If you had the resources to tell hundreds of thousands of people around the world about skin cancer and prevention would you? Director and Cinematographer Stan Kozma has worked in the film business his entire adult life. He also knows all too well how skin cancer can affect people’s lives, so he decided to take action. All is revealed about skin cancer and melanoma in his film “More Than Skin Deep: Skin Cancer in America”. The hour long film examines the cultural, historical and social facets of the disease, including how the tanning craze was accidentally popularized by Coco Chanel, as well as its medical, scientific and treatment aspects. Since 2009, the film has been broadcast over 500 times on 200 stations to approximately 500,000 viewers in addition to audiences attending film festivals across the U.S. and currently in Norway. This landmark film has so many elements that we decided to speak with Stan and get the reasoning behind his creation of the film.
Here’s a brief clip from the film “More Than Skin Deep: Skin Cancer in America.”
Why did you decide to create a film about skin cancer?
As the saying goes, “You choose some projects. Some projects choose you.” My fiancé, Kristi, a professional make-up artist was diagnosed with melanoma. After four tough years of operations and protocols, she was taken by the disease at age 35. During a brief period of remission, she and I vowed that upon her return to full health, we would do what we could to spread awareness about skin cancer. Prior to “Skin Deep”, I had produced a successful PSA campaign about sun awareness directed at kids, teens and parents. The documentary was planned as the next step.
Who do you think your audience is for this film?
The audience is anyone who is exposed to the sun – which is all of us. The film is directed at mid-teen to adult. Classroom versions have been created for middle school, high school and nursing academies.
What is your hope for every person who watches “More Than Skin Deep”?
One hope is that people who watch “Skin Deep” will want a friend or family member to watch it as well. We’ve received many requests to send copies of the film to a granddaughter or younger family member who might not realize the possible consequences of their sun habits.
What was the number one point you wanted to get across?
If there is one overarching message it is that skin cancer is REAL cancer. While the film addresses basal and squamous cancers, the primary focus is on melanoma. There are two main points we emphasized. One is that melanoma is an unpredictable and very treacherous cancer that although when caught early has a 99% cure rate, once it spreads it is very difficult to control. The second is that sun exposure or early sunburns can have long term serious consequences. Your body doesn’t really ‘get over’ a sunburn. It’s not like getting over a cold. Your skin stores that information for your entire life – and we get 80% of our lifetime sun exposure before we are 18.
How did you choose people to interview?
During Kristi’s treatments we traveled from Florida to California, New York and Bethesda for consultation and treatment. We met many brilliant and caring physicians and nurses during that time. I remained in contact with most of them after her passing. When it came time to make the documentary, not one turned down the opportunity to be on camera. In fact, several made important introductions that resulted in interviews that otherwise would not have been possible.
Sun protective clothing is now being recommended as the first line of defense by many leading organizations. The movie doesn’t really address the use of sun clothing as a protection method, was this intentional?
Several of our interviewees did mention sun protective clothing. Our limiting issue was time. The film had to be a specific length to adhere to broadcast standards. We had more footage than time. Since “Skin Deep’s” initial release in 2009, there have been significant developments in melanoma treatment and in skin cancer news. Currently we are looking to revise the film for a new broadcast version and a longer non broadcast version without time constraints. The importance and advantages of sun protective clothing will certainly be included in the update.
In your eyes, has the film been a success?
The film has been successful. But its full potential is far from being reached. “More Than Skin Deep” is the most engaging, emotional and entertaining film to examine skin cancer produced to date. It can be updated and advanced as new information and treatments become available. Custom versions of the film can be created for certain geographical regions and for ages and occupations.
Do you have any future plans as a skin cancer crusader?
In addition to continuing the outreach of “Skin Deep”, I am developing a feature film which Kristi and I started writing together and which chronicles the odyssey of her melanoma journey. It is not a standard approach to the subject and the intent is to create a narrative film that will do for skin cancer awareness what the film ‘Philadelphia’ did for HIV/AIDS understanding.
To view clips or purchase the DVD, visit www.morethanskindeep.org.