Health

Louie Schwartzberg on Gratitude, Fantastic Fungi and Childlike Wonder


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Katie: Hello and welcome to the Wellness Mama podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com, and this episode was a really fun one for me to record with someone whose work I have followed for a very long time. I’m here with Louie Schwartzberg who you’ve probably heard of. He’s an award-winning cinematographer, director, and producer whose notable career spans more than four decades, and he provides breathtaking video using his time lapse and his cinematography techniques that tell inspiring stories that bring nature to life. His theatrical releases, you’ve probably heard some of them, include Fantastic Fungi, which was narrated by Brie Larson, the Mysteries of the Unseen World with National Geographic, narrated by Forrest Whitaker, and Wings of Life for Disney, narrated by Meryl Streep, America’s Heart and Soul for Walt Disney Studios, and his Soaring Around the World Ride film which is one of the most popular in Disney Park’s worldwide.

He has three TED Talks that have over 65 million combined views, and he is the only artist to be inducted into the Association for the Advancement of Science. He also received the Debra Assignment Award for leadership and mental wellness at the Global Wellness Summit. He was featured on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and his Gratitude Revealed programs premiered on the OWN online platform as well. In 2020, he received the Grand Visionary Award from the American Visionary Art Museum in addition to many Emmy nominations.

And, as I said, I’ve been a big fan of his work for a long time. He created the series available on Netflix called Moving Art, which if you haven’t watched it, it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s just incredible cinematography and extremely calming sounds. It’s one we just keep on in the background in our house often, as well as Fantastic Fungi which I watched with my kids, and Wings for Life which I believe is on Disney Plus now. And I’m very excited about his upcoming new film called Gratitude. It really goes into the beautiful story of gratitude and why it’s so important. That is coming out, depending on when you’re listening to this podcast, very soon. You can find out more about that at gratituderevealed.com. I wanna make sure we maximize our time, so without any further wait, let’s join Louie. Louie, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for being here.

Louie: Honored to be here with you.

Katie: Well, I have been a big fan of your work for a long time, and I’m so excited to get to learn more from you today. For those who aren’t familiar, I would guess most people are, you have several really well-known films, including one that I watched with my kids called “Fantastic Fungi.” But I’m excited about your upcoming film, which is focused on the topic of gratitude. So, to start broad, I would love to just hear what kind of sparked the idea for that one.

Louie: Sure. Well, gratitude is something I think I kind of grew up with, given that my parents were Holocaust survivors. They appreciated all the little things in life, so, you know, everything like food on the table or roof over your head, a steady job, the miracle of being able to have children given what they went through. And so those were the things that was like heaven on earth for them. And so living under that, you know, umbrella of gratitude.

When I went to college, I wanted to, you know, fight for social justice, but then the anti-war process were happening right outside my classroom. I started to photograph the, you know, police brutality against protesters and women, and then found my voice and got involved with photography.

And that leads you into shooting nature. And when you shoot nature, it’s another giant portal into gratitude, appreciating all the little things we take for granted, like the bees that give us the healthy food we need to eat, fruits, nuts, vegetables, seeds. You know, being an environmentalist is about being grateful. All those things add up, I think, to a worldview that is all about making the world a better place.

Katie: And such an important and relevant message I think right now, especially. I’ve actually been a beekeeper since I was about 12 years old and have always been just amazed and fascinated by the bees and certainly concerned by the statistics we keep hearing about the threats to their population and what that would do for all life on earth.

And I love that you tie in the idea of gratitude and nature because I think anyone who spends a lot of time in nature, that seems very intuitive, but maybe not something that’s top-of-mind as we keep hearing all of these studies about the health benefits of gratitude, of which there are many right now. So, I’d love for you to expound on that a little bit more and just talk about kind of how you wove that into the film.

Louie: Yeah. Well, I think one of the benefits of being in nature is it makes you present, you know, and that’s what a lot of these mindful practices are all about when people meditate. Just staring at a flower and observing as you just described at bee landing on the flower and understanding the context of what’s really occurring, this idea that the bee is, like, grabbing that pollen to feed its children, and at the same time, the flower is getting the benefit of having its DNA moved from one point to another as a messenger service.

