In this episode, we have a very special guest joining us – the talented director, producer, and filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg. Louie’s story is truly inspiring as he embodies what it means to follow your heart and pursue your true passion.
Initially on track to attend law school, Louie’s path took an unexpected turn when his curiosity for cameras led him into the world of filmmaking. He even revolutionized modern-day time-lapse photography, earning him well-deserved recognition in the industry. For over 35 years, Louie has been capturing the breathtaking beauty of flowers opening through his lens, with just five seconds of footage obtained from 24 hours of shooting.
But Louie’s journey doesn’t stop there. Alongside his exploration of filmmaking, he also delved into the realm of psychedelics, venturing out alone in nature to experience their transformative effects. Through his storytelling, Louie strives to share these profound experiences with the world. His latest film, “Fantastic Fungi,” recently released on Netflix, takes viewers on a captivating journey into the healing potential of guided psychedelic trips and journeys.
Louie’s work has shown incredible promise in aiding those who have suffered greatly, whether from anxiety, trauma, or PTSD. Cutting-edge treatments now combine psychedelics with different sensory environments, such as sound, smell, and even the awe-inspiring imagery captured by Louie himself. This innovative approach aims to provide quicker, deeper, and more powerful healing responses for individuals.
Beyond his exploration of psychedelics, what truly shines through in my conversation with Louie is his profound connection with himself, nature, and others. By following his passions and embracing the natural world, Louie has experienced a deeper sense of fulfillment and connectivity. It’s an inspiring conversation that will leave you feeling motivated and in awe of the wonders around us.
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend watching “Fantastic Fungi” on Netflix. Prepare to be captivated by Louie’s extraordinary imagery and storytelling that showcase the incredible potential for healing and growth.
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- Fantastic Fungi [00:02:20]
- From Timelapse Film to Gratitude [00:03:52]
- The Cycle of Breakdown to Breakthrough [00:12:03]
- The Process of Time Lapse [00:17:15]
- Introduction to Psychedelics [00:29:15]
- Medicinal and Emotional Benefits of Psychedelics [00:31:49]
- Studies on Mushrooms [00:39:30]
- Partnerships and Psychedelics [00:49:46]
- Micro Dosing [01:02:42]
- The Japanese Subway [01:11:04]
- Psychedelics in Medicine [01:16:50]
- Inspiration for “Gratitude Revealed” [01:26:24]
- Being in The Flow [01:28:10]
[00:02:20] Gabby Reece: Louie, thank you for coming over, coming to my house. And I’m really always so interested to dive into topics like this because on this podcast, my hope is that we take best in class information, but still make it accessible. And I love the idea Lycra, where, for example, like if I go on a breathing if you do meditation or something and people be like, oh, I saw the stratosphere and I went here and I went there.
There’s a part of me that I will do that. I’ll go on that journey, but it’s also after I have a little bit of understanding. And I feel that way, like when I watched your film “Fantastic Fungi,” because yes, there is this sort of very spiritual side of psychedelics or mushrooms, but there’s also a really important side. Additionally, important side of healing and even an everyday use.
And I think people feel like it’s an either or, instead of realizing that there’s, they do so many different things. And
[00:03:29] Louie Schwartzberg: I think it’s all the same they heal your mind, they heal the body, they heal the planet, they heal soil. So, it’s all the same.
[00:03:39] Gabby Reece: Yeah, and if people haven’t seen, it’s on Netflix at the moment. I know you toured the film as well, right?
[00:03:45] Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah, initially theatrically before COVID made us pivot to an online distribution model.
[00:03:52] Gabby Reece: So, it’s wonderful because people can watch it at any time, “Fantastic Fungi.” But when I actually first saw you, and maybe we can start, I want to back up, was I saw your TED Talk. And it was, what was it, like 2012 or 13 or something like that? On gratitude. And you have a line in that, I pulled it out, that really felt really important. And you talked about that beauty and seduction are nature’s tools for survival.
So how do you go from basically being the time lapse filming guy to standing on a stage and talking about gratitude?
[00:04:31] Louie Schwartzberg: I think that line is my mantra. And what time lapse taught me is that everything is energy and life is change and that beauty is the way we fall in love with the planet. And if you fall in love with something, you’ll protect it.
So, you know, I’ve been filming clouds and time lapse flowers and certainly flowers are seductive. They’re the sexual organ of the plant. And they, their aroma, their color, maybe they turn into fruit and nuts and vegetables, all the healthy food we need to eat. How can you not be seduced when you feel that emotion? How can you not be grateful? How could you not be grateful for that feeling of beauty? And I think beauty is nature’s operating instructions that makes life go forward, not just in terms of reproduction. It’s obvious. You can be turned on. And I think attraction is certainly a beautiful thing, but it also drives pollinators that aren’t being necessarily turned on for sexual behavior.
A bee lands on a flower because it wants nectar and pollen to feed its babies. And the flower is getting a messenger to move its DNA forward so it can reproduce because it doesn’t have legs. So, they’re not mating, they’re not having sexual intercourse. As a matter of fact, you’re in different kingdoms.
One’s a plant, one’s an animal. They’re not getting it on, but they are getting it on by being turned on by beauty. by color, taste, touch, smell, sensory receptors that are being turned on. And so, for me, I think that’s the driving force of life on our planet.
[00:06:21] Gabby Reece: And when you, so I also want to encourage people to watch because your footage.
When I think it was the 90s, I went and saw a movie and I hope I don’t get the title wrong. It just dawned on me right now. Bacara. Do you remember? It was Baraka. Baraka. That’s it. Thank you. But before
[00:06:37] Louie Schwartzberg: that was Koyaanisqatsi.
[00:06:39] Gabby Reece: Yes. And it was all images, no words. And I remember I took a friend of mine who maybe isn’t quite as enthralled with that idea, but I didn’t really know him when I was sitting there.
I think I started getting really nervous after about 12 minutes. And I thought, oh, this is. It’s not going to have any words, but when I watch your footage, either in “Fabulous Fungi” or even in the “Gratitude” lecture on the TED Talk, it doesn’t need words and it, there’s something beautiful images are beautiful images, but when you slow it down, when you do that time lapse, you tell all these mini stories, these cycles.
The one that really blew my mind were the pinecones. I don’t know why. It was something about something that feels so fixed. Being so mobile and opening up, it was because maybe that for me is I can relate to that, right? Like I have this kind of driving but it’s that reminder that to be more balanced, you have to have that ability as well.
And I think when people see the images, you intuitively understand the stories better. And so, is that what drove you? Cause then you then put into words, okay, talking about gratitude. What was the, what did one lead you to the next?
[00:08:01] Louie Schwartzberg: I think so. Because basically. It makes you present when you’re turned on.
And isn’t that the goal of every mindful or religious practice is to become present? So what makes you present? Wonder and awe. Wow, when your jaw drops, could be a big wave, could be a flower opening, could be beautiful music. All of these things, I think, lead you into a portal of the divine.
And when that happens, you become very present. And when you become present, then that’s the ultimate feeling of bliss. And then you’re asking me then does gratitude follow that? Yeah, it does. Because what else can I do but be grateful? I think I’m done trying to figure out what to call it.
Is it God? Is it the universe? Is it this? Is it that? What does all this mean? At some point, I think you just have to let go and soak it up and feel it and stop trying to catalog it, which is what we do all the time. Give it a name as if that means you understand it. Call it God.
What does God mean? I’m not going to, I don’t want to insult anyone that’s got a religious practice, but it doesn’t mean. You get it. I think… For most of us being in love with the mystery is where it’s at.
[00:09:31] Gabby Reece: There’s something once we do realize that it’s impossible to understand, there’s something liberating in that where you then have the chance to actually see it.
It takes a minute though, I think cause you’re always you’re having to define everything as you get older because it’s, everything’s threatening and scary and new and weird and all of that. So, you were a teenager in the sixties and there was a rebellious anti movement at that time.
Which I think has brought us here and in so many ways, whether it’s our music or thought or now even back to researching what psilocybin can do for us and things like that. I’m just curious, would you call yourself a rebellious teenager? Were you part of all that when you were growing up?
[00:10:24] Louie Schwartzberg: Definitely. I would say. It was all about being challenging authority, status quo. It was at UCLA 1970 and definitely part of the anti-war demonstrations, which was definitely an unjust war. And the revolution of the sexual revolution, the drug revolution, people of color, women, all of it, imagine happening within a year. Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, burn, baby, burn, all that happened, to Chicago riots all in 1969. So, it definitely felt, it was like a pivot, a turning point. That’s why I got turned on to photography. I was actually a history major.
