Afterlife Explored in I Survived ... Beyond and Back
- Friday, October 21, 2011
So it sounds like your vision for the show is very purposeful from the very beginning . . . that you’re going for a more documentary style rather than sensational.
One hundred percent. I think clearly in the episode you saw there’s some pretty big topics that are brought up between Tyrone and his interpretation of his experience that he went to a version of hell. And to make sure we're respecting all our viewers, we do have the disclaimer that these are interpretations of people’s experiences and we’re letting them speak for themselves. But there’s an episode later on in the series where there’s a woman who amazingly on Christmas Eve suffers a medical sort of failure and goes to the hospital and she flatlined. And she claims to encounter Jesus in the afterlife. And you know I think that’s a very powerful moment. In the hands of a different producer, they might kind of really play up the visuals. But I think aesthetically we really tried to let people’s imaginations run. Rather than feed them imagery and, like you say, be sensational, there’s more like an abstract, impressionistic direction that we’ve gone for in the imagery. And I think in some ways that’s out of respect that these are very powerful images and figures for people.
One thing I kept thinking while watching the season premiere was who’s to say what really happened to these people. Were they just dreams or hallucinations or did they actually go to heaven or to hell?
And I think again, that’s an area that we are very cautious about. The show is not about myth-busting or proving whether they’re true or not. And I think for the most part these people walk away from these experiences as them being life-changing. So in some ways I think the truth is sort of left for the viewer to draw their own opinions. It’s the difference between the great mysteries of spirituality and science and its limitations. And I think in most categories, people’s firsthand accounts seem to matter to us—like from police work to many in journalism, we trust people when they tell us things. I think we’ve taken that license with this [show]. We’re going to let these people’s stories have their day in public, and I think truthfully it’s a rare thing. I work on other shows for BIO and also A&E, and I think one of the things that excites me about this show is that . . . I think this is one of the few cases that we’re genuinely telling stories that nobody else is really telling. I think this show is really special in that we’re embracing a topic that’s very challenging to cover, and I think that we’ve found a great way to tell those stories through these “returners,” as the producers sometimes call them when we’re e-mailing each other, or these survivors.
It was interesting to see how Tyrone and Noelle had life changes from all about self to being more focused on helping others or doing something purposeful and meaningful with their lives. That’s inspiring.
In the episodes that I’ve seen [of this season], there are some tried and true stories of what I would venture to call "a rebirth" of their spirit, that here’s a few cases of folks who were going down the wrong path in life. And I think in the case of someone like Tyrone, you’re seeing that for them it turned into an experience of standing, and in his words, "at the gates of hell" which is a powerful image for someone to speak in everyday speech. I sometimes have to step away from watching—like these are incredible things that these people are saying. And yet, and you probably see this in survival shows in general, when people are put upon the brink of death it’s a changing moment. But I think here you’re dealing with not only these people who went beyond the brink but that they’re experiencing a sort of rebirth of their purpose and spirit in amazing ways.
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