In 2016, the community of Fort McMurray, Canada was torn through by a wildfire, forcing over 88,000 people from their homes. This traumatic experience, shared by an entire community, is now being shared with the rest of the world with the movie Back Home Again as an example of collective hope.
Charmaine Hammond joins me today to talk about Back Home Again, and how the making of this movie and the story it shares was able to help her in her healing process. During challenging times, Charmaine believes that hopeful thoughts can give us physical strength to keep moving forward.
Her message couldn’t be any more timely as we continue to experience the effects of the pandemic throughout the world. We don’t always know how things will turn out, but when we work together we know they will be better than they are today.
Tune in to our conversation as we discuss collective hope and people coming together to make a difference where and how they can.
About Charmaine Hammond:
Charmaine Hammond, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) is a highly sought-after business keynote and workshop speaker, entrepreneur, author and educator who teaches and advocates the importance of collaboration, mental health, and healthy relationships. She has helped clients in many industries build resilient and engaged workplaces, develop high trust/high accountability relationships, and solve workplace issues and conflict that gets in the way of success and profitability.
She is also Executive Producer of the Back Home Again movie. Responsible for heading up the collaborations, partnerships and sponsorship for the project, she is passionate about this film because Fort McMurray was her home for 15 years. She didn’t live there at the time of the fires however returned on contacts with the social profit organizations and school boards to work with the community on the recovery and resilience initiatives.
You can find Charmaine on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
Mentioned In This Episode:
- Back Home Again movie
- Mental Health In Minutes
- Back Home Again movie on YouTube
- Better Than Today
- Find more Hope resources
Lindsay Recknell 0:03
Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Hope motivates action podcast. I’m your host Lindsay Recknell. And you are so in for a treat today. I’m excited to welcome Charmaine HeMen one of the brains behind an incredible animated film about the wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alberta back in 2016. Let me tell you a little bit more about her. Charmaine Hammond is a highly sought after business, Keynote and workshop speaker and entrepreneur and author and an educator who teaches and advocates the importance of collaboration, mental health and healthy relationships. She has helped clients in many industries, build resilient and engage workplaces, develop high trust, high accountability relationships, and to solve workplace issues and conflict that gets in the way of success and profitability. She is also executive producer of the back home again movie, working closely with Michael Mann Koski, who was the screenwriter director. almost since the beginning of this project. She was responsible for heading up the collaborations, partnerships and sponsorship for the project. And she is passionate about this film because Fort McMurray was her home for 15 years. She didn’t live there at the time of the fires, however, returned on contact with the social profit organizations and school boards to work with the community on recovery and resilience initiatives.
Lindsay Recknell 1:15
In my conversation with Charmaine Today we talk about her animated film and the positive impact that has had on the people of Fort McMurray and the rest of Canada. Charmaine also shares some behind the scenes info about making the movie and the incredible lineup of famous actors who voiced the animated characters. And my favorite thing we talk about is the character development, why the personification of each animal was chosen, and the relatable mental health story they tell, I think you’re really going to love it. As a reminder, if you’re interested in any of the books, resources and tools I mentioned in this episode, all the links you’ll need can be found on my website, or in the show notes of your favorite podcast player. I truly believe that the future will be better than today by taking action over the things we can control and conversations like this really reinforced that hope. without any more delay. Let’s get to it. Hello, Charmaine, I am so excited to have you here on the hope motivates action podcast. Thanks for joining me.
Charmaine Hammond 2:08
Oh, thank you. I always love being in conversation with you. So appreciate the opportunity.
Lindsay Recknell 2:13
The feeling is mutual. I feel like we have so many great things in common. And I can’t wait for you to share with the audience all about your movie. So why don’t you start the start our conversation and let us know how you use hope to motivate action in your life.