[00:11:10] Gabby Reece: I was going to ask you, what was the… the dream as a young man. What were you going to do in the history? Were you going to teach history?
[00:11:17] Louie Schwartzberg: No, I was going to fight for social justice, being an environmental lawyer. My parents were Holocaust survivors. So, growing up, I always wanted to fight for social or environmental justice. That’s still in me. And one way to combat the police brutality, especially against women on campus, was to document it.
So, I did these photo essays, which is a lot easier than writing a paper. And that’s when I found my voice. I fell in love with being in the dark room. That led me into filming nature. And nature becomes your greatest teacher. Teaches you everything about lighting and composition and color and movement. And led me into filmmaking. And that’s the path I’ve been on ever since.
[00:12:03] Gabby Reece: When you think about because you talk about in ‘69 all these sort of monumental things happening, I feel like we’re in a compressed time obviously right now between COVID and everything and multiple wars and everything that’s happening.
So as somebody who has a little more experience and people talk a lot about. Something good really can come out of all of this because I am born in 70. So, I, this is my, I’m at the end of a kind of a big cycle. You’re beginning and you’ve seen this cycle, right? So, do you, does this make you hopeful? There’s a lot, there’s a lot of sadness and destruction happening, but is it the transition in your mind to something, and now we’re trying to figure out our relationship with technology and AI and all this stuff, and you’re for you and even with the relationship with psychedelics?
Because I feel like that maybe would give one a perspective. How does it land for you?
[00:13:01] Louie Schwartzberg: I think we’re definitely going through a period of breakdown and breakthrough. And that cycle, by the way, is an astrological cycle. Yeah. As well, it’s when Uranus and Pluto are in conjunction with each other. That’s what was happening in the late 60s and the early 70s.
And typically, it’s a 60-year cycle because Rick Tarnas did a book called “Changing the Gods”. And he goes back, and he maps his history, Western civilization, and relationships of the planets. And there is a correlation that every 60 years, there’s like revolution, rebellion women’s suffrage, all these things happen.
He goes all the way back to the French Revolution. But whether you believe in that or not, that doesn’t matter. What I do know from observing nature, things have to break down for new life to emerge and with the mushrooms and fungi, they decompose organic matter. It’s not the end of life, it could be the beginning of life.
Because unless you have those component parts, the carbon, the nitrogen, too, for a new baby plant to grow life would be over in one, one generation, one cycle. So, the fossil fuel economy, politics the sort of kill or be killed, macho view of life and business. We need a whole new story that isn’t based on survival of the fittest, it should be survival of the kindest.
I think the films that I make are more of the feminine side of nature. It’s about connection, regeneration, symbiosis, rebirth. Wings of Life, Meryl Streep is the voice of the flower, turning bees, bats, hummingbirds, and pollinators to come get her so that life can go forward. And we’re the beneficiaries with all the healthy food.
Fantastic fungi, same thing. What do plants need? Soil. Where does soil come from? Most people don’t have that, don’t know the answer to that. Soil is decomposed organic matter for life to go forward. So, life is a cycle. And things have to break down for new things to emerge. And we are at that point of breakdown and breakthrough.
[00:15:19] Gabby Reece: So, you, it took, you worked on that film for 10 years or longer?
[00:15:24] Louie Schwartzberg: I started it 14 years ago. And part of it was the difficulty of having to either raise money and or find someone to fund it. But I made a commitment with “Fantastic Fungi” that I wouldn’t let…a Nat Geo or a Disney take control of it because you get your heart broken in terms of marketing and distribution. The people who usually promise, the people who green light your movie are no longer there because it takes about two and a half years. And through the they moved on the musical chairs of Hollywood executives is typically two years.
And so, I was committed that with “Fantastic Fungi,” I didn’t want to go through any heartache.
[00:16:13] Gabby Reece: Yeah, I’m sure that happened to a lot of people. No, I’m saying I think any project that because you’re not making a project that you’re here to entertain people. You’re really trying to share, help, support, give real information and there it feels important. And I don’t think any of us can do that kind of work and not get a little bit heartbroken along the way.
[00:16:36] Louie Schwartzberg: I think even more than important, it’s survival of the species with “Wings of Life.” It was about colony collapse disorder. Even Einstein said, if the bees go, we go. And so, to not have my film be released the way it was promised to be released, it’s not about money. It’s not about ego or credit. It’s about, I’m trying to save the planet. In my head. It could be my own ego, but I’m trying to like to make sure that there’s a food supply for people to eat and that life will go forward. That’s a big wish. And for that to be blocked is definitely is a heartache.
[00:17:15] Gabby Reece: I think it has to be though. Meaning I think it has to be blocked. I don’t think you can take on any project. Someone could watch and be like, Oh, wow. And you, there’s not heartache. I just don’t think it’s possible. I think you can make a comic book movie easier than doing something like that. Yeah.
So, I want to, I just I’m just curious because time lapses is interesting. You set everything up. How did you learn? Because the images. It’s weird because now with AI, you see all this stuff and it’s not real, but when you see your footage, it is unreal, right? How did you learn, know how to, where to put it, how to set it up, how long, what happens when you come back 20 hours later, and the thing wasn’t rolling?
Tell me a little bit about that process and how you fell into that.
[00:18:08] Louie Schwartzberg: No one had ever done it before. I did it in 35-millimeter film. So, this is back in 1970. I was living in Mendocino, up in Elk, population of like a hundred in a town. I couldn’t afford to buy a movie camera. Movie camera was about $200,000 back then. Film development processing, 100 a minute. But I wanted to shoot 35-millimeter film because I had a strong connection to fine art photography and fine art photography is all about big negatives, right? And beautiful resolution. People had done time lapse in 16 millimeters. With a Bolex but I wanted to shoot it in 35.
So, I got these old cameras built in the ‘30s, did a beautiful registration, modified it to put still camera lenses on it. A friend of mine made electric guitars for the Grateful Dead. He built me a battery powered motor that ran off flashlight batteries because an animation motor… It’s 20 pounds and what’s AC, you have to plug it into a wall.
That’s how you shoot Disney animation. Time lapse is one, its film shot one frame at a time for your listeners to understand. So how do you shoot one frame at a time with a movie camera? There was nothing you could purchase or rent. So, I had to create that. 20 years later, somebody built a battery powered DC time lapse motor and got the Academy Award for Technical Achievement.
But I wasn’t making a product to sell. It was just, yeah, for me. So that enabled me to shoot stuff where I didn’t have much money, but I did have time and a sense of wonder, living up in the woods, watching the fog come in and out. looking into fog, like ocean waves that hit the shore and crash like a big ocean, wave would crash on the back of a rock.
It was so beautiful to watch that, to see that, to see God’s vision, in a way and it totally changes your worldview, and not only do you realize that fog is water, but it also, I think, connects to your soul, because every cell in your body is made of water, and the laws of the universe and physics and all of that stuff that’s going on in the ocean, you know this, is going on inside of your body.
So that’s why I think there’s a connection. So that’s why when people see the imagery… It does touch your soul. Or people cry. Oh, it’s so beautiful. Because I think it’s a homecoming that they’re seeing something that they become disconnected from for a long time, but they didn’t know that.
And it feels wonderful to slip into your bed after traveling, right? Yeah. To feel you’re home. And I think people feel that because now they’re seeing nature in its pure form of energy. Not like, Oh, that’s Yosemite, Oh, that’s Maui, Oh, that’s Yellowstone, Oh, that’s a rose. What the fuck does that mean?
[00:21:13] Gabby Reece: Come on. Do you really get it? And it puts you there. The thing about the time lapse for me is like. it puts you there. Sometimes we’re walking and nature’s down below or it’s up above. And the way it gets shot, it’s, it puts you right there.
[00:21:30] Louie Schwartzberg: You know why? First of all, I think it’s because, and now we have CGI and you mentioned AI, all the big action films, you have to have bigger explosions. First, you explode a building, the planet, the universe. They need more each time. But if you see a flower and your brain recognizes that it’s real, and yet it’s doing something you’ve never seen before, then all of a sudden, you’re going, wow, because I can’t pigeonhole it.
