This is Normal: an interview with Director Derek Watson

Imagine waking up and instead of hopping in the shower or lazily walking to your sink to brush your teeth, you have to walk 2 or 3 kilometers to a lake where the contaminated water causes diarrheal disease. This is normal for Petranella, a mother of 8 and native of Zambia. This Is Normal, a short film directed by Derek Watson, explores the Global water crisis, where millions of humans don’t have access to clean water. I had the esteemed pleasure of interviewing Mr. Watson earlier today and learned a little more about the short film.

This Is Normal follows three lives, or three normal’s, if you will: Petranella; Jimmy, an unemployed father trying to provide for his family with little to nothing; and Dick Greenly, a successful business owner who feels as if after accomplishing all his goals and obtaining wealth, his life no longer has a purpose.

I asked Watson why he felt it was necessary to highlight this issue at this moment in time and with so much enthusiasm. “Today as we’re speaking, there are so many Petrenella’s walking for water,” he answered. “We have a responsibility and an opportunity to change that. If you care about human beings, this is your opportunity to help, because this is as much about us as it is about them. And if you live without purpose this, can be purposeful. It’s a cool opportunity for us in the now. Imagine…”

Last January, Watson and his crew journeyed to southeast Africa for a trip that lasted three weeks. It took four days to travel to M‘bala Island, where they lived among Petrenella and inhabitants of the island for a week and a half. “The people are so strong, Petrenella was so strong, physically emotionally and spiritually– and so giving, even with nothing to give. When you live among people in extreme poverty it’s rewarding and uplifting. We went back after four months to shoot a follow up; it was remarkable to see the change. In their faces and hearts, it was life-changing.”

The change Watson is referring to is the work of Dick Greenly, who Watson describes as “…so inspiring. Here’s a guy who could be doing anything in the world and he’s going to dedicate his life to providing access to clean water, that’s remarkable” The founder of Water4, a public charity, aims to educate indigenous people how to create fresh water sources. Watson also filmed in New York, Los Angeles, Carolina and Oklahoma, Greenly’s home. In his travels Watson gained more footage and information on this epidemic from UNICEF, several water organizations and experts.

“I look at my daughter in a completely different way. In the scene where Petrenella is washing her kid, it’s completely human and everyone with kids can relate to that. Everyone, especially kids, should have clean water to bathe, drink and play in,” says Watson. “I want my life to count. Stories can really change the world and by telling it, I changed and I hope it changes others.”

If you think this is your typical documentary, think again. “It’s a different film than those that leave you depressed. This film gives you hope. We can be involved; the only thing is are we going to do it with our time, talent and treasure? Or are we just not going to answer the call? I hope people leave the theater thinking that we can help, and I want my normal to change.”

To see the 22-minute short film This is Normal, you will have to catch it prior to the feature film LA Source, showing Tuesday, April 9, at 3:15pm or Wednesday, April 10, at 4:30pm at Regal Hollywood 20.

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