Charmaine Hammond 2:29
Wow, what a powerful question, how does hope motivate action for me? Well, you know, hope, I think I have, I like to think that I have an optimistic kind of viewpoint on life and things in general. And that’s how I approached my work. My projects, just we don’t always know what the outcome will be when we take on a project or do endeavor, but I just know that I will be in collaboration with the right people. And I will just hope that things are going to work out the way they are going to work out. And what’s interesting for me, as I’ve discovered through the years is that sometimes that mindset means we also have to be open to new ideas and new outcomes that we may not have thought of. But I think for me when I think about how hope inspires action and motivates action for me, is it’s coming from that place of a positive out like an optimistic desire to make a difference. And that’s been a thread through my whole life and career.
Lindsay Recknell 3:28
But I mean, beautiful. And knowing you know, I’m getting to know you a little bit and the story that I’d love you to continue sharing on this show really reinforces that hope as well. So tell us about the movie that you have just released into the world.
Charmaine Hammond 3:44
Oh, I love talking about back home again. Movie. So the back home again, movie is an animated 30 minutes short written by the incredible screenwriter Michael Mann Koski. He is the screenwriter, director. And the story is based on the Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, wildfires that were in 2016, when the entire community was evacuated with this forest fire, which was then known as the beast. And this this evacuation lasted weeks and weeks and for some months and months and months. And Michael was doing some work with the Red Cross at the time. He was of course evacuated as well, because he was living in the community that was his home. And when he came back to the community doing some contract work for Red Cross, He was interviewing all kinds of people from the region. And it became really apparent to him that these were stories that need to be told, but he wrestled with the idea of how do you tell a story about some pretty heavy content in a way that people can hear it and that’s where he got really inspired with animation. And so the movie back home again, is the story of the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo wildfires as told by the animals who live in the forest And it was created when you talk about hope. Actually, in our, in our promotion of the movie, we say that this is a movie about hope, community and mental health.
Lindsay Recknell 5:11
Well, how fitting is that?
Charmaine Hammond 5:14
There you go,
Lindsay Recknell 5:16
I love I love the perspective of telling it through animation and from the point of view of the animals that were affected. Do you characterize the animals? Or do you like, do you make them into human like figures.
Charmaine Hammond 5:30
So it’s absolutely brilliant what Michael has done. So I’m going to share a couple of my favorite parts of the movie, every part is my favorite. And there’s a couple that just tug at my heart in in a way that I can’t explain. And there’s one part with Mr. And Mrs. gray horns. And that is voiced by 10, two cardinal and Lauren Cardinal, and Mrs. gray horns is talking about this experience of leaving the community. And she’s in Buffalo in so this is great horns as a buffalo, and talking about leaving the community and the fears that she was wrestling with, and the thoughts that were going through her mind. And what kept her calm, was actually talking to her husband, Mr. Gray horns on the phone, and because they weren’t together at the time, and so they, those stories of the gray horns are actually based on real people that Michael had interviewed. And it’s like that through the whole movie, where the stories that become part of back home, again, are based on a variety of different interviews that Michael had in the community,
Lindsay Recknell 6:37
when how, like how residents, right, so even if it’s, you know, Fort McMurray residents, when they watch the show, I’m sure they see themselves their neighbors in the animals. But it shouldn’t be that’s got to resonate with other people who didn’t have that same experience, because those are life experiences, it may not have been a fire that separated you but other circumstances that have separated you.
Charmaine Hammond 7:02
Yeah, that is so important what you just said, Lindsay, because something that became really apparent to us as we’ve been releasing this in a slow, gradual way is that right now, we have a shared global experience, as you’ve just alluded to, we’re all wrestling with issues around mental health, or our resilience or managing our stress, whatever language works, but we’ve all been affected as we navigate through and live in a global pandemic. And you’re absolutely right. Within a story like a natural disaster, there’s a multitude of losses, there are a multitude of changes, that people that I talked to in my world, are talking about what that’s like in their world right now living in navigating through COVID. So changes in our workplace changes in our family, going to homeschooling our children when we’ve never had to do that. So I think one of the really key pieces is that when Michael wrote back home, again, he wanted this to be a conversation starter. He wanted this to be a movie that people would watch together, and then have a conversation. And I know from the work that you do, Lindsay in the mental health sector, it is tough for people to talk about mental health. And sometimes they don’t know how to even start the conversation. And that’s why we thought maybe the movie could help start the conversation. I can’t even tell you how much I love that. Because you’re right, in the work that I do with mental health in minutes.