I can’t, is it animation? Is it live action? Is it CGI? Whatever. It like, it grabs you because of that fact, but the other fact might be too, that you’re bending time and scale and that’s what psychedelics do. I’m giving you different worldview. I’m showing you what the flower might see. I’m showing you what a hummingbird might see if it was altered, if it was slow motion, for example.
Being able to broaden your perspective to see that life is valid from every point of view, right? Whether you’re a bird, a redwood tree, a mosquito, and that also makes you think about other cultures, the way they live, the food they eat, the music, right? Yeah. Everyone’s point of view is valid. In terms of how they want to live their life.
And I think you need to respect that, and you need to have compassion for that. And that’s why traveling opens up your mind and your consciousness when you see different people doing things. And I feel like with time lapse and slow-mo, I’m showing you how life is seen by other living beings.
[00:29:15] Gabby Reece: So, you, did you personally what was your original relationship with psychedelics or with this kind of aspect or practice? Was it for fun and for partying or was it, oh, I want to be enlightened? Was it a combination? What was your original?
[00:29:33] Louie Schwartzberg: My first psychedelic experiences were at UCLA when I was in college.
And I think the first time I did it. I hitchhiked up to I was on the border between up California, on the border between Oregon and California. And I remember taking this incredible acid trip. I had the ocean in front of me, redwoods behind me, big sand dunes off to the right.
And I realized at that point that everything was energy and life is change. It was very clear. Now, I hadn’t read that. Nobody was talking about that. The only time anyone used the word energy, we were in an energy crisis, like with gasoline or something.
Like people talk about the energy crisis. And I think it definitely influenced all my filmmaking because I wanted to share that vision with people. I want people to see that even the mountains are breathing and are alive and that the ocean is a spirit, and the forest is a community. You see all that and you want to communicate that.
Now, Indigenous people have been seeing that and expressing that for a long time. So, I definitely did it as a journey of self-discovery. I never did it to party. As a matter of fact, I would hate to do it in a concert surrounded by thousands of people. I think it’s too much. Too much. Where, how do I get to the bathroom?
What do I do? It’s too much energy. I think it’s a beautiful way to, for anyone to have a voyage of self-discovery to connect with their soul. And I think it should be treated in a very respectful, sacred way.
[00:31:31] Gabby Reece: Yeah. They always talk about set and setting and the importance. Nature for me.
[00:31:36] Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah. And now we have hospitals and therapy. Shamans. Everyone should select their own right comfortable way to do it. For me personally, I want to be in nature.
[00:31:49] Gabby Reece: Yeah. So, let’s talk about the film because in “Fantastic Fungi”, and I want to actually talk about some of the medicinal and the studies, because I think a lot of times people, they hear it, but they don’t really hear it.
It doesn’t really land about what is happening in this space. For example, we were talking about, they have hospitals, there’s a gentleman in there, I think he had prostate cancer. And it’s you’re laying down, they put something over your ears, they cover your eyes, there’s somebody there.
They talk to you prior to, it even is a pill it’s something we’re. Synthetic. Yes, we’re familiar with. Sure. Because even if it’s a transition or a bridge. Okay, you’re not sitting at the base of a giant tree eating the real thing. At least it’s a step, right? An openness to totally when you were making the movie, how did you decide, okay, we’re going to talk about the enlightened, the spiritual part, like some of the stuff we were just talking about.
And then. the medical and the emotional, a lot of the benefits for soldiers, PTSD, trauma, anxiety up to cancers and things like that.
[00:33:07] Louie Schwartzberg: What’s interesting is in the movie, I don’t really ever say it’s spiritual. To be honest, you feel it. That’s right. But I didn’t promote it or sell it or even say it
[00:33:19] Gabby Reece: It’s intuitive.
[00:33:20] Louie Schwartzberg: It is. Because as we said earlier, that watching time lapse turns you on in a spiritual way for some people, maybe not all, but for most people. Okay. But that’s great. You know why? Because they figured they would, they. We’re able to discover that on their own. If I said, come to Fantastic Fungi, it is a spiritual journey that’s going to turn you on.
First of all, a lot of our children would not go. They’re very skeptical from new age bullshit is being thrown at them. So, it was cool that I, I loved the fact that I could pull the rug on the audience. A lot of people thought they were going to watch a cooking show. There’s nothing, I swear to God, there was nothing in the film about food.
Think about it.
[00:34:04] Gabby Reece: No. Except what was the one that tastes like shrimp or lobster? Not my answer. I’m joking. It’s but it wasn’t really a lot of the group that gets together. That one group that gets together and they forge,
[00:34:16] Louie Schwartzberg: but it wasn’t really about the food aspect of mushrooms. That’s what most people think.
[00:34:25] Gabby Reece: But I want to ask you, getting back to the question. Which was, I’m sorry, just so intuitive, putting in letting it be understood about the spiritual aspects, because it also came from the people that were experiencing it. They were sharing their experience. But that, because I’m going to, I’ll be honest, coming from just a different point of view.
And like I said, I had pretty, I had more loosey-goosey adults the way I grew up. It’s the opposite, right? Mine, it kicked. I was the next group. They, I was like, oh, that is stuff that it makes you out of control. That narrative lived for a really long time. Research stopped on psychedelics. It got revived in 2000 or ‘99 or something like that.
But there was this 30-year stall. And maybe a lot of missed opportunity, but I think what is exciting between what you’re doing and maps and Michael Pollan’s book and is from all these different directions is supporting the incredible tool that these organisms are.
Like it’s for me besides the ocean being this incredible resource, I feel like we the magic of mushrooms for real is. It’s mind blowing once you really start to dig into how all the things that they do and can do.
[00:35:51] Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah. So how many ways can nature speak to you? The ocean is one way. Catching a big wave.
[00:35:57] Gabby Reece: One way. Even the wind, the wind, just you’re diving into the water. Yes. And then why wouldn’t nature also speak to you in a molecular way? It’s a miracle that it created a molecule that fits a receptor in the brain that gives you the experience of divine consciousness.
[00:36:15] Louie Schwartzberg: Is that an accident? It’s a great question to ask. I don’t think so. It seems pretty mathematically impossible, but so in “Fantastic Fungi,” I did show the work that was happening at Johns Hopkins, which is really great. Cancer patients dealing with anxiety, end of life anxiety. Imagine that it’s bad enough you get a diagnosis, you got cancer.
But the mental obstacle of thinking what happens if I die? Whoa, that’s the biggest existential question just about everybody has. What happens when you die? If you don’t have a framework for that, other than heaven and hell, then you’re really in a scary position. Now, I think the feeling of connectedness, the feeling of love, the feeling that you’re a part of everything eliminates the fear of dying.
And that’s where the patients said in my movie, as well as in general, that’s what patients say about the psychedelic experience. Now, that’s a giant gift because if your mental attitude shifts, if you have cancer or some other kind of disease, that’s a major step in healing. Major step to have fear in your head and physiologically have stuff that’s going on.
And perhaps a lot of people do believe that the fear in your mind can trigger a lot of disease, right? Yes, of course. And so there is a connection.
[00:37:49] Gabby Reece: Don’t be scared to say that here. Don’t be afraid to say that.
[00:37:51] Louie Schwartzberg: No, so there is a connection between mind and the body, and so if you can heal the mind, then maybe that’s a way to heal the body, and actually the people in my movie that I filmed going back in 2018, they’re still alive.
And I think it has a lot to do with the fact that they lost their fear of dying. And they embraced a whole new way of looking at life, of celebrating life of nurturing every second as being a gift. That… It’s a healthy way to live.
[00:38:27] Gabby Reece: Yeah, it’s so interesting. I, after having a lot of these conversations, I’m always, it always reminds me how our biology at times really is in such kind of conflict with where we’re all hoping maybe to evolve to, because there’s just kind of some nuts and bolts that our biology does to keep us safe that really can kick our ass on a day to day constantly making narratives and meaning of everything and thinking about the future and pondering the past and it’s okay, I get it because it keeps us like, oh, that’s a fire and things coming at me, but how far spiritually.
That’s the thing to try to transcend is to really get on top of that and pay attention to that. So, can you recall, and I would love to talk about Paul Stamets, like his mom using, was it turkey tail?
[00:39:20] Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah. She had cancer. She used turkey along with some other drugs as well. And he, if for people who don’t know him his work is exceptional.
