I stay un-depressed I should write the greatest novel in history,” he cheerfully asserts.

For much of the film’s running time Morrissey raves – at Botes and his hand held camera and at his long-suffering wife Anne – about happiness (“I ‘m the only happy person I know”), about ‘the feminazis’ who prevent his work being published (“women are basically like naughty children’), about his talent (“we are the ultimate geniuses, Jimi Hendrix and I”), about Anne’s inferiority (“my wife’s banal parrying of my wisdom”) … When talk turns to violent action we watch him smashing up his lithium pills with a hammer (“beer is my medication!” he roars) and with alarming accuracy re-enacting a time when he threatened Anne with a machete.

Calmer, more balanced moments are provided in interviews with those – friends, a psychiatrist – who know Morrissey in all his moods and who are able to put his mania into some kind of perspective. Anne at first seems resigned, but as the film progresses and Morrissey’s abuse escalates she becomes tearful and talks of leaving. A diminutive Malay-Chinese woman Morrissey had met working in a cake shop some 18 years previously, Anne doesn’t ask for much – she’d like companionship and a quiet life – coming across in the film as the front-line victim of her husband’s refusal to take his medication. Watching him in full flight you get the feeling he’s having a lot more fun than his beleaguered wife and the intrepid filmmaker, but there wouldn’t have been a soul in the film festival audience who would have wanted to change places with him.

Morrissey, in an interview with Kim Hill describes the film as a confession in which he exposes himself because he is ‘a Catholic masochist’. Ego aside, given how exposed he is there is no doubting his courage in supporting the film’s release. It was also a catalyst for change – seeing himself raving on screen was enough to convince Morrissey he needed that medication. For the rest of us, Daytime Tiger holds up a very sobering mirror to the destructiveness of a disease to which most of us have some connection, while at the same time providing the pleasure of being witness to a bravura documentary.

At the Q and A session after the Auckland Festival screening Botes, accompanied by a calm Morrissey, asked us to see the positives in the film he had created as ‘a reluctant traveller.’ “It’s about the potential for human happiness,” he said. “It’s a gift, of sorts.”

DVD Sales

Daytime Tiger is available now as a DVD from my web store at www.costabotes.co.nz

I don’t have any immediate plans for a wider commercial release, but I have authored a disc and can  print copies on demand. The cost is $30.00 plus 5.00 P&P, incl. GST.

Book Sales – Taming The Tiger: a manic memoir.

Michael Morrissey’s book is not easily available in stores. Contact the publisher. Their web site can take credit card orders :

Polygraphia (NZ) Ltd-Taming the Tiger-Morrissey.

Any further questions can be directed to Michael Morrissey. He favours phone or old fashioned mail:

09 8200672

PO Box 5129
Wellesley St
Auckland

27 Responses to Daytime Tiger

  1. Love the trailer, can’t wait to see it!!!

  2. nancy lehew says:

    I believe this will be a very interesting film about yet another controversial subject! Look forward to it.

  3. Costa Botes says:

    I don’t think the topic itself is very controversial. Mania is a fact of life for many people. But many more people have no idea what it is, what it is like living with mania, or what the prognosis is for people who have it. I tried in this film to illuminate those things in an engaging way. The narrative has some surprises, and comes to some interesting conclusions.

  4. nancy lehew says:

    Meant controversial about the choice to medicate or not.

  5. Costa Botes says:

    Sure. Actually, I was dubious about medication before – side effects, and overall effectiveness; but not now. Drugs do work. Though one size does not fit all. If only mental illness was like herpes …

    I hasten to add … not in the sense of being wildly contagious! rather, if mental illnesses had definable causes and consistent symptoms, there might be less fear and befuddlement.

  6. The trailer blows me away. Gotta see this. I just put a link to it on my facebook page.

  7. Tracey Stevens says:

    This has touched a nerve, compelling and turn away material all at the same time. Im looking forward to this on a personal level, but it scares the hell out of me as well. I hope he knows he has a saint for a wife. Raw trailer, hard hitting and I wanted to turn it off, but god Costa, this is the one that many need to see.

    • Costa Botes says:

      I can’t be sure how people will respond to this one. Everyone brings their own emotional baggage with them.

      I don;t think Ann is a saint, and she herself rejects any such suggestion. It’s an odd marriage. Mike loves her in a kind of dependent child fashion. I’m really not sure what she wants from him – they both need at least the shell of a marriage. But two less compatible people … I dunno. They say opposites attract, but not necessarily a good thing!

      So it’s not as simple as monster + saintly wife, though viewers can relate to it like that most easily. The film is unsentimental, but I believe has empathy and even affection for both parties. Mike’s not just a monster when he’s manic. Amongst the nonsense and misdirected rage he says some arresting things. In particular on the topic of free will and happiness.

      ON the subject of the OTHER film, I have just completed another bout of editing and I think done some more good things. The cut has evolved considerably since the one you saw, though the guts, and style remain the same. I’ve done more to bring out the characters of Caleb and Brian, and also massaged in a few things that defeated me before – for instance Brian’s mad stone folly, The Castle. He spent many backbreaking years building it before lack of funds defeated him. Also the show is now peppered liberally with Caleb’s marvelous shots, se we’re sharing the photography credit. The other big one for me is that we’ve finally now got some strong images in there of bears playing with dogs. It’s VHS amcam sourced from a Churchill local. It looks rough, but the content is amazing.

