BUG THERAPY!: Michele Jourdan’s Big Idea That Might Change The World
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Making a movie is like remodeling your house. The price is going to double, and then double again. And, the time it takes to do it will, too! But you know what? It’s worth it!
As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Michele Jourdan.
Michele Jourdan hails from Austin Texas, and after a decade in Los Angeles, she moved back home to Austin in 2020, with late-night comedy writer — Michael Jann, her husband. Michele co-wrote, co-created and co-Executive Produced “Bug Therapy” (2021), and she’s co-written four romantic-comedy screenplays. Michele is also a personal trainer and a gold-medal-winning bodybuilder. In fact, she likes working out so much, she actually married a dumb-bell: Mike.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It’s been quite a meandering road! I’m a recovering self-doubter. I grew up believing that what I want didn’t matter. When you believe that, it’s easy to fall into things (jobs, relationships) that you don’t really like, and that aren’t good for you. I started my career in semiconductors, marketing, and abusive relationships. That life was slowly killing my soul. And, quite nearly, me.
After a decade of soul searching (ok, two decades) I finally met the love of my life. And with the help of a few great therapists, I finally learned that, “What I want matters”. That revelation led to my eventual escape from corporate life to became a personal trainer, and ultimately (nudged by the pandemic shutdown) a full-time writer/filmmaker with my husband, Mike!
Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I entered my writing career very timidly. When Mike and I first started writing scripts together, he’d write a first draft of a scene, and send it to me to review. If I felt some dialog wasn’t quite right, I’d write him a note saying, “What if she said something like this?” And I’d suggest some lines. Later, I’d see the script, with my lines in it! I was initially horrified, thinking, “I didn’t mean for you to use that!” Then, I slowly began to realize… What if I’m actually good that this?!
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
So many quotes and cliches are actually true: My younger years were a little troubled, so it was, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” As I started to get my life together it became, “whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” Once I hit 40 it was, “you’re never too old to do something you’ve always wanted to do.” And, “Consistency is key.”
Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
My big idea is our short film BUG THERAPY!
How do you think this will change the world?
By encouraging people to talk about their mental health! Mike and I think, and hope, that our short film, BUG THERAPY (and the feature-length version, which we’ve written!) will help people open up about their struggles. We’re all human. We’re all in this life together. And let’s face it… it’s not always easy. ESPECIALLY lately! (I’ve been through some dark days myself, and if I hadn’t gotten help, I probably wouldn’t be here right now.) There’s a stigma around mental illness, and asking for help, and we think if we can get people to talk about their struggles, we can normalize asking for help. Because we all need help from time to time.
Honestly, yes. I can imagine some people asking, “You think mental illness is funny?” And my answer to that is, hell no! I’ve suffered from it. It wasn’t funny. Shortly after we starting writing BUG THERAPY Mike’s son, Max suffered a severe mental breakdown. A full-on psychotic break. One of scariest and most heartbreaking things we’ve ever experienced. He ended up in a couple different psych wards, mental health in-patient facilities, and a sober living house for about a year. That wasn’t funny. It’s heart wrenching and painful. But, think of how much worse that period of time in our life would have been if we had to keep what was going on a secret, because it was shameful?!?!? I’m sorry. There should never be an added blanket of shame on an already difficult situation. So yeah… we come at this subject with humor… but from a place of understanding and compassion, having experienced it ourselves.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
BUG THERAPY is about a mosquito who faints at the sight of blood. And her name is Citronella. In the short film, Citronella is getting up the courage to go to group therapy for the first time. The therapy group is made up of bugs with arguably bigger problems than hers, and run by a Pill Bug therapist named, Dr. Pill.
We laughed at the thought of Dr. Phil playing the role of Dr. Pill, and wouldn’t you know it — HE DID!
We stumbled upon the hugely important topic of mental health, and from there everything started to fall into place. NAMI the National Alliance on Mental Illness endorsed us, saying our movie is literally their mission statement. And we were able to attract the top talent we did because this is such an important topic for so many people. Our message is simple: Everyone struggles with something. And, there’s no shame in asking for help.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
We need the feature version of BUG THERAPY to be made, and seen by kids, parents, everyone! We need people to start talking about “what’s bugging them”. ☺ Go see a therapist! Get some help, get some support. I promise you, you are NOT alone in your struggle. And once you start talking about it, you begin to see that. Our vulnerability is what makes us human. It’s what allows us to connect to each other. And there is such beauty in that honesty.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. I wish someone told us how to make a movie! LOL
2. That India is 10.5 hours ahead of us. So, if you’re going to making a movie with an animation studio there via Zoom meetings, prepare to be up late!
3. Trust your instincts. If something — or someone — doesn’t feel right, listen to that.
4. Don’t fall too in love with your first draft. Because when you see the first “rough cut”, you’re going to want to vomit! And, frantically rewrite it!
5.. Making a movie is like remodeling your house. The price is going to double, and then double again. And, the time it takes to do it will, too! But you know what? It’s worth it!
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t do something. Of course you can.
Never, never, never, never, never give up on something you believe in.
And my personal motto, “What you want matters!” YOU MATTER. Don’t ever forget that!
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
It’s a story about a mosquito who faints at the sight of blood. And, her name is Citronella. BUG THERAPY is a story about Citronella getting up the courage to go to group therapy for the first time. The feature film version is a MUCH bigger broader version of the short film, with more bugs, more mental issues, and more laughs! Wanna make a movie, and win an Oscar with us?
How can our readers follow you on social media?
My personal Instagram is @whatyouwantmatters
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.