Lindsay Recknell 8:29
I literally give people conversation starters, like literal words, sometimes yes. You know? What was sort of Look for templates or scripts? That’s correct, right? Yes. For what you can say. And one of the things we suggest is look for, you know, pop culture references or people talking about this stuff and use your use that as the conversation opener, that’s brilliant. Yeah, really?
Charmaine Hammond 9:00
Well, Michael, notice that, you know, even his own experience, he’s very open. If you hear Michael talk about what the fires were like, for him, he talks about how his mental health was challenged and, and the different things that he had to apply in his life to, to cope with change and in his life and, and just the trauma that people experience and, and Michael’s very open about that in terms of conversations he has on media and on podcasts, and I’m constantly learning from listening to Michael and to other people. Talk about dealing with change and loss and growth and navigating things that are new to us. And you know, the other thing that came up, Lindsay, when you asked that question about hope, and how that inspires me, got me thinking as well that being a part of this movie actually was healing for me. Now I didn’t experience the fires. I have friends and clients who did but at that same time of working on the movie, I ended up getting a diagnosis of breast cancer and, and I’m doing great now. But partway through this movie, I ended up with something huge in my life. And it actually gave me hope. I’ll tell you, Lindsay, like every day, it was like, What could I do today to work on back home again, even if it’s just a little bit and it became my hope and healing project.
Lindsay Recknell 10:26
Oh, that just gives me shivers to hear you say that. Because I hope I know that hope has a PR problem. And it’s conversations like this that really helped to move the needle on solving that. Because the power of hope, the power of having something to look forward to the power of really putting our focus and attention on something that makes us feel good, that makes us feel fulfilled the meat that is doing good in the world, that is taking action on hope. And it’s so cool to hear, like you didn’t know any of that, really, you know, but to hear you express that, and know that that is truly hope working in your brain that just makes me feel so good that this message is getting out there. And I love that.
Charmaine Hammond 11:11
Yeah, yeah, it is so important. And I you know, I’ve talked to so many people over the years when there’s been changed or loss or, or new circumstances to navigate with, um, people can very quickly lose, lose hope. I remember 25 years ago, I was in a sailboat accident that nearly took our lives. And I remember, at one point swimming and I honestly had lost all strength to swim. I was sort of, I think, emotionally just surrendering to like, Whatever will happen will happen. That’s where my brain went. And I don’t know what happened in that moment. But it was some it was like somebody kick started me. And this little thought and and I remember in my head thinking Hope Floats. And that’s like, then I just started swimming again. And, and what I discovered this was like, the biggest aha I’ve ever had in my life is that when I started having thoughts that went to just what if questions, what if I don’t get home? What if we’re not okay? Who’s going to feed the dog tonight? Like all these What if net almost like a negative thought process, I physically lost my ability to swim, I felt physically exhausted, it was so much effort to put one arm in front of the other, when I would focus on my thoughts and said, and part of what kept me going as my husband now who was my boyfriend then didn’t think he was going to make it. And so part of what he said was when we’ve got when we get back to shore, Shar, we’ve got a wedding to plan. And I turned into this, like Olympic swimmer, the promise of the ring, I’ve been waiting a long time. But I remember coming. And then I remember just I felt powerful. I felt strength. I felt like I could get there and I just swam and I swam. And when I got home, I remember that night sitting on the couch as I’m kind of reflecting on this challenging day of life. And Chris and I are both at home and you know, kind of recuperating. And I remember that thought that went through my head that Hope Floats. And I remember saying, Wow, when I had thoughts that were hopeful, I physically had strength. When I lost thoughts that were helpful. I lost my physical ability to swim and save my life. So hope is really important. And I love that you’re doing a podcast. Just on that topic.