      Wish I’d made these films ten years ago. I’d have made some serious money. Nowadays, the market is in ruins and nobody knows which way is up or how to make a buck. It’s hard times for Indies and Majors alike. I feel a bit like Brian, maintaining my flickers of hope in an icy wilderness against the day when things get better. The only good thing when you’ve got nothing to lose is that compromise goes out the window and you do the work how you want to do it.

      Best,

      Costa

  8. nancy lehew says:

    ” Keep The Dream Alive ! ” Costa !

  9. Erin says:

    As someone with bipolar I really want to see this but am not sure if I’d make it through the whole thing – nothing to do with the film-making, stuff like this is just hard to watch! It’s not coming to Chch for the NZFF, I really hope it ends up on DVD.

    • Costa Botes says:

      I understand. But I’m not sure you would have a problem. Everyone is different, so I can’t say. But watching someone else’s experience might at least convey the truth that you’re not alone. There’s pain in the movie and sadness; but some humour too, and I believe some hope. I don’t have any immediate plans for a DVD release, but I could arrange something for you if you wish. I’ll email you. Thanks.

  10. Bee says:

    Thank you. Tonight’s screening was fantastic.

  11. S.R. Nairn says:

    Thanks Costa. Fantastic experience, great to meet Michael. This should help a lot of people feel less alone (which you could say is the whole point of art).

    • Costa Botes says:

      That’s great to hear, thanks for the feedback Stewart. Yes, I guess one function of movies is to share an experience or insight. I’m very glad this sharing is being well received, and as intended. I was a bit nervous about how audiences would take it, but I feel pretty good about it now.

  12. Liz Dutton says:

    Great movie. Thought provoking and interesting to watch. I saw it with you at Otago Uni tonight. Thanks for sharing it with us. Liz

    • Costa Botes says:

      My pleasure. Please spread the word. The film is available as a DVD direct from me. I don’t plan on going out wide with it, but hopefully there might be some therapeutic use, or even as a bizarre alternative entertainment. Ha ha.

  13. Definitely consider that that you stated. Your favourite justification appeared to be at the web the easiest factor to take into accout of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed at the same time as other people consider concerns that they just don’t recognize about. You managed to hit the nail upon the highest and also outlined out the entire thing with no need side-effects , other people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thank you

  14. Ann Morrissey says:

    I am not what everyone thinks but just a normal married woman, trying – come hell or high water (who says marriage is a bed of roses?) to ensure the “sharp edges” of our marriage evens out. I am Asian and brought up in a culture to respect vows, but when Michael went “beserk” the countless times and over the years, I saw red and just wanted to walk out. I understand in his “states”, harsh words were exchanged, unspeakable thoughts and actions were flung out and I nor he are proud of those. But we went thru them and came out a better partnership. Of course I cringe and am embarrassed by his words and actions, but friends keep telling me (and I to myself) that he wasn’t well. I grappled with my emotions, no words could get thru. The only thing that could help was leave him for a period of time, and it worked.
    I sympathise with whoever’s husband or wife going through this and am wiling to talk to anyone who needs a ear. I couldn’t find or didn’t know where to find family support, I didn’t want to talk with a group, as it’s so personal. But thanks to all those who have supported us through those very harsh and trying times.
    Costa, when you mentioned this:
    “kind of dependent child fashion. I’m really not sure what she wants from him – they both need at least the shell of a marriage” I take umbrage to it, but will leave it at that, cos you did a pretty good job, not forgetting that you got a few “short end of the stick” too.

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks Ann. I’m sorry, I did not mean to cause any offence. I’m glad if you feel the movie gives a truthful account of its topic – though my hope remains that it shows a passing phase, and that normal life for you both is both happier and more peaceful. The film does seem to open up discussion, and people report feeling that is more a help than not, so I’m glad of that.

      • Ann Morrissey says:

        It did, and life is more peaceful and normal now. Was a terrible time and after many many nightmares.

  15. Leo McIntyre says:

    Ann – If you would like to connect with other people in similar circumstances, or just for some support yourself, you could try contacting your local branch of Supporting Families. http://www.supportingfamiliesnz.org.nz/branches.php
    My personal thanks to both you and Michael for your courage and honesty and generosity in taking part in this film, and to Costa for having the courage and resilience to make it and to stand by it. I saw the film last Saturday in Wellington, so thanks and congratulations also to the amazing group of peer support volunteers that make up the Wellington Balance support group, for organising this special screening at Film Archive.
    Warm regards,
    Leo McIntyre
    Chairperson
    Balance NZ

  16. Pingback: Jason Kemp | Three things to read, watch, and use

  17. Its good to see bipolar stories from New Zealanders, I have been working on my own bipolar story and its refreshing to broaden the conversation haha…the new film The Dark Horse will be a different look at bipolar…we need to write MORE, film and tell the stories of mental illness..the more we discuss, share the less suffering we will experience I believe…

    • Costa Botes says:

      Thanks for the comment Richard. I’m no expert, but in my limited experience, the term ‘bipolar’ is very broad, and encompasses many kinds of story – from the points of view of sufferers, friends, and family. The good news appears to be that medication can in many cases help to alleviate the worst effects. Everyone is different, however, and there is no single magic bullet. As you say, sharing stories helps people feel less alone, and offers both hope and options. I’ve not heard of The Dark Horse. I’ll look out for it. Cheers.

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