Chances are that you recently came across the documentary series (Un)Well in the Netflix top 10 (the show held the #7 position for some time) and found yourself intrigued. In the search for enlightenment and alternative means of health, (Un)Well investigated and illuminated topics like the use of Ayahuasca, fasting, tantric sex, adults who consume breast milk, and more. The first season of this show was received with great enthusiasm, no doubt due to the public’s fascination with questioning long-held concepts of health practices that fall outside of the norm. The production was conducted on a global level with executive in charge Stuart Fero helming the wheel. While immensely proud of the show’s exceptional final form, the EIC concedes that the process was “a delicate dance to find that ‘special sauce’ for the series” due to the unusual subject matter. Mr. Fero’s prior record on such productions as The Circus: Inside The Wildest Political Show on Earth for Showtime, Fiasco for EPIX, Policing the Police 2020 for Frontline, and others attest that his skill in leading a production is unsurpassed in both sensitivity and adventurousness.
While modern viewers certainly aren’t squeamish, presenting topics such as those found in (Un)Well requires an exhaustive attention to sensitivity on both sides of the camera. For someone such as EIC Stuart Fero, this means being highly aware of the subject matter in regards to its creator and receiver. He communicates, “This series was demanding when it came to getting access to the right folk to not only give us in-depth personal insight into each topic but also demonstrate the advantages and disadvantages of each of the wellness topics. These stories had to be told in an honest, uncompromising way that reached the viewer and stood out from the slew of docs available. We forget that some societies and communities practice different beliefs which other audiences will find bizarre – so you have to gain trust and visit the heart of the story to really open people’s eyes, as we did with the Breast Milk story and our shoot in Mongolia.” In fact, (Un)Well was a truly global production shot in a dozen countries from Sweden to Mongolia and Peru to Palestine. Accompanying these were the different regulations regarding permits, insurance, and visas needed for the production to span the globe. To honestly present different ways of seeking wellness, Stuart and his team needed to witness and record directly the practices of the unique and eclectic.
(Un)Well presents some of the most uncommon ways of seeking wellness and in so doing opens our minds to the possibilities. Mr. Fero worked with Emmy Award Winning Director Leslie Asako Gladsjo for an episode on the use of Ayahuasca, a plant used to make a psychedelic brew which originates in Peru, necessitated a careful and highly structured approach to capturing the footage. A very different sort of safety precaution was implemented during the filming of an episode which displayed the intentional allowing of bee stings by individuals who believe in its ability to treat Lyme disease and even soften wrinkles on the skin. Crew members during the shoot were bundled up in specialist PPE during filming, hardly an ordinary day at the office. Fero concedes that working on (Un)Well offered some of the most unique and surprising moments of his career.
Stuart Fero remarks, “You’re always proud of the product if you’ve given it your best but knowing that people can watch it on a platform like Netflix which is available in over 190 countries is the cherry on the cake. You want as many people as possible to experience these incredible stories.”