[00:39:30] Gabby Reece: It’s amazing. But are there any studies specifically that you can recall that were impressive to you that you got to share in the documentary or ones that are coming out now? Maybe stuff has changed.
[00:39:45] Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah. It’s different. I’ve got one that you’re going to love this. It just got published in Frontiers of Psychiatry.
We did a study here in Santa Monica, at St. John’s at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute. We were treating patients with alcohol addiction. They were given psilocybin and they watched my film of rhythms and patterns of nature as they were coming on to the psilocybin. Then they did a typical eye shade thing for two or three hours with a therapist.
And then when they were coming down, I had another film, like a landing film of earthy tones and shouts of light to bring them back to earth a little bit. And the study showed that the combination of my imagery, nature’s imagery of rhythms and patterns of nature, not my imagery, nature’s imagery in conjunction with psilocybin was better than the psilocybin by itself.
This is a groundbreaking study. It’s never been done before. So, it showed that cardiovascular markers like heart rate, blood pressure, and the overall effect was much more positive watching nature imagery with psilocybin as opposed to psilocybin by itself.
[00:41:04] Gabby Reece: Do you think it’s because it directed the mind, but into kind of the right place?
[00:41:08] Louie Schwartzberg: Yes. It made you feel connected. Yes. You saw rhythms and patterns, ocean waves. Look at this thing. Yeah. What is that? I’m looking at the image on your wall here, and that is a wave, but I can also say it’s inside the mitochondria in every cell of my body, of which there’s 30 trillion. Whoa.
And there’s another 30 trillion of fungi and bacteria in my body. There’re about 70 trillion cells in my body. Half of it is me. Half of it is other things. Isn’t that a miracle? So, if I can connect to that, if I’m in a symbiotic relationship with that, I’m okay.
[00:41:49] Gabby Reece: There, and just to make it clear for people, and I know they know this, there’s all types of mushrooms that do all types of different things.
So, I can take a mushroom that brings buoyancy to my immune system because I think there’s a delineation. It’s not going to strengthen your immune system. It’s going to allow the body to do what it needs to do. So, it gives it that space and that buoyancy. So, I think people who aren’t experienced, whether it’s you know, Rishi or Chaga or all kinds of ones that you can take on a daily basis that do support you that way are different than some other ones.
So, it’s not okay. I’m scared. I love how people will take pills, but if you go, hey, here’s some vitamin D or some Chaga, they’re like I need to check, take that. It’s oh, okay. You know what I mean?
[00:42:41] Louie Schwartzberg: The beautiful, the beautiful part about the mushrooms is that we basically evolved from fungi when you look at the story of it. And so, penicillin, for example, has saved more human lives than any other drug. It’s not like they’re giving you the superpower. They fight the same viruses and bacteria that we need to fight.
So, you’re just having an ally. You’re creating an alliance with something that’s in your body that will help kill the things that might harm you, which is really great. Because our DNA is more closely aligned with them than plants, for example. So, what a giant benefit. And because they are geniuses at chemical warfare. That’s what they do they don’t have eyes and ears at the tip of a mycelial network when they crawl under the ground and they expand and grow, they’ll touch you and they’ll go wait, friend or foe, is this food that I need to dissolve with my enzymes?
Because I have an external stomach and get my nutrients, that’s what they do, which is great. Or are someone that’s that I need to attack and is going to eat me? So, they have the intelligence to figure that out. If you can harness that in a positive way, what a beautiful thing.
[00:44:00] Gabby Reece: Yeah. And even the cooperation with other, like with the trees and nature. And it is. It is mind blowing. I think people don’t understand to the extent of the capacity of what they can, what they’re able to do. They’re sentient. For you, was this something that you would practice on a semi regular basis?
You’d need a tune up? Like maybe you start getting too worried about earthly, manly, human things and you go I’ve lost some perspective. Like how did you personally use it?
[00:44:37] Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah. There was a, when my children, when my daughters were growing up I went probably 15 or 20 years and did not do it.
From my early college days when I was doing more experimentation and living in the woods. Part of the back to the land movement. What was that?
[00:44:51] Gabby Reece: What was the choice around that?
[00:44:54] Louie Schwartzberg: I guess more responsibility when you’re a parent.
[00:44:56] Gabby Reece: Yes. But was, but there’s something, it’s interesting because I want to ask you about that.
About perspective. Cause it’s, I don’t feel like you need more perspective, more, better perspective in your life than when you’re a parent. So, it’s an interesting, but you thought, okay, I’ll just, I’m not going to, I just, there was no, no desire.
[00:45:12] Louie Schwartzberg: There’s a joy certainly of raising children and you’re that’s a 24 hour a day experience. And there’s responsibility. So, it wasn’t like a drag, and this is like a fun thing. It was more like there was just no need because I’m in, I’m involved in a whole other journey, which is like raising these two beautiful women in my life that I get to fall in love with, which is so cool.
But then after that, I went to a bunch of conferences. I went to a real conference about it was one actually up in, in Madison. It was about consciousness. I started to be invited in these talks and then I did this talk up in Madison and then the next day I was going to go do this big shoot for Disney for a theme park ride at Animal Kingdom, which is bizarre, but they, I come down and I had a day to kill.
I was going to just do photography around Blake, and these gray-haired old ladies go “do you want to go with us? We’re going to have a circle.” They call it a circle. I had no idea.
[00:46:26] Gabby Reece: The ladies call it a circle? Yeah, a sacred circle. Wow. In Madison?
[00:46:29] Louie Schwartzberg: In Madison, Wisconsin. Wow. And so, I went with them to the sacred circle, and it was a beautiful A-frame overlooking a lake, and it was the first time I had done it, but I had done it in the first time in a group setting with a rabbi who was like the leader, who is now the leader of the group.
And sharing not only the psychedelics, but a great playlist. There were a lot of young medical students there as well, who were looking up to me as an elder. That was something I’d never experienced before because I just did the talk about nature. Duh. Nature is conscious. I showed him time lapse and vines growing up a tree.
Everyone’s talking, what is consciousness, and it’s a very academic conference. And I’m chomping at the bit, going, let me just show you my movie. Because people are trying to define what is consciousness. There’s just a lot of words. Yeah.
[00:47:26] Gabby Reece: It’s like when people say I’m really authentic. You just go, oh, wow. Yeah. Thanks.
[00:47:30] Louie Schwartzberg: So, you just go in circles. Trying to put words to define what is consciousness. Yeah, and then I experienced that in the very first time in a long time, and now I understand that there’s this whole underground, there had been a big just an underground movement of underground practitioners that even though it went dark for the 30 years when this criminal called Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs, which we are still suffering from with mass incarceration Worldwide. One crazy guy named Richard Nixon triggered the whole thing. Mushrooms was never a Schedule 1 drug. Marijuana was never a Schedule 1 drug. LSD was never a Schedule 1 drug. It was the cutting edge of psychological research at Stanford, at Harvard, at every major institution, and great work was occurring.
It did go dark for 30 years, and then I discovered that there’s been a lot of underground practitioners. therapists, psychologists that have been treating patients and healing people regardless of the law because that’s what they do. They’re doctors. They want to heal people. And so, I learned that there was a whole other thing other than my practice, which was being in the woods, being at the beach. Being surrounded by nature, that was my spiritual practice, my way of doing it. And I learned about indigenous ceremonies, and you’ll learn about ayahuasca and now it’s gotten a bit commercialized.
One has to be very careful with these shamans that are popping up everywhere. But you know what? It’s unstoppable. There is a shift of consciousness happening on the planet. I think psychedelics are part of it. I think that technological breakthrough is certainly a part of it. I think we are becoming a little bit more aware and conscious overall, but at the same time there’s always going to be pushback.
And then we also get the rigid Donald Trumps of the world. Yeah. And that is the yin yang of life.
[00:49:46] Gabby Reece: Yeah. And I think as you get older, you start to realize it’s, you almost have to have it so that you can have to keep working in the other direction. I think otherwise, if you struck some place, you wouldn’t actually keep moving forward in a way. You mean having some resistance? Yeah. I think it’s, and it also reminds you, it’s just a reminder of also, oh yes, what am I trying to do? How could I be better? Where should I go? How can I contribute? Whatever that is. So, I’m just curious cause maybe somebody is listening to this and they’re already in a relationship let’s say, and they haven’t incorporated this practice into their life in whichever way it makes them feel comfortable.