And as we observe that, we are the beneficiaries of getting the fruits, nuts, vegetables, and seeds. And so when you understand the context or the science behind all of that, but on top of it, the beauty of what you’re observing, how can you not be grateful? How can you not feel appreciation and gratitude that this miracle is happening, that you are observing it, that you’re alive and have the joy and the emotional experience of being moved by it? It’s a miracle. It’s a miracle that’s happening billions of times each day.

So, it’s just another way that I think people can use gratitude as an entry point to get them out of, like, let’s say a negative spiral. You know, here you are. I’m sure you’re raising your kids. It’s not an easy thing to do. To take a moment and appreciate something small, whether it’s, like, you know, staring at that flower or being grateful that, you know, your fingers are moving and that you can breathe and that you’ve got love in your life, those are all the little things that help you get out of ruminating on things that are negative. And it’s easy for us to fall into that trap. It’s easy for me as well. It’s a muscle you have to develop. So, I think practicing gratitude is a way to really change your life.

Katie: Do you have any particular tips on ways to foster that in our own lives, and especially with our kids? You mentioned for you this has been kind of a lifelong example from your parents. And so for all the parents listening, what are some ways that we can help our children develop that habit early and often?

Louie: Well, I think sharing the sense of wonder that children have and being able to share that and be a part of that, to be amazed by something as simple as what children teach you is like to be amazed at, like, you know, the crunchiness of a watermelon bite or, you know, looking at a flower or a bug, whatever it might be that this trivial to adults is mind-blowing to a young person. And then that’s the whole joy of raising children. I’ve got two daughters that I’ve raised, and now I’ve got three grandchildren that they’re raising. I love falling back into that world of wonder and curiosity, you know. And believe it or not, it does engender gratitude.

Katie: I love that you said it that way. That’s something I’ve been very aware of since my kids were born is how much…you know. We try to change them so much in the school system and we think we have to turn them into adults. And I’ve always noticed how kids come kind of out of the box with all these amazing qualities built in. They have that sense of wonder you said. They have all this creativity and just fascination with the world. And we kind of train that out of them sometimes.

So, I’ve tried very hard to help foster that instead of stifle it by never just saying “because I said so” but actually trying to answer their questions and encourage their questions, which can be overwhelming because kids ask a lot of them. But I love that you tied that in because I think kids, to your point, are some of our best teachers and they arrive with these amazing qualities, many of which you talk about I think in this film, to build on that, things like creativity and courage. I think kids are such great teachers of that.

Louie: Also, patience as well. Teaching us to be patient as they go through different stages and tantrums, and to give them the dignity of allowing them to be who they are. They’re obviously pushing boundaries because they’re learning how to separate themselves as individuals from you. And you have to, I think, be patient during some of these kind of, you know, difficult moments as well.

But definitely, this whole idea of sharing wonder, curiosity, creativity with your children, they are the best teachers because they’re wide-eyed. I mean, for me, wonder is the intersection between art and science, you know. Whether you’re a scientist or an artist, you’re basically doing the same thing. You’re blown away with wonder. It’s a soul-cleansing experience. It’s actually healthy to have your mind blown.

And practices…and you asked earlier. I mean, it’s pretty known that when people just write three to five things down every day that they’re grateful for, that really does, you know, improve their life. And there’s even studies in hospitals where, you know, having a gratitude journal can help people heal faster, helps with heart disease. So, the evidence is pretty obvious that practicing gratitude, just being grateful for what you’ve got is a step in the right direction.

Katie: Yeah. I think gratitude journaling seems like such a simple tip, and it’s so profound when you actually do it, and it’s very much compounding. I’m a big fan of Naval Ravikant who talks about compounding not just in finances, but how in your life when you build habits they compound into bigger and bigger results, whether it be reading, whether it’s gratitude journaling.

And when you talk about that sense of child-like wonder or having seen some of your films before, I think you do an amazing job of capturing that and, like, kind of bringing us back into that world. And while you make it look so effortless because the films just flow so well, I can only imagine that they come with their fair share of challenges. So, I’m just curious if you had any challenges in assembling any of these films, specifically the most recent one.

Louie: Yeah. Well, I’m glad you appreciate that. You know, people say that, you know, my films are beautiful. And it’s not a superficial thing to make a film beautiful. Beauty is part of the story. It’s part of the messaging. I mean, ask yourself, Katie, like, what is the definition of beauty? You know, it’s certainly not the fashion cultural Kim Kardashian thing that you find on social media. Beauty, I’ve always said, is nature’s tool for survival because we protect what we love. That’s why your babies are cute. That’s why kittens are cute. That’s why puppies are cute. We’re hard-wired to love and to want life to go forward. And so, you know, we’re always gonna protect young people, you know, because that’s what we’re supposed to do. We’re just a link in the chain of evolution that goes on, you know, generation after generation.

So, getting back to the challenges in the movie, yeah, I try to make things beautiful, and they are, and I see the beauty. I’m aware of the lighting, the composition, the frame rate, all of that stuff because I want people to fall in love with the experience. And it’s an emotional connection that really educates people, you know. You can’t give them academic information, like, about climate change, for example, like, “Oh, guess what? You know, the ice cap is melting.” It doesn’t really shift behavior. But if you fall in love with trees, for example, you can’t throw away a bunch of paper. Not because you were told to do it, you know, like a to-do list, but more like it hurts. You know, I really care about this.

So, I’m trying to reach people on a very emotional level and to communicate the wonder and awe that I feel at the moment of filming something. I wanna be able to translate that and transmit that. And yeah, it’s a struggle, but, like, when I see people respond to it and whether they laugh or cry by watching the film, that’s when I feel really good about it.

Katie: I love that idea of having people fall in love with it. And it makes sense that that would drive the most change. Maybe it was Einstein who said, when asked what is the difference between like and love, “When you like a flower, you cut it, and when you love it, you water it.” And that’s always kind of stuck with me, but that seems very much what you do. And you did I believe in “Fantastic Fungi” as well very much so. I learned so much about mushrooms in that film, but also came to appreciate them a lot more. And in some ways, would you say this one builds on the work you did in “Fantastic Fungi?”

Louie: It does. You know, I never really quite understood the connection. I mean, part of the reason for making “Gratitude” was, like, when the pandemic started, you know, something I’ve always been, like, wanting. I’ve been shooting little sequences. I can’t go out on location easily. So, I figured, you know, now’s the time to edit this movie and put it out there. But that was a practical reason.

But the other reason is the wisdom that we learned from “Fantastic Fungi” of this, like, mycelial network under the ground, the shared economy, not based on greed where ecosystems flourish, where a mother tree takes care of its babies, you know. We gotta take that wisdom from below the ground and bring it above the ground.

So, after watching “Fantastic Fungi,” how do you integrate nature’s intelligence into your personal life, into your relationships, into how you raise your kids, into your community, your business, your work, your worldview? You can’t just have this aha moment and go, “Oh, my God. So, that’s how a forest works. It’s not a bunch of trees, it’s actually a community,” you know. How do you incorporate that wisdom into what you’re doing? That is really the challenge. So, that’s how I think the two films are really complementary. You know, you see the blueprint of nature’s operating instructions and we are a part of nature. Why wouldn’t you take that same pattern which has been evolved with, you know, R&D for about a couple of billion years, why wouldn’t you take that knowledge and that wisdom of how to survive, how to make life flourish, why wouldn’t you wanna apply that to your life?

Katie: And I can only imagine when you’re working on a project of this scale you must probably start with so many interviews and so much footage. How do you parse out and decide what’s actually gonna make the film? Because I feel like I encounter that on a small scale just with podcasting. I get to have all these amazing conversations and learn all of these amazing facts, and to integrate every single thing into my life would be more than I have time for in a day. So, how do you parse through that and decide what makes the cut?

Louie: Well, again, working with, you know, editors together. It’s really like sculpture. It’s about shaving away anything that’s extraneous, and then you keep on shaving it away and shaving it away until you get down to the very core essence of what you’re trying to communicate. And my job is to make people look good. And hopefully, that’s your job, too, when you do this podcast is that you’re gonna get down to the core essence of what we’re trying to share.

And it’s a long process. It’s a tedious process. A lot of times I’ll take, you know, sentence A and cut it up with sentence B and we shift it around so that people can really clearly understand the point that that person was trying to make. It’s like editing a rough draft when you write a letter, you know. It’s a similar thing. And there’s kind of a joy in just, like, always getting rid of what is unnecessary.

So, for me, it’s kind of interesting. It’s like when I do an interview like with you right now, I have to be careful that I don’t edit myself so that I end up with, like, a very streamlined response that’s very short because that’s what I’m always looking for, right? I want a one-sentence answer whenever I’m interviewing somebody. And when I’m being interviewed by you, I have to be careful that I’m not editing myself into a one-sentence reply. But there’s a joy in sculpting. It really is like sculpture.

Katie: And with a project this big, I can only imagine that’s also a little bit like probably bringing a child into the world and you probably have all these kind of hopes and dreams for it. What would be the key takeaways you hope people take from this film, and/or what change do you hope this starts and create ripples for?

Louie: I think that…well, especially, you know, coming out of this pandemic, one of the hardest things for most people, in general, has been this feeling of disconnection, of not being able to get together with family and friends. And the film is really about connection in a very broad way of seeing how we truly are all connected. And I want people to come to theaters if they can, obviously. We’re gonna be releasing on September 16th in theaters, but then we’ll be doing it virtually and it’ll be available online as well.

I’m hoping that people can feel that sense of connection and being able to observe different people, ethnicities, genders, regions of the country, regions of the world, and realize we’re just like another version of ourselves, you know. We may have a different accent. We may look different. We may dress different. We may have different music and different cultural styles, but we’re all doing the same thing. We’re caring for our children. We wanna make the world a better place. We’re trying to survive.

And so the film doesn’t tell anyone, like, what to do or how to do anything, like, with their lives. You’re just gonna see an example of someone who really has courage like Erik Weihenmayer, the blind ice climber who climbed Mount Everest, or Patty Wagstaff, you know, female aerobatic champion, a rug weaver in Appalachia. All these different, like, remarkable but ordinary people are passionate about what they’re doing and giving you a glimpse into an aspect or a value that I think adds up to gratitude, generosity, compassion, love, creativity. All these things add up to the overall feeling of being grateful.

And in a way, if we all become a little bit more present and a little bit more loving and a little bit more compassionate, I think it can change the world. I think it’s also indirectly a political statement in that you’re only gonna vote for people that share your values of protecting children, of wanting to make the world a better place, of having healthy food, healthy climate. These are all the things we want. And if you can get people to understand that, then I think politically, it’s a powerful message.

Katie: Yeah. And you touched on two things that I have come to find in my own life and also seen the research to back are so important broadly for health, but I think also just for existence as a human. The first being you touched on that connection and community aspect. And this really struck me when I started delving into the research on blue zones because everybody likes to pinpoint what it is about blue zones and whether it’s the red wine or the Mediterranean diet or whatever it may be.

And it turns out when you actually run the data, the only thing that they all share in common is they have very strong communities. And whether they’re drinking their red wine or they’re not, or whether they’re eating seafood or they’re not, they’re often walking to dinner or to a group where they’re spending time with loved ones every single day. And that’s something we’ve largely minimized in the modern world. And so I think that alone is a huge remedy for a lot of these things that we’re facing, and especially coming out of these past couple of years kind of to undo that anxiety that so many people felt.

And then the second being presence. And I think as a parent, this is a tough one, but I would say one of the most important ones because that whole idea of the days are long and the years are short, that’s so cliche but it’s so true, and it’s so hard to be present sometimes in those daily moments. That can be so chaotic and so loud and so overwhelming. But I think the power of being present in whatever moment we are in is of remedy to so many things that we encounter in life, and especially a gift to our kids who we only get for a short percentage of time of their life.

Louie: I totally believe what you said is absolutely true. And it’s great that you’ve come onto that realization just from your own experience, not having to read it in books, whatever, but that’s so, so true.

Katie: And I know that “Gratitude” is the top-of-mind film right now, but I’d love to also just…if you could kind of overview a little bit from “Fantastic Fungi,” because I know this one’s available as well and people can watch it. And it was such a fascinating one to watch with my kids. And like I said, I learned so much, and I think it’s something we don’t understand most of us very much about and is so fascinating and such a huge part of our world. So, maybe just share a little bit of your inspiration for that one and maybe things that surprised you.

Louie: Yeah. Well, as I said earlier, the film before I made “Fantastic Fungi” is “Wings of Life,” which is on Disney+, and that’s the relationship between pollinators, bees, bats, hummingbirds, butterflies, and flowers. Narrated by Meryl Streep who is seducing, again, with beauty, these little pollinators to come get her so she can move her DNA around. I call it a love story that feeds the earth. So, then this intersection between the animal world and a plant world I thought was the foundation of life.

Well, then you have to ask yourself, what do plants need? They need soil. And just like a kid with wide-eyed wonder, kids will always say, “Well, where does soil come from? What is air? What is water?” And the answer to what is soil and where does it come from? Most people don’t know that answer. People that go to university don’t know that answer.

So, soil comes from the decomposition of organic matter, which is done by fungi. And without them, there would be no soil. No soil, no plants. No plants, no life. And so I’m always kind of asking, like, why? Like, a little kid, why this? Why? Why/ Why? And I wanna get deeper and deeper. So, that put me on the journey to make “Fantastic Fungi.” And there were so many things that I learned that I didn’t know. I didn’t know the fact that it could be the greatest natural solution for climate change because the carbon dioxide goes to the plants, the oxygen’s released, but 70% of the carbon goes down into the roots, transferred to the mycelial network, and is stored there for thousands of years.

Carbon is the building block of life. You’re made of carbon. Plants are made of carbon. So, I learned that it was the greatest natural solution for climate change. I learned that it can also heal us. Lion’s mane is really important for people suffering from memory loss, Alzheimer’s. Turkey tail, very important for building up your immune system. Studies have found out that in conjunction with some other drugs, it’s really important for cancer, breast cancer, in particular. And, of course, you know, Psilocybin or magic mushrooms is being now, you know, used in over 60 different universities in clinical trials to treat people with trauma and PTSD. We just finished a trial in Santa Monica combining my imagery with psilocybin to treat alcohol addiction, and the results, I think, are gonna be super positive.

So, it’s pretty remarkable what these little guys can do. It’s way bigger than the plant kingdom. And the plant kingdom is way bigger than us, the animal. And I shouldn’t even use the word kingdom. I should be respectful and call it kindom so that we’re, like, gender-neutral. And they don’t teach it at school. Think about it. Just flora and fauna. They don’t teach fungi, you know. Most people think mushrooms are a plant. Hello. That’s like me saying that a giraffe is a plant. It’s really not very intelligent to do that. And why aren’t we teaching children? So, we created a curriculum around “Fantastic Fungi.” We’re gonna be releasing that in schools K-12 for free, teach young people the joy of this miracle of life that’s happening under the ground. Just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s real. And that’s why I made “Fantastic Fungi.”

Katie: Well, I would love to be included and get updates on the curriculum being released. We have a lot of homeschool parents listening, as well as parents who send their kids to other forms of school, but that sounds fascinating.

And also, it makes me so happy to hear how you explain that because you are very much a first-principle thinker, like over and over asking why, which kids are so brilliant at naturally, and getting to the true building blocks in the first principles is so rare. And I love encountering people who think that way because that’s where you get that beautiful magic like your films.

And I’m also glad you mentioned the clinical trials that are happening with some of these magic mushrooms because I recently just interviewed someone from MAPS and the results they’re getting are absolutely stunning. I mean, we’re not talking about people who are just, like, entry-level, maybe I have trauma. These are severe treatment-resistant PTSD who have tried all the other medical options. And in a clinical setting, they were seeing upwards of 60% completely not meeting the diagnostic criteria for PTSD after. So, we’re talking about something very, very profound that comes from nature. And I’m really excited to see that the medical community is now really starting to delve into that, probably largely thanks to work like yours and others who are helping bring it to the forefront.

Louie: There are just so many ways I think nature can speak to us. I mean, nature can…you know, visually with the films that I do. But when you think about it, I mean, the way organic life on the planet communicates is primarily by chemistry, you know. So, ingesting plants that are medicine, and I’m not talking about psychedelics now, I’m just saying, in general, all the plants that are healthy, that are good for you, you know, that heal your heart, your liver, whatever it might be. All medicine primarily comes from plants.

So, you have to kind of scratch your head and go, “Why would a plant create a molecule that is beneficial to your health? And why would, you know, a plant or a mushroom create a molecule that can, you know, help you open your mind and expand your consciousness?” It’s pretty remarkable. It fills me with wonder and awe. I don’t think science has an answer for that other than maybe the mushrooms are wanting us to become more in touch with nature, with the universe so that we don’t destroy the planet. Maybe it’s a way that they speak to us to be more present, to be more conscious. But I think it’s certainly a miracle that they communicate to us in so many different ways, by either eating them, by observing them, by touching them. It’s just a miracle we have this relationship with the plant world and the fungi world.

Katie: Yeah. And maybe also it’s truly, like, a gift to us as humans because several podcast guests have mentioned before when it comes to the environmental side. They’re like, you know, “We have to reframe this because it’s not about saving the planet per se. The planet is a self-sustaining organism that is going to continue. It’s really about whether we get to keep living on it or not or we destroy our ability to do that.” And perhaps our evolution, in that matter, will help us to be able to continue existing on the planet with the planet’s permission. You’ve had so many…

Louie: And I think…

Katie: Oh, go ahead.

Louie: ….but that’s why gratitude is important because to be able to appreciate the pollinators, the flowers, the bees, the plants, I mean, then you realize we’re just a spec in this giant ecosystem. We’ve only been here a fraction of a second. When you look at the timeline, you say, you know, humans arrived, like, not even a second before the stroke of midnight. All these other life forms have been here for billions and billions of years. So, we just have to live in harmony. And I think gratitude helps you feel that emotional connection to live in harmony with your environment.

Katie: Yeah. It’s a beautiful way to put it. And you’ve had so many amazing projects already. I’m curious, what’s coming next for you? I can only imagine you probably don’t sit still very often. So, what’s next on line for you?

Louie: Well, currently, you know, we’re really working on getting the film out, which we’re doing independently so that we can control the messaging. But after this, I’m developing a film about wonder and awe, which is, like, the sweet spot of every kid, and scientist, and artist. And I want “Fantastic Fungi” to be also an immersive experience where people go like this Van Gogh Museum exhibits and people can experience, like, what it feels like to be under the ground in the mycelial network and be able to, you know, be a mushroom for a little bit. Those are the upcoming projects at the moment.

Katie: And on that note, before we move on from this, how can people watch your past films and also especially “Gratitude,” which is about to be released I think right in time for World Gratitude Day, right?

Louie: Yeah. So, gratituderevealed.com has a listing of the theatrical screenings that are coming up in a couple of weeks. And then we’re gonna have a bunch of virtual screenings. By November, it’ll probably be available online. So, if you go to gratituderevealed.com, you’ll be able to watch “Gratitude.” “Fantastic Fungi,” we eventually licensed it to Netflix. So, it’s available just about everywhere. And then I mentioned “Wings of Life” on Disney+ is another great story.

So, think about it. I got Meryl Streep being the voice of the flower. I got a badass Brie Larson being the voice of the mushroom. I’m always using the feminine to really be the voice of Gaia, you know. And I think that too many nature documentaries focus on the macho, they focus on the kill or be killed, survival of the fittest. And there is a part of nature that is like that, but it’s not the real story of nature. It’s not the grand story.

The grand story of nature is the feminine. It’s about relationships. It’s about nurturing. It’s about cooperation. It’s about giving birth. It’s about making life go forward. And those stories don’t have a lot of conflict. And maybe because they don’t have conflict, you know, the Nat Geos and the BBCs of the world don’t like to tell those stories. It’s pretty easy to show predator versus prey to get an adrenaline rush. But I’d rather tell these stories that are more on the feminine side because I feel like it warms your heart and it gives you a deeper understanding of what life is all about.

Katie: Yeah. And to circle back to the beginning and it gives you that appreciation and hopefully love of nature and wanting to protect it and protect our place in it.

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I’m also curious, this must be such a fascinating thing that you get to do as your life, but maybe some fun stories from your time filming, maybe some crazy places that you’ve filmed or situations that happened.

Louie: Yeah. Oh, gosh. Well, I would say like filming monarch butterflies in Mexico was a big highlight in my life, being able to be surrounded by millions of butterflies, which, unfortunately, people just learned that they’re gonna put them on the endangered species list because as they travel from Mexico all the way to Canada, the pesticides that we in America put on the soil are killing pollinators.

But think about this beautiful story how these monarchs, you know, they winter in the highlands of Mexico, 11,000 feet, and then they reproduce along the way as they’re flying to Canada and that their children, and their grandchildren, and sometimes their great-grandchildren make the return journey from Canada all the way back to the highlands of Mexico and then go to the exact same four or five acres where their grandparents started. How do they know how to do that? How are they able to navigate with storms, wind, and all kinds of variables? It isn’t like you can just go do south with a compass and get there because the wind would blow you around all over the place.

So, to be surrounded by butterflies, by millions of butterflies, to be able to hear the sound of their wings fluttering because there’s a million butterflies around you, that I think was one of the highlights of my life.

Katie: Have there ever been any, like, dangerous or wild terrains where things got a little dicey for a while?

Louie: Yeah. Every time I shoot aerials, I always push it to the edge by getting as close as I can to a rock, mountain, or going down the face of a waterfall. I mean, never to the point where I would ever risk anyone’s life and being in danger, but unless you get really close to objects like that, it’s not dramatic. Gosh, I don’t know.

Well, like in Gratitude Revealed, I filmed these, like, street leisures. Those are people that go on, like, long skateboards and they’re hauling butt down a steep hill almost at, like, 70 to 80 miles an hour. And I’m in a little side cart, you know, and there’s no brakes on these things. And I’m hanging with a jib arm, which is like a piece of metal and weights, and they’re low to the ground and they got these leathered suits on. So, if they fall, they’ll just skid and they won’t really hurt themselves. They’re, like, three or four inches off the ground. I’m surrounded by all this metal, sharp metal. And if we ever flipped, it would be kind of game over. So, that’s just an example of things I do that are dangerous. But after a while, I mean, I feel like I’m on a mission to tell the story and to turn people on. I’m not gonna get hurt.

Katie: Wow. That’s an amazing story. Anywhere that’s still a bucket list item for you, a place that you really would love to film?

Louie: I haven’t gone to the Arctic or Antarctica. I’ve been close. I think actually with Greenland, we were inside the Arctic Circle, but I’d love to go really to the North or South Pole.

Katie: The closest I’ve gotten was in Lapland, Finland, which was barely in the Arctic Circle. And we visited the Sámi tribe and did the sauna and cold plunge. And it was I think 20-degree Fahrenheit cold plunge in moving water. And that is by far one of the toughest things I’ve ever done in my life, but that was an incredible experience.

Louie: How long were you in the water?

Katie: Well, we were in a 200-degree sauna for as long as we could handle, which ended up being about half an hour. And then my goal was to stay in the water for one minute, and I did it, and my whole body was hot pink from that temperature change.

Louie: I heard it’s really good for you. I mean, look, that’s just another good example of…and the reason why it’s beneficial is it builds your resilience, you know. It’s good to push… It’s almost like a fire alarm, you know. It’s good to have that experience of testing, you know, the resilience of your body. If you’re always in the comfort zone, not good, you know. Don’t always be in 72-degree temperature, you know, because your body needs to learn how to regulate. It’s a good thing.

And plants that are stressed a little bit survive longer, right? And people that eat a little less live longer. So, being able to push the boundaries of your resilience is really a healthy thing.

Katie: Yeah. And I think ties in with gratitude and mental health as well. I’m a big fan of sauna and cold and also fasting at times. I think all of those help us have gratitude for when things are so wonderful and easy. And the plant thing reminds me, I learned the secondhand, so hopefully, it’s accurate, but they had built kind of a biosphere and they had all these trees. And at some point, the trees just started falling over and they realized it was because they weren’t getting wind and so they weren’t developing resilience in their roots because they weren’t having to, like, have that fortitude to stand up to the wind. And I thought, ‘what a beautiful metaphor for life? If we never encounter the wind, we never get to develop our roots.”

Louie: That’s a beautiful story. It’s a beautiful metaphor, but it’s so true, you know. And people that garden know don’t overwater your tomatoes and don’t do that stuff because you’re giving them too much. And maybe the same thing with your kids. Don’t coddle them too much.

Katie: Yeah. From early ages, I’ve had a non-negotiable rule where I won’t do anything for my kids that they’re capable of doing themselves, but the goal is to raise them to be autonomous. And not that I won’t braid their hair for fun as a bonding experience or, like, read stories to them once they can read, but I’m not gonna do their laundry when they can do their laundry because they’re capable of doing it, etc. Like, I don’t wanna take that away from them.

Louie: No, I mean, they can also get themselves a glass of water, you know, and all the little things. And I found when I traveled with my daughters and with my grandkids, it’s like they grow up faster when you take them out of their environment and out of their comfort zone. They need to adapt. They need to learn. And that is how they mature faster.

Katie: Such a great point. And our time, as expected, has flown by. I know you have a hard stop. You’ve been so much fun to talk to. But a few last questions I love to ask. The first one, if there is a book or a number of books that have profoundly impacted your life, and if so, what they are and why.

Louie: Oh, wow. Great question. I think in college, I really loved Hermann Hesse, you know, “Demian and Goldmund and Narcissus.” He really inspired me a lot. “Siddhartha” was another good one. I don’t read a lot because I tend to spend all my time filming, editing, you know. It’s hard to have the time to read, but those are the ones that shaped me when I was younger.

Katie: Awesome. I’ll include links to those in the show notes, as well as, of course, links to your films. And lastly, any parting advice for the listeners today that could be related to something we’ve talked about or entirely unrelated?

Louie: Great question. I think I’d like to circle back to that whole idea of protect what you love, whether it’s your children, the planet. Be open to that feeling of love. And love comes from being inspired by beauty, and to develop that as a skill. If you’re on a walk, notice the light hitting the trees to be aware of beauty. Just be aware of beauty. Nurture it. It’ll change your life.

Katie: That’s a beautiful place to put a pin in it for today and to summarize so much of what we talked about. Like I said at the beginning, I’ve admired your work for a long time. I loved watching your films with my kids. And I’m so grateful for you taking the time and being here with us today, and so excited to watch “Gratitude.”

Louie: You know, actually, there is one other thing I wanted to share. I have a series on Netflix called “Moving Art.” It’s beautiful nature with music. And I’ve gotten comments from parents who have said they’ve had major breakthroughs with children with autism, or they use it to put their kids to sleep at night. I’ve never claimed it’s a healing modality, but besides children, I mean, teenagers that are suicidal, people with PTSD, people with cancer, people at the end of life, but I’ve been really inspired by getting these stories of how parents with children with autism have major breakthroughs by watching these videos.

Katie: I love that you mentioned that. I wish we had even delved into it a little more. We don’t do much TV in our house, but because there was already a huge TV in the house when we moved in and I didn’t wanna just turn it into one of those static pictures, I very often have “Moving Art” on on the TV because it’s so beautiful. And I’ll find the kids as I walk through sometimes they’ll just kind of be enthralled by it and it’ll catch their attention for a little while. It’s also just so deeply relaxing and almost meditative.

So, if you guys haven’t checked out “Moving Art,” highly, highly recommend that one, as well as all of your other films. And I will definitely be there for a screening of “Gratitude.” And with that, I have so much gratitude for you and your work and for your time today. Thank you for being here.

Louie: Thank you, Katie. Love what you do.

Katie: Thank you. And thanks, as always, to all of you for listening and sharing your most valuable resources, your time, your energy, and your attention with us today. We’re both so grateful that you did, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the “Wellness Mama Podcast.”

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.





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