Brian Wendel and Lee Fulkerson, Forks Over Knives

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Brian Wendel, Creator and Executive Producer

Brian Wendel had a long-time interest in nutrition and health. In the summer of 2008, he read The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell and realized that the scientific case that a whole foods plant-based diet could prevent—and even reverse—disease was greater than he had ever imagined. This concept deserved a “seat at the table” in the national discussion. Brian decided the most effective way to bring this message to a broad audience was by feature film. His vision for the film was that it be based on the science—and at the same time, provide a moving experience by exploring personal stories and historical elements. Brian recruited a veteran award-winning production team and spent nearly two years producing FORKS OVER KNIVES, his first feature film.
 
Lee Fulkerson, Writer and Director

Lee Fulkerson has written, produced, directed or supervised nearly 170 hours of documentary programming, and has won 19 international awards for his work. These include the prestigious CINE SPECIAL JURY AWARD for Best Broadcast Historical Program of 2003, network or cable, awarded for his pilot episode of the series, THE COLOR OF WAR. Most recently Lee wrote SEVEN SIGNS OF THE APOCALYPSE, a two-hour documentary special for the History Channel. Previously, he was Executive Producer and head writer of the seven-hour series SHOWDOWN: AIR COMBAT for the Discovery Military Channel. Lee was the Series Producer of the 17-hour THE COLOR OF WAR series and the 35-hour THE GREAT SHIPS series for the History Channel. He wrote, produced and directed the 90-minute special THE CRASH OF FLIGHT 191 for the History Channel, and co-wrote THE LONG MARCH, a two-hour special for History International. Lee also wrote or produced 11 episodes of the Biography series for A&E, including programs on MICHELANGELO, GEORGE WASHINGTON and BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. In the realm of fiction, Lee co-wrote the screen story Ascent in the television drama series THE DEAD ZONE for the USA Television Network.

FORKS OVER KNIVES examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the so-called “diseases of affluence” that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering yet under-appreciated researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. Dr. Campbell, a nutritional scientist at Cornell University, was concerned in the late 1960’s with producing “high quality” animal protein to bring to the poor and malnourished areas of the third world. While in the Philippines, he made a life-changing discovery: the country’s wealthier children, who were consuming relatively high amounts of animal-based foods, were much more likely to get liver cancer. Dr. Esselstyn, a top surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, found that many of the diseases he routinely treated were virtually unknown in parts of the world where animal-based foods were rarely consumed. FORKS OVER KNIVES utilizes state of the art 3-D graphics and rare archival footage. The film features leading experts on health, examines the question “why we don’t know”, and tackles the issue of diet and disease in a way that will have people talking for years.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Hello, I am Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Thank you for joining me. We have a terrific show today and some wonderful guests. I’m really excited about this next hour. I love the title of this program, It’s All About Food. Everyday when I take my walk and everything I do in life. I realize that everything is connected to are food it, is all about food. Health, environment, animals, happiness, sadness, joy food is all around us it’s just so much a part of our lives and that’s why I love talking about food choices and making informed decisions about are food because it makes so much difference in our lives just by what we put in our mouths. We can make the difference between a happy healthy long life feeling vibrant and energetic and having clarity and being creative, versus feeling the complete opposite, I don’t even want to go into it.

So some of the things that are exciting today more and more people are talking about healthy diets there all kinds of plant based blogs, vegan and vegetarian blogs going on and the media is talking more about it and there’s a new documentary coming out and were going to talk about it today Forks Over Knives and I have with me or I will have with me, Lee Fulkerson the writer and director of Forks Over Knives and Brian Wendel the creator and executive producer.

Caryn Hartglass:
Are you with me guys?

Brian Wendel:
Hello?

Caryn Hartglass:
Hello, is that Brian?

Brian Wendel:
Yes, Hi Caryn.

Caryn Hartglass:
Hi! And Lee I think you were there and not there now? I’m not quite sure where he is. Okay, great. So Brian welcome to It’s All About Food, you must be really, really excited Forks over Knives is premiering May 2nd and today there is huge buzz all over the internet about you being featured on the Dr. Oz show. How does that feel?