Was you, when you were in a partnership or was, she on board with this or was this like, hey, you have your thing over there. Like, how does it, how did it work? Because I hear from a lot of couples that it’s important, not that it’s identical, but that you’re on the same page. Cause it would be hard if one person, sees all the beauty of the world and maybe feels some level of freedom and the other is overly grounded in our earthly world. How did you work that out?
[00:51:01] Louie Schwartzberg: When I started doing it again, after my kids were grown, I was in a, my second relationship, my second marriage. And I would say that both Sarah and I have done it together. But I also think it’s important that if you go on a journey together, that you also have a lot, enough space between you because it’s only natural that you’re going to be worrying about your partner sitting across the room. Is she okay? Yeah. I hear other people throwing up over here. So, I think you have to, that’s a really tough balancing act. It’s nice to do it together. We’ve done it together in nature, which is a beautiful way to do it. And we’ve also done one or two situations that’s more of a group thing.
I personally don’t like the group. I see the value of it. It’s just what do you call it? Group counseling and group therapy. People do that. It’s really good. Yeah. It’s not my thing. Do you like group therapy?
[00:52:01] Gabby Reece: No. I’ve been in forced group therapy. Yeah. I got put into a group therapy with a kid and then other I seem to have learned. I learned. Thank you. Bye. Oh, that was hammer time.
[00:52:14] Louie Schwartzberg: I know. So anyways, it’s not for everybody. So, everybody should do what they want. But what is important, whether you do it in a group or alone is the integration that you reflect on your aha moment. If you got some incredible idea Okay. That, what are you going to do about it? Yeah. How are you going to improve the, your relationship with your loved ones, your children, your community, the world? You need to do that. And I’ll tell you something that’s interesting. People said why did you make “Gratitude Revealed” after “Fantastic Fungi”? What’s the connection? And I never thought about it until after the film was finished. And I realize that “Gratitude Revealed” is the integration. If “Fantastic Fungi” was learning about this incredible shared economy, the mycelial network, which is a shared economy under the ground where nutrients are shared without greed for ecosystems to flourish.
What a beautiful model, right? Once you learn that and you see it and you get it, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to take that wisdom from below the ground above the ground? Are you going to try to figure out how to implement that kind of shared economy where everybody does well together for life to flourish? Where there isn’t greed, you need to implement that. You can’t just have an aha moment and then have another aha moment. That’s why it’s not addictive. Because you can’t just have, a trip, and then the next day go, I’m going to do it again and again. Unless you’re really an addictive personality, but the average person, if you get an insight, what do you want to do?
It’s actually a burden. Now you’re going to do something. I got this great idea. I’m going to build a company. I got this great idea. I’m going to do service. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do; you want to do it. This is a really great example, Bill Richards from Johns Hopkins in his book. You described, and you can relate to it because you guys are athletes, it’s if you’re at base camp and you’re about to climb Mount Everest, you get in the helicopter and you take a flight to the top and you see it and then you come back down 15 minute flight, you come back down to base camp and next day you got to do the hike.
You got to do the hike. You get a glimpse of it, but then you got to do the work. It’s a beautiful metaphor.
[00:55:05] Gabby Reece: When your film came out, your daughters, they’re adults. What did they say?
[00:55:11] Louie Schwartzberg: Not much. I think that they have their, Laura’s into acting and directing, Jessica’s into photography, and I feel in a way they’re all trying to do their own careers. And maybe because of that, they tend to be a little bit more reserved about, you to be honest, it’s really about praising with your children. Given that you and Laird are well known, do you ever get any attaboys? Do you ever get any praise? It’s when they get older, right? So, I have two grown adult daughters, and then I still have a… of a teenager at home.
[00:56:03] Gabby Reece: I get I appreciate the way you handle that. Like I’ll get some of those but if you get like an award or if you get yeah, no, I’m their mom, like big deal. I think once in a while they’re like, oh yeah, I have to sometimes I’ll talk to them about something, and I have to be like, I have to almost remind them like I spent a lot of time in sports or competing or, and they’re like, oh yeah.
So, I get it. But I guess for their own development as women, as people did, they ever party or anything when they were teenagers? How’d you get off the hook on that?
[00:56:39] Louie Schwartzberg: Maybe they did at college, and I wasn’t there.
[00:56:40] Gabby Reece: Yeah, but they’re young adults at that point. But did you ever was there ever a conversation around, hey, if you’re ever going to try something like that, I’d like to help you and you should do this safely.
[00:56:51] Louie Schwartzberg: I think maybe they were like you in that they knew that I experimented and therefore they didn’t want to hear my stories about what I did. Because I didn’t talk about it, but then when they were older, I was happy to talk about it. But they didn’t really want to know what I did. It’s almost like you don’t want to know that your parents have sex.
[00:57:11] Gabby Reece: Of course. But you’re like a person, a separate person. I’m just curious maybe how though it informed your experience as a parent, as a dad in what ways do you think it was a really helpful tool to, because it’s hard to be a parent. It’s scary. You’re always feeling insecure about it.
It’s definitely more of a mom’s plight to be like, is that okay? Was that too much? Was that not enough? We do that more. I think dads are like, I do this and deal with it. But I just wondered if any of that was a tool that really helped you be better.
[00:57:48] Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah, I think as a, I have a greater level of acceptance, accepting, not judging, that’s big.
[00:57:58] Gabby Reece: Even with your own kids? Because you know how we’re not as objective. I am really pretty good about almost everyone else. When it comes to them, I really try to keep working on that acceptance.
[00:58:11] Louie Schwartzberg: When they were in high school and then when a boyfriend slept over, they never asked me. Oh, yeah. I was fine with it. And I could the logic was, sure, it’s fine because I’d rather have you do that than be in some car. Yeah, I know. Or whatever. Yeah. That was the logical part of it. Yeah. But the other part of it was just accepting everything unfolding as it should. Without judgment, oneness.
[00:58:43] Gabby Reece: Yeah. Even bringing to light how these are tools is, you said you had been married and not married, going through a separation and not being in a relationship is very difficult. Did all of that, those prior experiences. Or going to work or making a film or trying to sell a film, this is stuff that can be tough and maddening.
Has this been something that you, that has really helped you respond how you would hope you would?
[00:59:16] Louie Schwartzberg: I think it’s taught me to not stress over the step-by-step procedure of having to make something happen, whether it’s a film or a relationship, whatever it might be. You learn to just envision the outcome and then let go. If you can do that could be maybe more effective than the Machiavellian way of, I need to do this, I’ll call that person, I’ll do this, I’ll do this, I’ll do this, I’ll do this, and building it like that. That takes faith, quote unquote, right? Yeah. And it’s hard to do. And it sounds new age-y, but it’s not. I think if you can see the end result, then you just move toward it.
[01:00:06] Gabby Reece: Just keep leaning in towards that direction.
[01:00:09] Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah. Yeah. Lean into the feeling. Yeah. Because it’s all about emotion. What would it feel like to be at the premiere with everybody like loving your movie and you’re feeling great about it? Yeah. What would that feel like? Hold on to that feeling, whatever that feeling might be and forget about how you’re going to get from A to B to C to D.
[01:00:28] Gabby Reece: Yeah. And I think in a way, when I hear that it also almost sounds like prayer to me like what people need okay. I think it, it feels like another version of prayer. And saying, okay, I give it up. I asked for it.
[01:00:44] Louie Schwartzberg: It’s I was just with Bruce Lipton, you wrote “The Biology of Belief”, but whether you call it prayer, whether you call it faith or the placebo effect, as we all know, in every clinical trial, when people are given the pill and they think it’s going to make them better, 20 percent improvement occurs with everyone who takes a placebo.
What is that? It’s great. It’s there. The mind does control the body. Yeah. Has an influence on it. And I’ll tell you a little kind of nugget that I think about magic mushrooms as well. If you’re going to do them, because I’m so into nature and I understand that they’re really good at bioremediation.
I think bioremediation means that they can clean up a toxic oil spill or it can heal the earth by breaking down things that are toxic into their component parts so they can be recombined in a better way. So, if you’re taking Psilocybin, I feel that they’re going through your body and they’re doing this forensic check, like what’s what traumas may be down deep inside or what physiological things may need to be adjusted.
They’re good at that. They’re trained to do that. Yeah. They’re trained to take things that are toxic and make them go back into the natural flow or the natural order. And so, if you lean into that belief, which is only a belief, I’m not saying it’s science, but I believe that they know where to go.
