August 2014, I did a story on the Elvis Festival in Gimli. It was then I met Quinn Greene who was the emcee of the event. His father Dave was one of eight Elvis impersonators performing.
I’ve run into Quinn many times over the years at comedy clubs and various other events. He’s part of the H.U.N.K.S. Comedy Troupe.
He invited me to his production of the play Evil Dead: The Musical at the Park Theatre in Nov. 2014.
I’m not a huge horror fan but loved what he did with this. He even had a splash zone and provided rain coats for the massive amount of fake blood that spewed from the bodies on stage. Thoughtful guy.
His father opened up one of the evenings as an Elvis impersonator.
I’ve seen his brother Kane over the years doing standup, playing his harmonica and beat-boxing. Very talented, outgoing and funny guy. Quinn’s mother Roxie is a writer. What a cool, talented family.
A couple of weeks ago I received a media release about a film that was produced for CBC in Winnipeg about a family dealing with mental illness. The father is a hoarder, the mother is a depressive and so is one of their sons who also has suicidal thoughts. To my surprise the family featured in the film was the above mentioned Greene family.
The name of the film is Being Greene. Jeff Newman wrote and directed the film for CBC’s First Hand documentary series. He documented this family for two years. I was invited to an advance screening of the film at the Park Theatre last week.
Two years ago Quinn Greene was renting a house from filmmaker Jeff. Quinn invited his brother Kane to live with him as his depression was really affecting his life and Quinn wanted to help. He and Jeff talked about making a film about mental illness and the Greene family agreed to open their doors and lives and be the subjects of the film.
Their motivation behind the project is to get the word out about how debilitating depression and mental illness can be. Perhaps they can help others dealing with these often stigmatized conditions.
Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, the same applies to people. What on the surface may look like a regular, normal person may not always be the case.
A few years ago I met a fellow who was an artist. His art was very original and amazing. He saw me at an art event taking photographs. Some of his art was also being exhibited there. He asked if he could hire me to document his sketches he had made.
A couple weeks later he called me up and we made arrangements for me to go to his place to photograph his work. An extremely talented artist. He talked me into taking one of his pieces as part payment for photographic services.
Next time I ran into him, I was doing a story on a mental health facility in town. They had started an art therapy program to help people with mental illnesses.
The person who was facilitating the course was my artist friend. He approached the facility with the art therapy idea which they agreed to. He really wanted to help others.
Dec. 2015 I received an email from Artbeat Studio. Artbeat Studio was set up by Nigel Bart who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. This studio also helps artists with mental illnesses by giving them residencies which culminates in an art show.
The email said that one of their alumni had committed suicide. It was my friend who hired me to document his work. He was schizophrenic. I was deeply saddened as he was quite young (in his early 30’s) and so very talented. I didn’t know he was schizophrenic. He seemed pretty ‘normal’ to me.
I went to his funeral. I was not only very sad but also quite angry at him for doing this. He was so loved by so many as evidenced by the packed church. His art work was being projected on a screen at the front. He was involved in some group shows before but this was his own solo show and it was a huge success (except for the fact that HE wasn’t there).
His father and mother both spoke about their son and both said that his suffering is now over.
They seemed to be okay with what he did. I wasn’t. I was quite angry at him as I thought what a waste of talent. I told his sister who I just met that I thought it was a very selfish thing that he did by taking his life. She said he was the least selfish person she knew.
These two separate incidences of meeting these incredibly talented and outgoing people gave me a few realizations. One being that you just don’t know what is going on inside someone else’s head and the other was that things aren’t always what they appear to be.
A great example of this is Robin Williams, the guy who brought joy and laughter to millions of people in the world. The whole world was shocked and surprised to learn after he killed himself that he suffered from depression.
I arrived at the Park Theatre for the screening which was absolutely packed. They needed to bring in more chairs.
Jeff Newman introduced the 44 minute film. He wholeheartedly thanked the family for bravely allowing him to peek into their lives for the last two years and for sharing their story. He also thanked the many people involved in the project.
The film begins by introducing the Greene family, showing clips of them performing and giving pleasure to others. What a happy and outgoing group of individuals.
Then the film delves into the suffering that goes on when they are not performing and the audience is not there.
The film is literally an emotional roller coaster. We laughed at the wild and crazy antics of this very talented family. We empathize with Kane as he withdraws into his room in a deep depression, sometimes hiding in his closet under bags of clothes. We gasped when he talked of just “ending it all.”
We were astounded when Dave reached out to help his son with some pretty far out and wacky methods.
As Jeff told me after, it wasn’t the easiest film to make. Kane had threatened to pull out of the film a few times when he was really depressed. He stuck with the project though because he thought that perhaps by creating awareness he could help others.
Some of the techniques used in the filming were interesting. Unlike a lot of ‘reality’ shows, they didn’t use a lot of supplementary lighting as it would have been a little too intrusive to the people involved.
Indeed there were some pretty tense moments in the film when Quinn, who seemed to be the strong one, the glue keeping everyone together, looked at the camera and said “We’re done, stop the camera.”
At the end of the film, Jeff and the Greene family (Roxie wasn’t able to attend), took to the stage. They thanked everyone for coming. Like in the film, each one of them got quite emotional.
After Kane spoke (where he also got very emotional as he thanked his father and brother) he said, “F**k this,” reached into his pocket and pulled out a harmonica and they all started boogying.
Natural born performers. Guess they just couldn’t resist, being on a stage in front of an audience and all.
Being Greene will premiere on CBC Thu. Oct. 13 @9 p.m.
The film is 44 mins. and Jeff and the team are planning on expanding it to a feature in the near future.
All photos by Doug Kretchmer
Videos by Doug Kretchmer
Being Greene video links
Being Greene director Jeff Newman introduces film at Park Theatre premiere Oct. 5, 2016:
Being Greene Director Jeff Newman intro to film premiere and thank you’s at the Park Theatre (Winnipeg) Oct. 5, 2016:
Being Greene Director and the Greene’s speak about film at premiere of film at the Park Theatre (Winnipeg) Oct 5, 2016:
Dave Greene speaks about film Being Greene at the film’s premiere Oct. 5.2016 at the Park Theatre in Winnipeg:
Elvis impersonator Dave Greene performs Burning Love before Evil Dead – The Musical in Nov. 2014:
Dave Greene (Elvis Presley impersonator) sings Burning Love in Gimli, Aug. 2014: