Kayla Coleman: How did you come up with the idea for Vegucated?
Marisa Miller Wolfson: I used to do grassroots screenings of other award-winning documentaries all over the country, and I had a sense of what worked with audiences and what didn’t work so well with audiences. When I saw Super Size Me in 2004, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to see the reverse of that? Now that we know what not to do, wouldn’t it be great to see what we should be eating, and also cover some of the ethical aspects of food production — specifically animal production — that were not covered in Super Size Me?’ Even though I care about the health aspects and am certainly healthier and more health conscious now that I am vegan, my heart is really with the environmental and animal part of it. I wanted a nice film that people could really enjoy and engage with that covered these topics.
KC: When you first introduced Tesla, Ellen and Brian to the journey that is veganism, do you think they were motivated by health, environmental or animal welfare reasons?
MMW: Initially I would say that they were all motivated more by the health reasons. I think that’s why they did the project, because they did all express in their interviews that they want to look good, they want to lose weight, they want to feel healthier.
Ellen in particular as a single mother, a doctor…what really resonated for her throughout the process was the health stuff. And she was just blown away by what she learned. But Brian and Tesla also connected to the animal side of things, the environmental…even the human rights aspects of slaughterhouse workers and so on.
KC: In Vegucated, you focus on three people who are not vegan. Did they know anything about being vegan?
MMW: They started from zero. They had totally unrealistic stereotypes of vegan. Brian really thought they were kind of crazy. And Ellen thought they were these über crunch-y type people that were really healthy beyond recognition, that are so pure and wonderful. And we’re not! Tesla really had no vegetarian friends and family, so she was starting from square one. They were all started from square one!
KC: What was your own “vegucation” like?
MMW: I saw a documentary and went vegetarian, and three months later I read a pamphlet and went vegan. I do remember a mix of feelings. I was struggling, not knowing exactly what to eat, what to make for potlucks and parties…but also feeling excited by this whole new world of foods. I’d never even been to a health food store. I thought it was all patchouli and vitamins. And then when I went in there, it smelled really good and it felt really great, and I thought ‘Man, this whole world’s opening up!’ And of course it didn’t hurt that I lost 15 pounds after about four months. And I swear it was all cheese.
KC: Brian, Tesla and Ellen struggle a bit with resisting non-vegan temptations — like when Ellen goes to a (non-vegan) bakery and when Tesla said she felt like she had nothing to order at restaurants. Do you have any foods that you were — or are — tempted by?
MMW: That’s a really good question. I really missed cheese pizza — an oily, greasy, stretchy, rubbery cheese pizza. And then Daiya [a vegan cheese] came out and that was the end of that, and I said “Praise Cheesus!” I mean, every once in a while I’ll think that bacon smells good, and then I’ll remember that it’s the charred flesh of a sentient, intelligent animal and I’ll be grossed out. Like Brian says in the film, it’s amazing how adaptable our bodies are. When people have these fears, ‘Oh, I’m going to miss this or that,’ they might, but it’s going to be short-lived. People often just crave salt and fat and creaminess, and you can get salt and fat and creaminess from other things.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may
not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.