Brian Wendel:
It feels really great. It’s been a really long journey for us and we’ve had high hopes for the film from the very beginning and its nice to see that people are appreciating the film and the word is getting out there.

Caryn Hartglass:
Well you have a very strong community the people that believe in health and wellness with food are so excited when pieces like Forks over Knives come out and we all get behind it and promote it, so just from that end alone you’re starting with a really strong support base.

Brian Wendel:
Yes its great and its great to have that base and at the end of the day we really want to invite everybody to the discussion but certainly the people that are already here are certainly helping us get the word out there.

Caryn Hartglass:
Of course and that’s the whole point of the film I think and I’m going to welcome what your goals and objectives are for the film but we need more and more information to let people know that they can make a huge difference in their life they can turn their health around for the positive and it’s so simple and it’s delicious.

Brian Wendel:
Absolutely.

Caryn Hartglass:
So what are your goals with this film? What would you like to see happen?

Brian Wendel:
Ultimately, I would like to really see that people, you know people get healthier and that they are able to make more informed decisions. You know from the time were very young we’ve been led to believe that we need animal foods in our diet that these our actually necessary components of the diet. Well in fact we’re starting to see evidence that really the opposite is true that when we leave these foods out that our health improves and so I think as the education level out there on this topic gets better and people live healthier lives that will be the objective that will be made.

Caryn Hartglass:
Now I was reading somewhere that some of the inspiration behind this film you were reading The China Study so how has plant based food affected your personal life? When do you get on the path? I’m assuming that you are a part of what’s promoted in the film.

Brian Wendel:
Yes I am it’s been a ten-year journey for me on plant foods and shortly after I went on a plant-based diet and I did mostly a whole food plant based diet. I felt better and in some ways I was kind of a little upset about things because I’ve been led to believe that these foods are so helpful for so long and I’ve been drinking a lot of milk trying to get my calcium and eating meat for protein and then by leaving those foods out I just felt so much better and their was something in me that wanted to share the joy and here I am ten years later about to come out with a film on the topic. Already people have seen the film have made changes to their diet and writing and saying how much better they feel.

Caryn Hartglass:
Right well it’s really apparent to me that most people are affected by what they see in the media what they read in the press what they see in their magazines what they’re seeing on the internet what’s out there in films and on television and the more and more we see certain information the more we believe it whether it’s true or not and unfortunately the media has been putting up for such a long time information that’s isn’t necessary helpful or healthful and you have some little clips in the film showing how people had seen a lot of this information decades ago promoting milk, milk for babies rather than nursing and just so much stuff has been subliminal in a way building up on what we believe is true and that’s why this film and so many others like it are so important.

Brian Wendel:
Yes, I certainly agree and it is something that has perpetuated over time. Like you said in the film we showing going back, people in commercials saying the importance of calcium then you still see people today getting their calcium from dairy sources. We try to show that in the film how that’s transpired literally over generations.

Caryn Hartglass:
Is there a group that you’re targeting in this film? That you are interested in getting the message out to?

Brian Wendel:
Really it’s for everybody I really didn’t think too much about targeting but obviously I think the people that are going to be most urgently moved by the film are people who have these health maladies that can be prevented and that can be treated with this diet. But no I think this is for everybody.

Caryn Hartglass:
Right. Hey, Lee Fulkerson you’re now on with us, writer and director of Forks over Knives. Welcome! I bet you’re excited.

Lee Fulkerson:
Oh certainly, absolutely.

Caryn Hartglass:
So you were both on Dr. Oz?

Lee Fulkerson:
I was on Dr. Oz. Brian was in the background being my cheerleader coach.

Caryn Hartglass:
Okay, I haven’t seen it yet because it’s airing right now in my neighborhood. So I’ve got it recorded but that must have been a really fun experience.

Lee Fulkerson:
It was nerve-wracking and exciting and fun all at the same time.

Caryn Hartglass:
I had my two minutes of fame on Dr. Oz earlier last year. Did you get the nice little hummus vegetable plate in the dressing room?