Lindsay Recknell 13:38
Yeah. Oh, that is so like, so so powerful to hear that story. And so the science of hope as a field of study within positive psychology, I am so thankful for because there’s scientists and researchers out there doing research to support that anecdotal story that you just told. And there’s over 2000 studies that prove that it is literally that mind body connection. That is what is the most powerful thing. Like as an example, there’s a study out there that says of students who are taking the LSAT, so the exam that you need to go to law school, yeah, they had them do a hope score ahead of the exam. So they got everybody’s hope levels at the head of the exam. And then they compared the score and how high their hope was to their undergrad. Scores like their law Wow, undergrad, and predicted how well they do on the LSAT. Hmm. And wow, those those hope scores were a better predictor of success than the undergrad scores.
Charmaine Hammond 14:51
Lindsay Recknell 14:55
Yeah, there’s also a scientist, the late Dr. Shane Lopez He tells a story. When he first got into doing clinical psychology work. He met a farmer. And this farmer had been farming his entire life. It was what he knew his you know, he was a generational farmer. And he was in his 60s, I think, literally could not imagine doing anything about farming. This gentleman had been diagnosed with terminal cancer or with cancer, I know it’s terminal or not, but cancer for sure. And his wife had brought him in to see Dr. Lopez because he had just lost his will to live. He had lost any desire to farm he was done getting out of bed, he had stopped really eating well, and drinking any of those things. And so his wife had brought him in to see Dr. Lopez and so and Lopez was working in the hope space yet he was a positive psychologist, but it wasn’t working in the hope space yet. And this was kind of the first experience he had of the power of hope. Because through his sessions with this gentleman, they started talking about what will happen to his farm, if he doesn’t fight for this, what will happen to his legacy, what will happen to his family, and all of these things, not in a negative way, but just a, hey, let’s you know, think about what you have here, how good it can be, if only you can do the things we’re asking you to do to give yourself a fighting chance. And yeah, as soon as this farmer flipped his mind around, changed his perspective, and really started to picture literally picture in his mind that the hippocampus part of his mind, which is responsible for memory, in the hippocampus, part of his mind, then all this other rest of it started to click, and he survived the cancer. He, you know, lived a long happy life, all of those things. It feels impossible. It feels like cosmic woowoo.
Charmaine Hammond 16:55
But it’s not. Yeah, yeah. You know, I love when you talked about kind of that collective element, I remember in conversations that I had when I was going back to the Fort McMurray community after the fires and working with some of the nonprofits in the school divisions on the recovery and resilience programming. And there was an individual who talked about the power of shared experience and collective hope. And it was a term I hadn’t really heard before. And I said, What is collective hope. And so she described it as a group of people who are just sharing, you know, hope and hopeful thoughts and affirming thoughts and and she said, this was part of what helped her on her healing journey. And, you know, I think about other scenarios in my life where we don’t always know the outcome of something. And you know, we have to make the decisions with the best we know, at that very moment of time and hope that it’s going to work out okay. And and I believe that hope just ripples through our lives personally and professionally in so many ways. But it can, it can be life changing for people. I’ve seen that with people in illness, I’ve seen that with work challenges. I’ve seen that in community challenges, and of course, in natural disasters as well.
Lindsay Recknell 18:18
I love that language of collective hope. I’ve never heard that term before. But I do know that hope is contagious. So yeah. So that really that ties it up in a bow really nicely, the collective hope because you do you feed off each other, our mirror neurons in our brain help to, to borrow hope from others if we aren’t feeling so good, and share it with with people who need it when we are feeling extra hopeful. And so that idea of collective hopefulness feels really nice. I really like that.
Charmaine Hammond 18:50
Yeah, I love that term. I’d never heard it either. I don’t know if it’s like a if it’s a real term, but I just thought, What a great way of describing that. Because you’re right, when you talked about that contagion, I think about workplaces that I have done consulting or training and that are highly resilient. You know, I would describe them as a resilient team that’s a resilient workplace, what are the qualities that they have? One of them I believe, is that they just have a framework a way of thinking that is hopeful they don’t look for everything that is wrong or broken. They look for how things could be just like the story you shared about that gentleman? how things could be what what would it be like if and that can as quickly as that can be contagious. For people to be hopeful it can go the other way as well. And so it really takes like it’s like a champion of hope when you’ve got to have those champions of hope someone to help move that forward. But you’re right. It just changes the energy the way that we communicate the way that we show up. Yeah, it Yeah,
Lindsay Recknell 19:53
I could not agree more with you. I was as you were speaking, I was thinking about your movie and the collective hope that your movie is bringing To the world, and how has it resonated? What kind of feedback? Have you heard from the viewers?
