April 6, 2023

A Conversation with Producer Eddie Hauben and Directors Joe and Elizabeth Seamans

Eddie Hauben has been a member of the IMS sangha since its early days, including serving on the board of directors, participating in running the family and teen retreats, and contributing to the development of the Forest Refuge. Most recently, he and his wife, Jan, have produced a film about the beginning of IMS with friends, fellow yogis, and filmmakers Joe and Elizabeth Seamans. Inside Insight: The Founding Story is a documentary about the birth of IMS. Through personal interviews, archival footage, and photographs, the film reflects on the spiritual journeys of its founders and their efforts to open this beloved spiritual refuge to share the Dharma in the West. Here, IMS Staff Writer Raquel Baetz talks with Joe, Elizabeth, and Eddie about making the film.

Watch Inside Insight: The Founding Storyhere.


Tell us a bit about your professional backgrounds.

Joe: We both started working in public television in the early 70s. I ended up working at WQED, a public television station in Pittsburgh in the film department on a local news show and making documentaries. The station grew into a PBS flagship station, so I got a chance to film and eventually produce and direct National Geographic Specials when they were on public television, Nova programs for WGBH, and a lot of science programming.

Elizabeth: I started out as a journalist and ended up working for Fred Rogers at Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. For about 30 years we worked closely together—from the time I was 23 until I was in my mid-50s. I was a script writer for the program, and, strangely, appeared as Mrs. McFeely, the postman’s wife. I also did some filmmaking, making documentaries under the umbrella of Fred’s company.

Tell us about some of the process of producing Inside Insight.

Eddie: Joe and Elizabeth are old friends of mine, and both have some background and interest in insight meditation. Once everyone was on board, I put together script ideas and Joe put together a production schedule and budget. Then it was a process of the logistics of how to get Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, and Jack Kornfield together to do the filming. New York Insight let us use their space for the shoot. In the morning we filmed the three of them in conversation and in the afternoon, I interviewed them separately. It was wonderful to hear them share their memories of that time.

A month later, we went to IMS and interviewed all the other people who appear in the film. Amazingly we were able to get everyone there at that time and were fortunate to capture many of the team who were essential to the story.

How did you decide the best way to present the IMS story?

Elizabeth: In the beginning we thought we would spend a few days during a retreat, and then came Covid, and there were no retreats. But in the end, we felt that we would still go. And we think it was a vast improvement over trying to film during retreat. Covid allowed us to be in that space and look at every detail of it in quiet. We now think it was a blessing.

Joe: It was also a bit of luck that during the few days we were at IMS there was a beautiful stretch of October weather, and the leaves were in full change of color, so there was a kind of luminance that permeated all the empty spaces. It looked beautiful.

So, we had an adventure up there for a few days. We had the run of IMS and could quickly move around and take advantage of the light, and not worry about getting in people’s way. So, it worked out very well.

Tell us a bit about the editing process. It must have been difficult to decide what to leave out?

Eddie: We had 200 pages of transcripts. Joe and Elizabeth guided me through the process of editing the interviews, creating a hierarchy of information in terms of what needed to be in the film. Then they created a first cut which was about two and a half hours. We didn’t have a fixed time of what it was going to be, but we thought probably around one hour. I then had to go through the transcripts again. And, I think I still have the email I sent to Joe and Elizabeth, saying “Help, I can’t do this! I just can’t see leaving anything else out now.” I remember Joe said, “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.” And they did.

What were some of the other challenges?

Joe: The fact that nobody had any real expectations made it quite challenging, because you’re left with your own expectations, trying to figure out, “What is this movie and how does it work?” That was a big challenge for me. But it was wonderful, too, because it was challenging.

Everyone let us do what we needed to. It’s quite a simple movie, but there’s a lot that goes into leaving it like that. Keeping it simple is challenging.

Elizabeth: When you’re working with interviews—some stories are better told than others. Once Joe and Eddie got down into the weeds of choosing pieces out of the hours and hours of interview, there was a crucial balance between Eddie’s knowledge of Buddhism and IMS and Joe’s artistry. Eddie and Joe have a good relationship which allowed them to trust each other with the material.

What are your thoughts about the final product?

Eddie: This isn’t just a story about a place with big oil tanks. It’s about a spiritual path and how that has become woven into the culture through the work of the teachers who share the Dharma at IMS and other places.

The film shows that a group of young people with a common intention and love for something can change the world. And the IMS community has built an institution that has influenced thousands and thousands of people. I don’t think any of them could have anticipated what unfolded. And, as Joseph says in the film, it was amazing how young we all were.

Elizabeth: I love making films, and I love showing them to the people who care most about them. And talking to Joseph after the premier in Barre, I said to Joe, we got the Academy Award because Joseph loves the movie. If people who I respect and are knowledgeable about the subject feel that it’s good, I’m totally satisfied.

Joe: I think that’s true of me, too. If the people who are in it like it and feel that it’s a fair representation of what they had to say, that’s very gratifying. And Joseph reflected that at the screening, so I also shared Elizabeth’s joy in that.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know?

Eddie: My wish is for the film to be in the world so that people can hear the story and discover the Dharma through that. Hopefully, for some, this film and its story will awaken something in them.

The film was an act of love, and the gratitude has been wonderful. And it’s nice to know that people appreciate it and the effort that it took to do it. It’s a tribute to everybody who saw the vision and contributed to it. If you take care of the Dharma, the Dharma takes care of you.

Elizabeth: It was a privilege to work with the people in the film and to get to know more about IMS. We’re so happy that the film is out there. I think that we made the movie for you all. It was a gift.

Joe: And a gift to us. It was an honor to work on this project, and I think it’s something that’s of great value: to have a story of how IMS came to be.