Yep. I had a shoulder thing that was bugging me for a while and like from a mild injury and they were going to want to put a needle in my neck and all this kind of stuff because my arm would fall asleep all the time, went on for two years. And on a journey, I said, fix it and it went away.
[01:02:42] Gabby Reece: Interesting, so if someone is listening to this and they haven’t experimented very much in just from your experience and you’re not telling people what to do, just a conversation or an invitation, what would you, what would be a nice or easy or, ort of good way to, to experiment or lean into where do you go?
Who helps you? What do you take? And let’s say it’s let’s do scenarios. Let’s say somebody is coming back. Let’s go right into a PTSD war or they’ve had sexual traumas, whatever. What would be a good way? Cause that’s more serious.
[01:03:24] Louie Schwartzberg: If it’s like war or PTSD, MAPS has a program with veterans and there’s many centers around where you can get treatment and they’re pretty much on the cusp of getting total approval, I think by the beginning of next year. Because it’s been on a fast track of a phase three trial, they will have approval so that you can go to a hospital and be treated.
[01:03:49] Gabby Reece: Anybody can because it’s through the FDA right now, right in the third. How long has he been at it? Like 50 years? Went to law school. For a long time, I give that guy some credit because he goes to law school.
[01:04:02] Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah, he’s work, he’s working within the system. Yes. He puts on a suit and tie and yeah. And has his meanings with the FDA and. Yeah. Total perseverance. And he’s a total Jedi warrior. Yeah. I love Rick for doing that. Yeah. The other thing is, if also if you go to maps.org, you might also find information about either psychedelic societies and groups.
[01:04:24] Louie Schwartzberg: If you want to get more information like, either where I could have access to it or learn more about it, I think it’s a safe portal to do it. And I would also recommend that people try to, and there’s been a lot of talk about micro dosing. A micro dose is like taking one twelfth of a regular dose. And all you’re getting is a tiny shift of mood, but at least you’re getting a tiny flick bit of the flavor of what it might be like. And then you might go, okay, I think I’ll double that dose. So now I’m taking one sixth of an experience. And you can lean into that a little bit. It’s almost like putting your toe in the water before you dive into the pool and gauging the temperature.
That’s a nice gentle way to do it. It’s not the way I ever did. But now that micro dosing seems to be the rage in Silicon Valley, which is weird because they’re using it to make better software and i.e., more money. It’s not a sacred journey. It’s being used for what I consider the opposite, which is how to make, how to be a capitalist.
[01:05:38] Gabby Reece: Yeah. But maybe, hopefully if somebody is feeling better and having that level of, let’s say homeostasis, because I started micro dosing I guess almost two years ago, that was really that is me doing it, putting my toe in the water. I did it because I, I said that I felt like my head, I was starting to get like concrete head, too many details, too much information.
And I could feel things blocking up. And so, somebody said what about micro dosing? And I thought, oh, that was really good. And that feeling of homeostasis. Maybe you have these people, that are in these positions, more motivated to try to share that feeling then it’s a great…
[01:06:23] Louie Schwartzberg: The feeling is like coming back from Maui.
[01:06:26] Gabby Reece: Yeah. It’s nothing like my friends, I go, listen, you can get in your car and drive your head to school. You’re not tripping. Everything just feels even. I feel more even. I also feel like I just see, I notice things more. It’s brighter. Things are slower. They come at me slower. I’m not feeling overwhelmed. I’ve really enjoyed the practice of micro dosing.
[01:06:52] Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah. So, as we, in “Fantastic Fungi” and Michael Pong’s book and research, what people need to understand is that what psilocybin does is it quiets the default mode network. The default mode network in the brain is like the COO, which is a great thing to have.
It’s like, how do I drive my car? I got to get my kid to school. You need a COO in any organization, right? So, you’re not on a drug, you’re not being influenced. What you’re doing is you’re quieting the mind, which is what meditation practices try to do as well to become present, to lose your ego.
And then what happens? You’re with you. Hello. It’s been a while. I miss you. I love you. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love others. It’s been a while since you had a conversation with yourself, checked in with yourself, right? You got to quiet that guy up there. They call it the monkey mind. Whatever it might be. And I’m sure your listeners that follow you get what we’re saying right now. Yeah. It might take 20 years to become a Buddhist monk in a cave to achieve the kind of consciousness that a mushroom trip can give you in one day. That’s a fucking miracle.
[01:08:08] Gabby Reece: Yeah. It’s very tempting too. Like sometimes, because I think it’s funny how we might think, oh is that cheating? It’s I don’t know if it can get you there and can help you. There are lots of ways.
[01:08:21] Louie Schwartzberg: How long does it take to become a big wave surfer?
[01:08:24] Gabby Reece: Yeah, I don’t think they have a pill for that, though. No, I’m just saying you can, it would take time.
[01:08:30] Louie Schwartzberg: Yes. And if you mastered it, you would get a high that would be extraordinary.
[01:08:34] Gabby Reece: Yes. Yes, but if there was something that would get you past yourself. And you’re, and some of our human traits quickly, I think that would be time well saved.
[01:08:46] Louie Schwartzberg: And as I said earlier, is it a miracle? Is it, like, a fluke that nature created a molecule that opens up your consciousness? I don’t think so. I don’t think so. I think the mushrooms are speaking to us saying, get your act together. We got to live in harmony with the planet. Yeah. Obviously, we’re doing a lot of environmental degradation. We’re losing half the species. I think it’s a gentle way of saying wake up.
[01:09:08] Gabby Reece: Yeah. Are you still filming at the level that you have at the pace, at the clip? Like what’s your relationship with that right now?
[01:09:19] Louie Schwartzberg: I’ve still had cameras; I still have cameras rolling 24 hours a week.
[01:09:23] Gabby Reece: Wait, so where are we at? 50? How many years you’ve been? 48 years? How long have you been doing it?
[01:09:28] Louie Schwartzberg: You don’t want to know how old I am.
[01:09:30] Gabby Reece: Do you? I know how old you are. It doesn’t matter. You’re very youthful.
[01:09:33] Louie Schwartzberg: Four decades. Okay. Okay. Okay. Four decades of the cameras going nonstop 24 hours a day, seven to seven days a week in my studio. So, I have an indoor studio with grow lights and photo lights and an intervalometer and I’ve got two cameras going and I net, If I’ve been shooting for four decades and I get roughly five seconds of film per day. How much time lapse flowers and mushrooms do I have in my library?
[01:10:19] Gabby Reece: That’s a great one. So, let’s see. Five seconds times seven. We got Justin going. We’re going to get it for you momentarily.
[01:10:30] Louie Schwartzberg: You have a lot of patience and trust because every flower doesn’t open.
[01:10:35] Gabby Reece: Oh wow. Do you still get the moment of excitement or anticipation when you look at those five seconds?
[01:10:44] Louie Schwartzberg: Totally. Yeah. Every rose is different. Is every, how about, do you get high when you see a sunset? Yeah, of course. Are they different? Yeah. Are they ever the same? No.
[01:10:53] Gabby Reece: There you go. Yeah. Justin?
[01:10:59] Louie Schwartzberg: You have that much? No, I only have 20 hours.
[01:11:04] Gabby Reece: What? Four years. Five seconds times seven. So, third, yeah, there we go. Okay. So, I would be remiss. We’ll get back to that. I’ll be remiss. Can you tell the story about the Japanese subway? Because I heard it before. I saw your film, and it’s just so cool.
[01:11:22] Louie Schwartzberg: Someone did an experiment where they were using the intelligence of the mycelium to create the ultimate transit map for the Japanese subway.
So, what they did was they put morsels of food where all the train stations are, and they let the mycelium crawl out and make the connections, and then ones that weren’t working disappear and then it became this really clear pattern that was the most efficient way to have a network of subway stations.
So, what is nature? Nature is all about efficiency. Nature never wastes some molecule. That’s beautiful. It’s really a beautiful thing. It’s not about efficiency like we think about in terms of economics or workers and getting rid of people doing jobs. Efficiency is actually sacred geometry. It spirals, it’s networks, it’s, there are no right angles in nature.
It’s how, it’s the most efficient way for energy to be transmitted, and that’s why you get this warm feeling when you see the mycelial network. It looks like the roots of the tree. It looks like the neurological patterns in your brain. It looks like the circulatory system in your body. It’s everywhere, and that makes you feel at home, and that there is some kind of grand, universal, maybe intelligence or consciousness.