Lee Fulkerson:
I got the hummus vegetable plate in the dressing room and the water. And all of his minions and staff running round being extremely efficient and they couldn’t have made the experience more fun.

Caryn Hartglass:
Great! Will I really hope it brings a lot of people to the theaters to see your film, it’s really important and then will there be a DVD of it as well that comes out?

Brian Wendel:
Yes, there will be a DVD, the DVD doesn’t expect to be released until late summer could be late August or September really depends on the length of the theatrical run but there will be a DVD.

Caryn Hartglass:
So were you like just over the top excited when Bill Clinton got on board with this diet and promoted Dr. Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn.

Brian Wendel:
Yeah! I was hoping that he would join are PR team. (laughs) Yeah, It was a great moment when he did come out because I think it lended credibility to the cause because people know that Bill Clinton tends to research things extensively and the fact that he looked at this with so much care and came to the conclusion that he can treat his own heart condition with this diet was tremendous validation to what we were doing and the fact that he cited the two doctors in our film as having supplied the compelling evidence for him to make these changes was just incredible.

Caryn Hartglass:
I know for a long time many of us have been screaming at our televisions wanting to get Bill Clinton on a healthier diet especially when he had his two heart attacks, I think. Didn’t he have two?

Brian Wendel:
I think he had one but then he had a follow up stint a couple years later

Caryn Hartglass:
Yeah he had two issues but I remember Dr. John McDougall who is in your film Forks over Knives had written a number of open letters to Dr. Clinton kind of encouraging him to get on a plant based diet so however he got the information it was just it was a beautiful thing.

Brian Wendel:
The interesting thing is Dr. McDougall had wrote years ago that even if he had if President Clinton didn’t change his diet he’d likely be back for a procedure within five years and I remember when Dr. McDougall wrote that and sure enough and unfortunately President Clinton didn’t do that and he did come back for another procedure because a lot of times there is certainly and this is something you can talk to Dr. Esselstyn about but a lot of times these bypass surgeries expect in emergencies really don’t prevent new heart attacks or new heart issues they tend to relieve angina? [10:24] pain but they don’t tend to really deal with the underlining cause.

Caryn Hartglass:
They don’t solve the problem and there was I think it was Dr. Esselstyn mentioned in the movie something that I’ve heard numerous times that really I think makes a point when people talk about a plant based diet being extreme. Eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, raw nuts and seeds that’s extreme and yet cracking your sternum open, cutting near the front of your chest open and doing bypass surgery, that’s not extreme.

Lee Fulkerson:
That’s one of the moments we get the most comments on in the film, I must say.

Caryn Hartglass:
Yeah, well, people need to hear that over and over and over. Now Lee we talking a little bit with Brian about his journey to a plant based diet. Where are you in the food continuum?

Lee Fulkerson:
Well I am a plant based diet eater now.

Caryn Hartglass:
How did that happen?

Lee Fulkerson:
Well It happened as a result of the film even though I was intellectually convinced that there was evidence in favor of it after I had read the books and starting working on the film I really had no intention at least consciously of changing my diet. Then we went to interview a couple doctors who were going to be treating some test patients in the film and we decided to shoot that interview. As I went to interview the doctors just to see how they would be on camera basically and while I was there as part of the interview process I let them give me a checkup and when I got my blood test results back I was shocked in a bad way about my blood work numbers, my cholesterol was up at 254, something like that and so I was in bad shape and so I decided to go on a plant based diet for twelve weeks and see how it went.

Caryn Hartglass:
Right, well there are just so many stories like that and people love to hear them. People love to see real people turning their lives around. It’s very inspirational I often talk about the huge numbers that are involved. People that are dying of different diseases so unnecessarily but were overwhelmed with numbers and we love to hear personal stories. That’s a nice part of the film.

Brian Wendel:
And one of the things and one of the reasons I would add that we did really was because it’s one thing to see the science but science really doesn’t mean anything unless there’s a practical application to it. And the fact is that we could literally just pull people off the streets and put them on a plant diet and these people are sick and in a matter of weeks they turn themselves around. Their heart conditions get better, diabetes conditions get better, it’s really a compelling part of the story. It really is.

Caryn Hartglass:
So the answer is so easy and yet why is it taking so long to get the message out? Is it just money?

Brian Wendel:
Lee, do you want to take this one?

Lee Fulkerson:
I would say coming from a historical debate. I’m kind of a historian kind of a guy. I’d say there is a whole lot of cultural inertia there and you know tradition about these kinds of ways of eating that go back a long time but by now they are backed by huge amounts of money and huge business interests who have no intentions of wanting to change things. People that are in charge tend to like the status quo, you know? And so anything that comes along to upset the status quo is something they don’t practically care for and this is upsetting the status quo.

Caryn Hartglass:
You know, what I like about your film is it focuses mostly on health and for many people that’s what’s important. There seems to be this triangular approach to encouraging people to get on this plant based diet path so there’s the health angle, there’s the environmental angle because we keep learning more and more that factory farming of animals is devastating on the environment in terms of the resources and the pollution and the global warming that it creates. And there is, to me the most important thing but not necessarily to everyone else and that is the pain and suffering we cause to other animal species that we share this planet with that we use for food. Okay and so the health angle is great a lot of people, yes?

Brian Wendel:
I’m just saying for the record I feel that’s an important issue as well and we do touch upon it in the film.
It’s just that the health issue is just such a big topic we really wanted to focus on that for this film but there’s other great films out there that do address the animal issue which definitely is a big thing and there is also the issue with the environment but again the health issue theme it needed it’s own film in our opinion.

Caryn Hartglass:
Absolutely. Who came up with the title? I love Forks over Knives.

Lee Fulkerson:
That was a actually, a friend came up with Fork over Scalpel and that turned into Forks over Knives.

Caryn Hartglass:
No, Its beautiful really I love it, it says it all.

Lee Fulkerson:
Thank you, thank you very much.

Caryn Hartglass:
Well, one of the things I was getting with I don’t know if your familiar with some of the proposal legislation in the House and in the Senate that’s trying to make it illegal or a felony or some criminal act to go into some of the animal factory farms and take footage of the horrors that are going on and it’s just frightening, it’s like big brother magnified. I don’t know how you feel about it or one of the good thing about this is it’s a different angle and it’s accomplishing the same goal but a different approach. We need it all. I don’t know it’s just scary and then we have what are government also doesn’t seem to make the connection. We keep talking about our budget and how we need to reduce costs and nobody’s talking about – let’s get this country healthy because our health care costs would disappear.

Lee Fulkerson:
I know.

Brian Wendel:
The undercover camera issue I would just say there is nobody out there worrying about people videotaping the growing of potatoes or mangoes.

Caryn Hartglass:
That’s right.

Lee Fulkerson:
We can see things with undercover cameras.

Caryn Hartglass:
Yeah, because we can see what’s going on.

Lee Fulkerson:
(laughs)

Caryn Hartglass:
Yeah, that’s unfortunate. Do you have future film plans?

Brian Wendel:
Lee and I have talked kind of in broad talks about another ideas but right now we really, we’re really focused on this getting this film out is just a very big project and the good news is a lot of people like the film and there’s a lot of demand for it and that really keeps us busy and focused on this right now. Because just were kind of were a small group of independent filmmakers and right now we just have to have all our energy here to make sure this one does well.

Lee Fulkerson:
Absolutely.

Caryn Hartglass:
Do you have families? Each one of you? Are they supportive of the diet? Are they participating? I always like to know what’s going at the individual level because that’s one of the areas that’s really difficult for people when their families members aren’t on board.

Brian Wendel:
In my case, a lot of my family is actually but of my brothers are. My younger brother and I went vegan at the same time and my older brother just in the last year.

Caryn Hartglass:
Nice.

Brian Wendel:
And then my Dad and his wife are both plant based eaters within the last year and a half just when I got into this project but all of them have supported me 100% from the beginning and that has really really helped us in the making of this project, absolutely.

Caryn Hartglass:
That was Brian?

Lee Fulkerson:
That was Brian.

Caryn Hartglass:
Okay.

Lee Fulkerson:
For me, my mom is not plant-based but she’s trying to move in that direction. I’ve given her The China Study to read and she is finding it very interesting but she’s making slow progress. So I think when I get a copy of the DVD of the movie I’m going to sit down and show it to her and make the big push then.

Caryn Hartglass:
You’ve done a lot of interesting films and I want to encourage the listeners to go to the website http://www.forksoverknives.com/ you can find out about the film you can read about the cast and crew and you get the biographies on my two guests today but Lee you’ve been involved in lots of other films have they impacted you in the same way?

Lee Fulkerson:
Oh, no. Not at all, those many of them I am very proud of they were all done for television and there’s loads of things I’m still very passionate about history. So a lot of historical documentaries I’ve done I’m very proud of but this is just a completely different animal and has touched my life personally in a way that those other films haven’t. I mean I never changed my diet or my lifestyle as a result of doing any of the other movies so I’ve got to say that this one stands out in that regard.

Caryn Hartglass:
I’m glad to hear that. I’ve heard numerous stories of people that are involved in work. The actor that was in the movie Babe, James… help me with his name the one who played the farmer. Anyway he went vegan after getting involved in the film.

Brian Wendel:
Go ahead, I’m sorry.

Caryn Hartglass:
Yeah. No, no please.

Brian Wendel:
I was going say the one amazing thing so many of the people that worked on the film started out as omnivores if you will. Have changed their diet it’s been absolutely incredible. I mean everybody from the producer and co-producers some of the editors even a new member of my marketing team watched it. The gentlemen who did the music composition from his house just from doing the music changed his diet as well as his wife and their daughter changed her diet. So its amazing how people have evolved who’ve worked on this project when they’ve come across this material its been very impactful in peoples lives.

Caryn Hartglass:
Well, you have to feel really good about that and that’s the whole point. Getting the truth out and its so obvious once you put it all together and then you got two, really heroes in my book, Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Campbell, their both such good men.

Lee Fulkerson:
Yes

Caryn Hartglass:
And I love how you parallel their stories because they are in so many ways so similar and they don’t look identical but their tall, slim, handsome their approaching eighty and just amazing men.

Lee Fulkerson:
They are and it was a great blessing for the movie that their stories happen to parallel so well because that just made it a great thing to hang that movie on.

Caryn Hartglass:
Okay, so is there anything else you want to add? I am waiting for Dr. Campbell to join us it’s just about time for him to come on but he’s not here yet so anything you want to add about the film or invite people to know about?

Brian Wendel:
I’d just say that we are in theaters in New York and LA May Sixth and were in twenty markets beginning May Thirteenth and were actually were in twenty markets between May Thirteenth and May Twentieth but we are planning a significant expansion of the release after that and we hope to be all over the country by June.

Caryn Hartglass:
Is there any plan to target some of the government? To try and get some of our representatives to see the film? And get involved and learn this information.

Brian Wendel:
I think kind of my immediate goal is to get it out in a mass way because I think the politicians will follow. Its kind of funny that there called leaders but..

Lee Fulkerson:
Yeah

Caryn Hartglass:
There followers, absolutely!

Brian Wendel:
There followers and really the change isn’t going to happen in that realm until the people start requesting the change and right now I am just focused on getting the movie to the people.

Caryn Hartglass:
Okay! Well, thank you so much Lee Fulkerson and Brian Wendel the creators and writers for the new movie Forks over Knives. Thank you for your time and I wish you so much success with this film.

Lee Fulkerson:
Thank you, very much.

Caryn Hartglass:
Thank you for being here.

Brian Wendel:
Thank you.

Transcribed 12/27/2013 by Sabrina Benitez

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  1 comment for “Brian Wendel and Lee Fulkerson, Forks Over Knives

  1. January 26, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    I am Director of Wellness for a hospital based company in Miami and for decades I have been an advocate of a plant based diet and I appreciate the film.

    Can someone put me in touch with Mr. Fulkerson so I can use his trailer within a future wellness site to help empower people to watch the film, to purchase the book and to begin to understand how valuable consuming a plant based diet can be,

    Thank You Gerald

    310 497 7904

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