Q&A with Filmmaker Adriana Marchione

Adriana Marchione MA, REAT, RSMT has been involved in the arts for over thirty years as a filmmaker, dancer, photographer and is internationally recognized in her work as a movement-based expressive arts therapist and educator. Since 2002, Adriana has taught and directed programs at Tamalpa Institute, California Institute of Integral Studies, WHEAT Institute in Canada and founded her own wellness center in San Francisco. She has presented her creative healing approach with a focus on addiction, eating disorders, trauma and grief, at festivals, conferences, and treatment centers including South by Southwest, Studio le théâtre du Corps in Paris, National Council on Drug and Alcohol Addiction, and the prestigious Commonwealth Club. Over the last decade, she has been making documentary films including When the Fall Comes (2014) based on her own life story encountering intimate grief and loss. Adriana recently completed The Creative High, a feature documentary featuring artists who have faced addiction that illustrates the transformative role of art to support recovery. Notably, she received the Artist of the Year Award from In Recovery Magazine in 2016.


Q. If you are in recovery, what was your drug of choice? When did you stop using?
A. I have been in long term recovery for 29 years. Alcohol was my drug of choice, it gave me the highs and lows that I needed to cope with life, and allowed me to let go of my anxiety, my insecurity, and my inhibitions. I got sober when I was 24 years of age.

Q. Do you think addiction is an illness, disease, a choice, or a wicked twist of fate?
A. Addiction is a disease, one that affects us mentally, emotionally and physically. I also have experienced it as a soul loss, that takes us away from our true selves. 

Q. If you meditate, tell us a little bit about your practice and how it helps in daily life. 
A. I meditate every day for a short time (5-10 minutes) as part of my recovery practice. I have been doing this for so long that it is second nature for me now. It offers me a pause, a time to focus on my spiritual life and start the day with a relaxed and positive perspective. 

Q. Where did you grow up?
A. I was born in Washington, D.C. and then lived in many places throughout my childhood including Jamaica, Norway, Connecticut and spend most of my formative years in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Q.  From what school or teacher did you learn the most?
A. I studied and then taught for years at the movement-based expressive arts therapy institution called the Tamalpa Institute. The work of Tamalpa helped me re-claim my creative life in recovery, come to the decision to support creatives and people in recovery, and formed a career that I cherish. 

Q. If you had an extra million dollars, which charity would you donate it to?
A. If I had an extra million to spare, I would donate it to environmental causes. My favorite charity where I donate every year is the Nature Conservancy. I am very inspired to see how they support natural habitats and find sustainable ways to help endangered plants, landscapes and animals. 

Q. Who is your favorite poet?
A. Mary Oliver

Q. What does recovery or sobriety mean to you? How do you define it?
A. Recovery is a re-birth and an incredible transformation into a new way of life. Recovery is the foundation of my life and everything stems from there. Recovery has allowed me to reshape my life as a person and as an artist. 

Q. If you were putting together a time capsule from the past 2 years, what 5 things would you put in it?
A. 1) Copies of the films I have created and directed. 2) Pictures of my loved ones. 3) Newspaper articles that describe the big events that have happened including things to celebrate and things that we have endured. 4) Pressed flowers and leaves from the San Francisco Bay Area. 5) Books on arts practice. 

Q. Are you more inclined to believe in UFO’s or life after death, or both?
A. UFO’s? I have always been skeptical and a non believer. Life after death is a mystery to me. However, I do I believe that there is an intelligent universe with forms of life beyond what we could imagine.

Q. Do you believe in God or a Higher Power?
A. Yes!

Q. What book(s) have you read more than once?
A. Coaching the Artist Within: Advice for Writers, Actors, Visual Artists, and Musicians by Eric Maisel

Q. Do you have any children?
A. No biological children but I have raised children as a stepmother. And, I have creativity mentored so many people as an arts therapist, teacher, and creativity coach over the years that I often call myself an ‘art mom’.

Q. What is your biggest or littlest pet peeve?
A. At the moment, one of my big pet peeves is the challenge I have experienced as a recovering professional in the face of the growing use of psychedelics as therapy. I am in full support of these alternative treatments however I have seen the lure and the engagement in some of these psychedelic treatments be detrimental to people with addictions and in recovery. I strongly believe there needs to be more education and disclaimers to consider the affects on people with addictions. 

Q. Who has had the biggest influence on you throughout your life?
A. My father has had a huge influence on me. He was a nutritional anthropologist who devoted his life to service and supporting people in developing countries. He also was a deeply spiritual person. 

Q. What books are you reading now?
A. Drop the Rock 

Q. What is your favorite radio show, news show, podcast?
A. WTF Podcast with Marc Maron. I have been listening to his podcast for years. The podcast combines things that I love the most – recovery, art, reflection, comedy and people’s life stories. 

Q. Are you binge watching any TV series? If so which ones?
A. Better Call Saul!

Q. Who is your favorite director?
A. Jane Campion

Q. What is your favorite city?
A. I love San Francisco since I’ve lived here so long and I feel like I’m part of the fabric of the city. However I adore Zurich in Switzerland. It is one of my favorite places to visit. 

Q. What is your favorite restaurant?
A. Mandalay in San Francisco is an incredible place that serves Burmese food. 

Q. What is the best piece of advice someone gave you?
A. When I was going through a period of extreme grief after losing my husband and father in a short period of time, I wanted to express myself creativity but felt extremely blocked. One of my mentors in the field of expressive arts therapy suggested that it was a time to take in art and be nourished by creative expression vs. making art myself. That gave me permission to heal and come back to my art expression when I had focus and energy again. Five years later this resulted in my first film that shared my grief journey through dance and poetry, ‘When the Fall Comes’ (www.whenthefallcomes.com).

Q. What is the best piece of advice you’ve given someone else?
A. Creative expression has the capacity to hold our pain to the fullest extent that we can let go and allow ourselves to be honest and real with our emotions, struggles and life difficulties. Art is a spiritual tool that is limitless. 

Q. What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?
A. I do think that getting sober was one of the greatest risks I have ever taken in my life. On the one hand it was imposed on me because I had hit a wall emotionally and my life was falling apart, yet I had to do the work and take the risk to change my life by committing to the scary and unknown path of recovery. 

Q. Have you ever been arrested and if so, for what? Leave blank if this is too personal.
A. I was never arrested. 

Q. 35. What is the proudest moment in your life?
A. Showing my film, The Creative High documentary for the first time to an in-person audience at the San Francisco Independent festival in February of 2022.