And we all want to feel that that there’s something that is other than the Bible, that is guiding a certain order. And when you feel it, and then you lose your fear of dying. Yeah. 40 years got squeezed into 20 hours, roughly. And so that’s compressed energy. And then if I told you, look, we were talking about comparing like a meditative practice. If I said, I want you to stare at a rose for two days, and I don’t, and don’t take your eyes off the rose because it’s going to open, okay? Yeah. And don’t go eat and don’t pee I just want you to focus on that rose. You wouldn’t be able to do that, but I can show you what that looks like.
Now, maybe some evolved Buddhist yogi could stare at that fast, not go to the bathroom. And do it.
[01:14:04] Gabby Reece: Yeah. But then, but they’re the person who needs to do it least. If they could do it, they don’t need to do it.
[01:14:09] Louie Schwartzberg: But so, it’s not a cheat. I’m showing you little gems of wisdom that I can share with you that you can’t do on your own.
For example, if when you’re the GoPro on a giant big wave, how cool is that? How cool is it to hang out with a whale underwater? Most people can’t do that. Do you want to experience that? Absolutely. As a matter of fact, it’s better watching it in 4k on the beautiful screen with music, then like dealing with the scuba gear, getting all fog and wondering if you’re going to die, why it’s different, but it’s valid.
So, I’m bringing that energy actually into healthcare. We have it now at UCLA when people are doing dialysis. I have it at UCSD with on the oncology unit. I’m bringing it, but this is like without psilocybin yeah, sure.
[01:15:07] Gabby Reece: So, are they going through their regular treatments and sitting there and then watching these images? Wow.
[01:15:13] Louie Schwartzberg: Because it’s medicine. Yeah, it is. It’s medicine. We have healing modalities for every sensory receptor except vision. Okay, you got massage for touch, aromatherapy for smell, music for hearing, healthy food for taste. If I say vision, what would you prescribe?
[01:15:32] Gabby Reece: Yeah. Only something, like you said, like a sunset or something.
[01:15:35] Louie Schwartzberg: But there’s no healing thing where you can go and say, I need this, or I can buy that, or I can sign up for this. It’s funny, the sunset, the greatest show on earth, nobody shows up and it’s free. They got a charge and I bet there’d be a big crowd. But if I can get people compressed energy, and you guys are filmmakers as well. If you show people magic moments, that’s special. These are peak experiences. If you can give someone a peak experience, who doesn’t have the time or the money or the energy or the health look at all those barriers. How many kids in East L. A. have never been to the ocean? Yeah. The majority of them have never been to the beach. But if you can turn them on, let’s say, by looking at a video. You go, wow, that’s cool. I want to do that.
[01:16:35] Gabby Reece: Yeah. And the design is so extraordinary. When you really just experience the design, it blows your mind. And I don’t care how many times you see it. It’s astounding.
[01:16:47] Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah. Because you’re looking in a mirror into yourself. Yeah.
[01:16:50] Gabby Reece: Can we just go back a little bit to the medical, ’cause that part I think is I hate to say it, but, and the money part aspect of care and things like that. But we’ve talked about the mental health emotional, but there are cancers and a lot of things that are starting to get integrated now with.
[01:17:18] Louie Schwartzberg: With psilocybin or visual healing? I call it visual healing. With both.
[01:17:22] Gabby Reece: Yeah. Psilocybin, it’s like really moving into these areas of medical practices. Does it surprise are you surprised or you’re like, Oh, finally guys. No. What took you so long? Yeah
[01:17:35] Louie Schwartzberg: Most addiction’s based on trauma. And if you have trauma that’s buried. It triggers disease as well. So that’s a giant thing right there. It’s not like the psilocybin can cure you or treats you physiologically. No, it’s definitely in the way to ease the mind or to get rid of a buried trauma, which is constantly keeping you from being your best self.
[01:18:04] Gabby Reece: And you see a lot of stuff in your film has this to work with dementia and Alzheimer’s and things like that. But I think a lot of people worry about…
[01:18:11] Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah, there’s a study at Yale that showed that psilocybin given to mice helped with neurogenesis. That means growing new nerve cells in your brain. And as we get older, they diminish in terms of the brain cells in your, so that is encouraging. Yeah. Wow, we just need to really do more research and really figure out how to do that.
[01:23:17] Gabby Reece: Is there anything on the horizon, we talked about maps in the psychedelic space specifically that you’re also really excited about?
[01:23:28] Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah, I think immersive experiences is what people want, and I also would qualify that people want an immersive experience that’ll change your life. A rollercoaster ride is an immersive experience, but I think we want to do things. So even if you look at the travel industry and wellness, people used to just sit around the pool and drink pina coladas, but the younger generation, they’re more into like experiences and learning about things, which is really beautiful.
So, what I love is this whole idea of large-scale projections and virtual experiences. I’m actually consulting with Madison Square Garden. They built a sphere in Vegas. That’s a three-acre LED screen, which means we have to figure out how to shoot cameras in 16K. That’s four times 4K, the modern TVs are about.
[01:24:29] Gabby Reece: Can you convert anything that you’ve already shot to that? Is that possible? A little bit. Given how long it takes or it’s not quite the same.
[01:24:37] Louie Schwartzberg: No, but what my approach to that would be, I would create surrealism. In other words, I would say, here’s a 4k flower and a 4k ocean wave and a 4k desert. And I would do like a dolly thing. And I would Create like a collage, which would be really trippy to do.
But I think that the, what, when you look at the sphere and you two just had a concert there. So, you got Bono, who looks like probably an ant. And what are people going wow over? 180-degree view of a three-acre LED wall. Also, I was recently at Tomorrowland, which is like the largest music festival on the planet of electronic media music.
I did a presentation in front of 130 foot wide by 40-foot-tall LED screen, and we had dancers on stage, and that was in front of a crowd of 9, 000 young people in Belgium. And I love the idea that I’m turning young people on to nature in a cool way that’s different. The imagery that I show, I do a lot of like mandalas and a little bit of layering with my imagery, and some of it is like straightforward, like slow-mo ocean wave crash or a flower opening.
But they’re getting turned on with really cool music. And that’s what I mean earlier about beauty’s nature is full for survival because we protect what we love. I want to be able to go to a festival like that and not have it be strobe lights and flashing lights and pounding music. It could be something different.
[01:26:24] Gabby Reece: Yeah. And that’s part of that transition too, right? We have all this technology, which we know the ways that it’s hard on us, but here’s an opportunity for it to really, to bring us into, it’s where we’re going to use technology to bring us into nature, but it is that way. So, what inspired you to do “Gratitude Revealed,” your guided journal?
[01:26:47] Louie Schwartzberg: I think that, as I said earlier, because my parents were Holocaust survivors, I love telling stories of people who have love and joy in their life, who have overcome adversity, instead of feeling completely like a victim and throwing in the towel. Those are heroic stories. And so, the fact that my parents raised me with a lot of love and joy are the stories I love to tell. And you find the same stories in nature. Plant doesn’t get watered, it’s really resilient, it fucking bounces back when you give it some water. That thing of adversity, every time I see like a… And a blade of grass and a crack in the sidewalk, you go, wow, look at that guy, right?
And look at the big wave surfers. I keep on talking about big wave. You got this gorgeous big wave image over here. Resilience. And resilience they found out in science is one of the benefits of practicing gratitude that people who practice gratitude bounce back from mishaps a lot faster. Somebody rear-ended you. For some people, it could be a week off. Or it could, for some people, it’s okay, thank God it wasn’t worse. I’m so fortunate. A couple of hours of whatever insurance will take care of it. Moving on.
[01:28:10] Gabby Reece: Maybe it protected me from something else that I wasn’t supposed to go down the road on.
[01:28:13] Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah, exactly. So, resilience is UC Berkeley, they’ve done these studies with people. It’s one of the benefits. So now it’s actually a revelation I’m having right now. If my parents inspired me to tell stories about people who overcome diversity, but love life, and the benefits of that is resilience, then I guess that’s why I wanted to make the movie. Being in the flow.
[01:28:47] Gabby Reece: Being in the flow. Laird and I talk about that. Like he talks about surfing, but he’s it’s really the flow. It’s that, I love the ocean. Him. I love the waves, the excitement, but because it is the flow, he’s, that is what you’re looking for.
