It’s been said that our experiences shape who we become. This process starts the second we come out of the womb. You can learn a lot about someone by examining their past.
Filmmakers Eriksen and Soren Dickens are firm believers in this.
“When you break it down, we are products of not only what we experience, but how we respond to those experiences,” Eriksen Dickens says. “Everyone sees life through the lens that was molded by their own individual experiences.”
Eriksen and Soren Dickens own and operate Platinum Peek Productions, a digital storytelling agency out of San Luis Obispo. The company specializes in character-driven documentaries about unique people, while also producing advertisements for businesses around the country.
So how does understanding psychology contribute to filmmaking? Eriksen, a third year graduate student studying clinical psychology, believes he knows that answer.
Eriksen says, “Psychology is all about understanding people and storytelling is all about making people appear believable. It’s about making the audience empathize with your characters. When you understand psychology, you can craft stories that resonate better with your audience. You can engage their emotions easier.”
In addition to obtaining his master’s degree and functioning as the Creative Director for Platinum Peek, Eriksen is also a trainee at the Atascadero Wellness Center, where he counsels adolescents as part of his graduate program.
“Everyone has a unique story,” Eriksen says. “Working with kids reinforces my belief in the fact that events, especially aversive events, are what eventually influences our story the most.”
The Dickens brothers lost their father to cancer when they were kids. Their mother also beat cancer twice. Needless to say, they have experienced adversity in their life.
“Take us for example,” Eriksen says, “because of the loss of our dad and almost losing our mom, life seemed less stable to us than our peers. This manifests into worry, overthinking, and a desire for control over situations. We’ve come a long way since then, but our current day struggles can be traced back to the family disruption of our youth.”
One documentary the brothers produced is called Dirty Toes, a character study on Cameron Sluggett, a young man with cerebral palsy who was bullied as a kid. Sluggett grew up to become a successful entrepreneur and he credits his strong work ethic and desire to prove people wrong, to his childhood experiences.
Another documentary the brothers produced is called Magic in the Lane. The film is about swimmer, entrepreneur, and magician, Chuck Katis, a pioneer in the AI training software space. Katis was raised by a single mother and came from extreme poverty. He credits his relentless determination to the trials he went through as a kid, and his mother’s guidance.
Both subjects are examples of reacting positively to aversive experiences growing up.
“When we tell stories through film, we heavily examine backstory,” Eriksen says. “We pay attention much more to the human elements of a subject, as opposed to, say, the subject’s business or professional life. It makes people more relatable. Relatability engages empathy, and empathy engages emotion.”
The brothers recently released a documentary called Two Magic Drops, about Rotary International’s effort to provide polio vaccinations to children in India. The film has since been selected to 8 international film festivals, winning 3 awards thus far.
“We didn’t hold back with that film,” Eriksen says. “It was emotional, it was gritty, it made people feel as if they were in the shoes of the subjects on screen. When you’re able to transform someone psychologically to the point where they feel as if they’re there with the subjects, you know you’ve done something right.”
Eriksen and Soren Dickens hope that their work continues to shed light on inspiring people, important topics, and the beauty of human nature.