MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Christopher Paul has done hundreds of music videos and close to 1,000 commercials during his 22-years as a cinematographer, but his newest project exploring uncommon healers will be a first.
The worldly Mamaroneck resident and member of LMC-TV's board of directors will, for the first time, write, direct and shoot a documentary, called "Altruistic Arcs." The film will follow three groups of people in three different parts of the world who have devoted their lives to serving others.
"I want to do a piece that's just going to show people at their best, instead of this constant barrage of people at their worst," said Paul, who noted how negative and overwhelming the media has become. "All of those television commercials have paid the bills and afforded me a comfortable lifestyle -- and I'm not cursing it -- but I wanted to make something else."
Paul got the ball rolling late last year while working as the office manager for his wife's clinic that practices a traditional Indian medicine called ayurveda. The proximity to this alternative approach planted the idea for exploring, what he refers to as, uncommon healers.
The project then took shape. While listening to his car radio, Paul heard a man named Mark Goldsmith describe "Getting Out and Staying Out," an organization he founded that prepares Rikers Island inmates for life after prison. "That opened the world of social entrepreneurs up to me," Paul said.
The 19-year member of the cinematographer's guild quickly found two other organizations that he believes heal people through their social entrepreneurship.
One, called ECTA International, will take Paul to the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal, India this October. Eight years ago, Ryan and Amanda Phillips, a married couple from Denver, moved to India and decided to settle there and provide simple medical services that didn't exist in the northern mountain range before. Last year, they were able to purchase a fully-stocked ambulance. Before that, villagers used the "human ambulance," which involved strapping a patient to a chair, strapping the chair to the back of the biggest person you could find, and having him walk three hours to the nearest facility.
The High Atlas Foundation, located in Morocco, lifted entire villages out of poverty by introducing them to a self-sustainable crop, fruit orchards, which require little maintenance and are a steady source of revenue. He will visit HAF in January 2012 when he said they are expected to plant their one-millionth fruit tree.
"I've been in the industry for 20 years and one of the cool aspects of the business is you go somewhere and you get to know a little bit about a lot of different things," the University of New Mexico and Syracuse University graduate said.
Paul recently conducted the film's first interview with Goldsmith at his foundation's office in Harlem and will wrap production next spring when he accompanies the wealthy, retired cosmetics executive to Rikers Island. There, he will observe Goldsmith's work and follow the progress of inmates who have since been released.
"He's saving lives, he's literally saving lives in there," he said.
The Mamaroneck High School graduate's goal will be to document these people as they are, which he believes will reveal a common thread.
"I just wish to stand next to them and show what they're doing," he said. "The ultimate goal is to raise awareness about these three different organizations and translate that into fundraising dollars for all of them."
What are some of your favorite documentaries?