I learned something interesting from Steven Kotler about flow state, which is years and years ago, he interviewed Laird to talk about flow state. And Laird said It is and you are and that’s that. And Steven was like, Oh, okay, that’s boy genius. It’s what? Boy genius thanks, Laird but he said that he learned later that everything in life is different and changing except flow.
Flow is always the same when you go there and you’re in it, it is the same. And so, I think a lot of people don’t get that opportunity and even if your films bring a version of that that’s also probably a really powerful part of it. In wrapping this up I just want to revisit because I, I really am I think after living so long in this notion of performance, you realize that if we can feel good and be kind and help each other and not get need a lot more.
[01:30:07] Gabby Reece: We don’t need tons more when enough is good and things like that. And we can love each other and have connections that I go, oh, this is, we’re starting to get into performance. And even when you talk about your gratitude revealed, it’s yeah, what are you going to do about it? You can have all the information in the world, and I always say, that’s amazing.
What’s your practice? You got to put it in play because everybody has all the information now. I do love the idea and maybe it’s because I think it is part of our future that is part of our past, which is bringing these practices into our medical system. And before we wrap this up, I was just wondering, we talked about maps. If there’s anything else on that side that really you are, you think, oh, they’re really doing some interesting clinical trials or some experimenting that feels important.
[01:31:07] Louie Schwartzberg: I think the clinical trials that I’m engaged with is what I’m going to be excited about. Great. Yeah. We’re, so we have a brand new one starting at UCSF. Okay. Okay. It’s at the Neuroscape Lab, probably the most advanced technologically data recording place in the world, certainly in America. And so, I have a theory that every ecosystem in nature might affect your brain differently.
So, for example, if I said to you, music’s good for you, hopefully you would say, what kind of music? So, I say food’s good for you. What kind of food? If I say nature’s good for you, then what kind of nature? So, we’re going to do a trial where I’m going to take people through an eight-minute journey of forest, ocean, desert, flowers, and I’m hoping that there’ll be a difference between each one.
And if there is a difference, then wow, we could be prescriptive. I might say, Gabby, you know what you need? You I know you, water and you love all this water, but you need fire because that’s what Ayurvedic medicine does. They balance you. They give you the opposite of who you are.
[01:32:24] Gabby Reece: Yeah, where you’re always living, grinding it away all the time.
[01:32:28] Louie Schwartzberg: Yeah. That’s just Indian medicine. Yeah. Which goes back 10,000 years or whatever. So, it might be interesting to look at their philosophy or their practice and be able to implement it. So, I’m really excited about it because it’s never been studied before. And imagine God, someday you go to not even a doctor, you go into a fucking dome, you go into a little pod, you walk into this room, and you go, Siri, take me to Tahiti. Hey Siri, take me to the Alps. And boom, you’re there. Because that technology is here right now. Yeah. And shift your mindset. Now, again, it’s not like literally going on a wave. It’s not the same as going to Machu Picchu, but if you wanted to go to Machu Picchu, three days of travel. And you know what?
You’re going to be surrounded by a thousand tourists with their selfies in front of your face and it won’t be spiritual because I filmed it, I know.
[01:33:28] Gabby Reece: Yeah. Okay. Do you ever sit in on any of these and just for your own experience?
[01:33:35] Louie Schwartzberg: You can’t really do that because it would disrupt the scientific test.
[01:33:41] Gabby Reece: Oh, they don’t get you never get to they don’t ever hook you up to the images and you the one in UCSF, I haven’t done yet, I want to yeah, get in the pod. They’re going to, it takes an hour to wire yourself. So, it’s FMRI, EEG, galvanic meter, all kinds of things, a little bit of fan, a little bit of aromatherapy, all that stuff.
[01:34:07] Louie Schwartzberg: I directed “Soaring Around the World.” It’s a Disney theme park. Have you been on it by any chance? Okay so you’re on a hang glider. Your feet are dangling. IMAX screen upside down and the image goes under your feet, and we film all the great wonders of the world. A flight flew over like Mount Everest. No, sorry, Matterhorn. And we tilt the seat a little bit and you look down 14, 000 feet. It’s pretty cool. It is like the number one attraction in Shanghai. It’s in the top three in all the Disney theme parks. Think about the nature, beautiful, not me, sacred places around the world, competing with Pixar Disney characters, Marvel all those branded franchises.
And we kick butt, and people applaud. At the end of this four-minute journey of all the incredible places around the planet Guadalupe Falls, Serengeti, Pyramids, Eiffel Tower, Monument Valley, Greenland, Great Wall of China, we filmed all these incredible places. And yet, it blows people away. Isn’t that great? Yeah, it’s better than CGI. Watching 10, 000 people in a battle. Which is all fake. You know it’s fake. But when you get to see the grandeur of ice glaciers in Greenland, and to fly through the cracks in Monument Valley.
[01:35:45] Gabby Reece: Wow. Your parents would be really proud of you. I think it’s a really inspiring thing when people lean into the voice, even if the path is not clear, because it is hard to do, but it’s what leads us to all the really juicy stuff. And also, it’s like how we contribute. You’re, you had a thing inside you, and you get to contribute that and contribute to all of us.
Can you direct people to all the places that they can find you if they want to?
[01:36:22] Louie Schwartzberg: So, the best place to go now is the Louie Channel. So that’s Louie channel tv or.com. So, I’ve created my own four K platform, like Netflix or HBO. And I’ve put all my content on there, so I’ve got shorts on Gratitude and Mushrooms.
I have LouieLand for kids and children’s hospitals. I have a “Wonder & Awe” podcast series. I have “Conscious Creators” for other filmmakers. I really want to have a safe platform where you can go and get media without any of it being toxic, because I do believe violence Revenge, exploitation, conflict, which is the core of all of Hollywood stories, is bad for you. It creates cortisol, which creates disease and inflammation. And people go, oh, I know it’s fake. I’m watching someone getting tortured. Are you kidding me? You’re putting a ton of enzymes and chemistry through your body, which is fight or flight. And you’re not going anywhere. You’re just sitting there. You’re not even burning that energy. You’re not running away from a saber-toothed tiger. You’re just sitting there with adrenaline that you’re being chased in a car chase or whatever the dumb story is. And again, it’s the same old-fashioned story, the macho story, kill or be killed, survival of the fittest.
That’s a dumb story. That’s not nature’s way of working. We talk about progress and even mankind’s progress is ultimately through cooperation. I will throw a twist in there though. And I do think even though nature is not vengeful and like it doesn’t kill anything just to kill like a something doesn’t hunt.
[01:38:15] Gabby Reece: I do think it’s savage though, a little bit in the way that it’s tough. And so, I always feel that it’s a combination of you do have to have that resilience because nature does show us that it’s hard sometimes.
[01:38:32] Louie Schwartzberg: I think at the top of the food chain, and again, you’re a human being, if you’re watching the lion eat the antelope and all that, it could feel a little bit like that.
[01:38:42] Gabby Reece: And it’s not mean, like the lion’s doing it for food.
[01:38:44] Louie Schwartzberg: And to feed its babies. Okay, but if you go to the foundation of life. The pollinators, the fungi, it’s all about symbiotic relationships. Nothing lives alone in nature anywhere. And so, cooperation is the number one ingredient for survival. Adaptability is the number one for evolution. And it’s also the answer for Mankind.
[01:39:15] Gabby Reece: Do you think they’re going to decriminalize all of this pretty soon?
[01:39:18] Louie Schwartzberg: I hope so. I hope so. I think it’s about three years out. Great. But I think mushrooms will, and psilocybin will happen faster than cannabis because there’s more medical research that shows the benefits of psilocybin and with all the research and studies about cannabis, there aren’t that many medical benefits that you can point to. I’m not putting it down. I’m just saying it’s not as powerful a medicinal modality compared to psychedelics.
[01:39:50] Gabby Reece: Yeah. And after I watched your movie, I felt like it was nature’s computer, just the way it moves in and does what it needs to do. It just felt like a computer. Louie, I really appreciate your time and I appreciate your work.
About Louie Schwartzberg
Louie is a pioneer in time-lapse and altered speed and scale cinematography – the only filmmaker in the world who has been shooting time-lapse flowers 24/7 continuously for well over four decades.
He’s also directed in every major medium: television shows, feature films, documentaries, commercials, and immersive 3D and IMAX experiences.