Charmaine Hammond 20:06
Oh, well, I remember we were we premiered at the Edmonton International Film Festival in October won two awards from that film festival as well. I know. And I had a conversation with a nine year old girl, she was just standing in line waiting to talk to Michael, she was so excited to share her perspective on the film with Michael. And as I’m talking to her, she shared some of her thoughts with me. And she said, her her words almost verbatim, she said, this is really a movie about mental health, isn’t it? So she’s nine. And I’m thinking, tell me more about that. And she said, I think this movie brings people together. And she said, right now, we’re all dealing with COVID. Like, we all need to stick together. And it was so interesting to hear what she drew out of the movie. And that’s what one of the things that I’ve really enjoyed. As we are gradually getting this movie out there into the world, we’ve had a couple of film festivals, and we’re doing the film festival circuit right now. And some events, the feedback is incredible. I love hearing people’s feedback about the animals and how you kind of alluded to this earlier how we might identify with one of those animals with something to do with our own life that has nothing to do with a fire. The other the other feedback and how it’s resonating with people is the care and attention that Michael and the animation team put into things like the the colors that were used, and the background noises that that are part of the movie. And so there’s a couple areas that are a little bit heavier, perhaps to listen to. And that’s where the Michael and his team have done a great job with sound and other images. And people have noticed that and I think one of the big pieces of feedback is just when Michael talks about this being a love letter to his community, we’ve heard people say something similar to that, but in their own words, and I’m really excited to continue getting this movie out there. And we’ve had the opportunity after some of the private screenings to do what we call a panel conversation where we might have somebody from Canadian Red Cross and Canadian Mental Health Association and Michael, on the panel. And this is what gets really exciting for us, because Michael’s vision really was to have this as the conversation starter. And those panel dialogues, our way of starting conversation. And you know, as you mentioned earlier, Lindsay, sometimes we don’t have these conversations that matter most because we’re afraid of what the answer might be, or were worried about saying the wrong thing. And I know that when I was going through all my treatments, that was part of what people told me, Well, I don’t want to say the wrong thing. And I said, just knowing that you’re there is actually helpful to me. I don’t even know what the right things are to say right now. So don’t worry about it. And, you know, saying something like, I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know, I’m here for you. That is really powerful. So I love that you talked about the scripts earlier and templates, because once we can plug in those scripts and templates into our brain, I think it makes it easier for us to have the conversations that we often avoid,
Lindsay Recknell 23:21
because they’re uncomfortable. And yes, you know, I would love to make conversations about mental health as normalized as any other country is totally I mean, it absolutely can be done should be done. And I think there’s still so much stigma that we are fighting against, when really all conversations are typically about our wellness are typically about us as humans, and that is mental health. Really? Yeah, truly.
Charmaine Hammond 23:48
Yeah. Yeah. One of the other pieces, you said something earlier that that sort of brought up a thought for me around it was when we were talking about collective hope. And I remember when the fires were happening, and we’ve seen this with other disasters in our country as well, that people from around the world come together to help to do something. And we certainly saw that I remember I live in Vancouver and I went into a coffee shop. And they were the coffee shop was selling a special baked item and 100% of that would go to Fort McMurray every day on the little sign that they had outside the coffee shop was a sending love to Fort McMurray. So this is from Vancouver to Fort McMurray sending love and people would go and write a personal note and I was just so touched by this. And then I remember going into a mall and I can’t remember what mall it was. But they had sticky notes and the whole wall in this mall was covered with little love notes to people in the community and I thought wow, like imagine when we all come together like that. It’s hard not to be hopeful. I’m sure that ripples out there. And we’ve seen that happen. You know, with the BC floods, we’ve seen that happen with other crisis’s, where people come together even if they are not directly impacted by something and what draws them together. Maybe it’s hope.
Lindsay Recknell 25:17
Of course, it’s all course. How can we watch the video the film? How can we watch it?
Charmaine Hammond 25:26
Well, the best place to go would be back home again, movie.com, or follow back home again, movie on our socials. And that’s where people will be able to find out when the movie is going to be available in their community how to watch it, we’ve got an amazing trailer that’s on YouTube right now. So if you’re in YouTube, just look up back home again, movie, and you will see the back home again, channel. And the trailer as well as a great conversation. There’s a couple of videos on the YouTube channel, where Michael and some other folks from the film are talking about mental health and hope and you will hear sort of a very raw conversation and part of what drew Michael to want to create a movie that would inspire these kinds of conversations and collective change.
Lindsay Recknell 26:14
Oh, amazing. We will absolutely link to all of those things in the show notes. So make it real easy for the audience to connect to that. And also you do private screenings for companies who want to bring you in as well. Is that correct?
Charmaine Hammond 26:27
Yeah, we are starting to work to we’ve had a number of organizations want to have a lunch and learn where the movie could be screening. So we’ll be looking at doing those in 2022. And we’ve done some private screenings for our partners and, and really excited to be working with educators into into 2022, to be able to support them and having the movie in their classrooms to be able to have conversations in schools and with the families of students about mental health. So amazing. 2022 will be an exciting, exciting year to help get this out there. And I don’t know if I shared Previously we talked but Michael and the team have also been working on a mental health app that will support the film. And I’ve been working with them on the different resources that will support the film. And one of the resources that we’re working with CMHA on is conversation starters. So like you said, what, what do you say when you don’t know what to say? How do you inspire hope? What does that sound like? What does that look like? And sometimes when we just give people a couple of tools, they just run with it. So that’s what we’re hoping with these resources.
Lindsay Recknell 27:34
So beautiful. I have one question that I asked at the end of every show. And I feel like you’ve answered it already. But maybe you can just summarize it up for us one more time. And that is sharing what gives you hope.
Charmaine Hammond 27:46
Oh my gosh. Oh, I got goosebumps when you asked me that question. What gives me hope. What gives me hope is people you know, when I watch people just in day to day life, the little kids down the street the other day that we’re drawing pictures of positivity on the sidewalk like that just gives me hope, you know, kindness of people that you’ve never met before, that gives me hope. People being champions for somebody else’s success or celebration that gives me hope. And, and I think the other what gives me hope would be people coming together to make a difference, even if they don’t know what that’s going to look like, or how it’s going to end up that kind of collective coming together to make a difference in people’s lives. That collective hope. Yeah, collective hope.
Lindsay Recknell 28:41
Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your brilliance. I love having conversation with you. It goes all the places and it’s just awesome. So thank you for spending your time with us. It’s, it’s been a pleasure.
Charmaine Hammond 28:52
Thank you so much.
Lindsay Recknell 28:53
Lindsay Recknell 28:56
I hope you enjoyed this latest episode of the hope of motivates action podcast. These episodes are a labor of love inspiring conversations with hopeful people make my heart happy. If you also love this episode, it would be amazing if you could go to Apple podcasts and leave a review five stars if you’re into it. It’s these reviews that encouraged Apple to promote this podcast to their network and the more people that listen, the more hope we can spread into the world. Don’t forget to check out the show notes of this episode to find all the links to my guests books and other resources referenced in this episode. You’ll also find the link back to my website where you will find additional support and resources for you, your team and your community. I truly believe that the future will be better than today by taking action over the things we can control and hearing from these guests on these episodes. I know that even more hopeful future is totally possible.
Lindsay Recknell 29:44
I’m always looking for inspirational guests so if you or anyone you know would like to be a guest on the show please reach out you can find me on the contact form of my website at expertinhope.com or by email at Lindsay@expertinhope.com. When I was a teenager who my sisters were leaving the house to go out for the night, I always made it a point to remind them to call me if they need me. It was my way to tell them that I cared and would always be there for them. I’d love you to know the same so all of you listening out there, call me if you need me. Again, thank you for your love and support of this podcast, my work and hope and your intentional focus on making your future better than today. After all, hope without action is just a wish.
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