PAIN BRAIN is a documentary about a massive neuroscience study that challenges the medical industry’s approach to chronic pain. When therapist Alan Gordon suggests psychology as the cure for millions of pain sufferers, it garners the attention of Yoni Ashar, a doctoral student working in the lab of Dr. Tor Wager, who is willing to put Alan’s claims to the test. PAIN BRAIN balances scientific breakthrough alongside intimate therapy sessions with patients as Alan attempts to cure patients with only words and information. How successful the treatment is could catalyze a paradigm shift – from body to brain – amongst doctors and patients.
Alan has long believed that chronic pain can be unlearned through talk therapy. In his Beverly Hills practice he gets patients to ditch needles and pills, and recover from addiction, or avoid it altogether. Challenged by skeptics throughout his career, Alan’s therapy is now being put to the ultimate test. For the first time, Alan and the rest of the medical world, will see patient's brain scans before and after treatment, potentially proving or disproving that his therapy directly affects the brain.
Dr. Knight is skeptical that Alan’s therapy approach can cure back pain. The data will tell. Dr. Knight is a pioneer in her field of orthopedics and the only female board member among 40 at a large orthopedic clinic. Frustrated by a lack of viable treatments for patients, she seeks the latest technologies to help her patients. Her involvement in the study might make her rethink her own personal truth.
Seeking to uncover the brain's role in chronic pain, Yoni leads the largest fMRI brain imaging study to date. He's in search of more effective treatments, and he doesn’t take sides. He doesn’t have the personal convictions that Alan and Karen do. He is the filter between them, letting the data point to the truth. With Yoni, we get a window into how a brilliant mind works, as he leads us into a new frontier of science that could help millions.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
Mitch Dickman, Director/Producer
Mitch has been a part of hundreds of projects spanning all genres, formats, and styles. He was named one of the “Top 10 Documakers to Watch” by Variety Magazine. Recent credits include the Emmy award winning Anti-Human Trafficking Public Service Announcement Campaign (Producer/Director 2022), Silent Rose (Producer/Director – Topic Streaming 2020), Casting Jon Benet (Producer – Netflix – Sundance 2017), Speaking is Difficult (Cinematographer – Sundance 2016), Rolling Papers (Producer/Director – SXSW 2015), Being Evel (Line Producer – Sundance 2015) and Hanna Ranch (Producer/Director – NY Times Critics Pick 2014). Mitch holds a BFA in Film/Television with a minor in Political Science from the University of Colorado at Denver (where he currently sits on the advisory board and teaches as adjunct faculty).
Laurie Polisky, Director/Producer
Laurie Polisky (she/her)
Laurie is a neuroscience researcher turned filmmaker/podcast producer, and was a co-author on the study featured in Pain Brain. She was recently awarded the Creative Science Non-Fiction Accelerator Award from Sandbox Films & Gamechanger Films to develop a documentary on dream technology. She’s produced a variety of films and podcasts, including TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PAIN, which ranked in the top one percent of most listened-to podcasts about mental health.
Tim Kaminski, Director/Producer
Tim has helmed short narratives and a feature documentary, Classic (Producer/Director – AIFF 2020 Jury and Audience Award), and has produced for documentary series and films. In post, Tim has helped tell documentary stories spanning from e-sports (Artificial Gamer, 2021) to mass coral bleachings (Chasing Coral, 2017) and even daredevilry (Being Evel, 2015) and weed (Rolling Papers, 2015). Tim also keeps threatening to direct a narrative “this year” and, depending on when you read this, maybe that also will be true.