MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Michael Berens Kammi Berens are the co-creators of Do it for Daniel. Their company is ShortyWevo productions. When they learned about the Olson family and Daniel’s story ten years ago, they knew it had the potential to be a powerful resource in changing the stigma around mental health and suicide.
“When Jeff speaks, he talks about that, and I think he does a great job of showing that if we’re open to talk about it, we can find the tools and maybe that person doesn’t go to that extreme thing of suicide. So everyone is going to be different with where they’re at in their mental health. And different tools will work for me differently than they would work for you. And so that’s what Jeff is about. Before the movie shows when he goes to schools, that is the thing he’s trying to get across, that Daniel’s is an extreme case. But everyone doesn’t have to be in on that path. And there’s different roads you can take to get those tools, talk to experts talk to you about their exercise, listen to music, there’s meditation there’s so many that you know missing,” said Michael Berens.
Michael is a freelance videographer in Detroit. He also works for Bally Sports which used to be Fox Sports Detroit. Kammi works for the Detroit Pistons. Michael learned about the Olson family while working as a videographer during the state football final games in 2010 and 2012. The announcer shared some of Daniel’s story during the game. In the week’s that followed, Michael continued to read and learn more about the Olson family. When he shared the details with his wife, Kammi, Michael said they knew they had to do something about it. In the Spring of 2014, The Berens family traveled to the U.P. to meet with the Olson family.
“We met them at McDonald’s and the four of us sat there. And every single one of us cried and told stories and, you know, just discussed everything that we wanted to do and we left there like, I guess we’re gonna do this movie,” said Kammi Berens.
The production of the film took years, Kammi Berens talked about the challenges of telling such a personal story.
“It was really hard to sit there for eight hours. And I asked the questions and you know when when someone’s so upset, and you have to put your producer cap on and not cry and not get upset, but inside you’re dying, because you all you want to do is hug them and cry with them. And it was really difficult. This movie was four years of our life and it was every day. We lived and breathed this movie until we got it done basically and it was difficult it we had a lot of emotional issues going on with it,” said Kammi Berens.
They said the response has been largely supportive and appreciative.
“We’ve had a lot of people, either parents or kids themselves or family members like thank you because my daughter talked to us on the way home from the movie and said this is how she’s been feeling and you know we went to therapy the next day.
“At least hundreds of emails and text messages we’ve gotten over the last few years. One of the big things when we went into this that we heard all the time was how selfish suicide was. So we really wanted to get that across that you know it’s not selfish. Like it’s their only choice in the moment because they’re in so much pain. And I think we a lot of people have come to us and told us that they felt that way before the movie and then after they saw the movie, so for me that was a big takeaway that I wanted.”