Daniel Lusko, a recent Founders Circle member, has a passion for cinema and started his film career at the age of 14. By the age of 21 he was directing documentaries based on New York Times Bestsellers with world leaders. We got the opportunity to catch up with him for a discussion which you can read here.
You are an immensely creative individual having worked on numerous powerful projects. What has your most favourite project been in the past?
It's true, I've been fortunate to work with some extraordinary people, and do some exciting projects. While I have so many favourites one that stands out is a project I wrote/directed which is not yet completed called "Quandary." We are in talks with Netflix for distribution. It's based on true events and it allowed me to train for years with former top operatives from the CIA, and senior FBI officials. In the story, a CIA spy loses his family in a bombing, and is forced to start a new life. He struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTS)) and a desire to avenge his family. This is particularly difficult for a CIA spy, because they invest their lives into a career that offers no recognition, or veterans’ benefits.
It's very interesting to me what a mind with PTSD might go through- in this instance, being completely reset with no trace of the past, and at the same time walking away with lethal intelligence skills. These operatives immersed me in years of vetting and training in preparation to direct the film. It takes 20 million dollars to train just one CIA operative. It allowed me to collaborate with some incredible actors in the writing process like Christian Bale and a host of other amazing talents who contributed to the project. Some of these people have become like brothers to me, and I feel like with all movies it changes you as you go through it. The immersion into the spy world has given me a deeper and more intimate understanding of the humanity behind these people who put their lives on the line silently with no recognition whatsoever to keep us safe each and every day all over the world.
It sounds like a gripping story! Considering that films and books do have the power of commanding attention, what role do you think can the arts play in creating an interest international development work?
I'd like to see people in impoverished areas of the international world, particularly in South Asia, benefit from understanding that the same mindset that allowed me to make Hollywood movies is one they can use to change their circumstances by first changing the way they think about things. As I made movies a deeper passion has emerged to inspire others who are struggling to learn how to use their own imaginative potential.
My book Imagination Creates Reality is designed to help people bridge that gap with some simple and accessible tools to help people that who may be struggling so they can begin to form a positive mindset and a better life for themselves. I believe the arts and entertainment world can be used as a symbol to open the doors of people's minds, so they can begin to believe in what they can do.
You speak extremely passionately about the importance of good mental health; is that a cause close to your heart?
Mental health has been a growing passion for me. Every year over 800,000 people die from suicide in South Asia. This is heart-breaking. If these people knew the limitless potential of their own minds this would not happen. Unfortunately, food and water alone will not solve this problem. You can change someone's circumstances but if they don't change their mind it will not help. The cause is the way they think about things. If these same people were able to be taught how to develop a positive mindset their minds would function significantly better and their ability to begin to reshape their circumstances would as well.
Albert Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." When someone truly grasps the power of their own imagination, they can go from someone from who is suicidal to someone who is happy and productive. These patterns don't change overnight, but they can change. These patterns of mental turmoil are the breeding grounds for every crime, disease and social catastrophe on the planet.
We must address the internal problem, and knowledge alone will not do that. By doing this we will solve problems before they start. Kids no matter where they live need to be trained to develop a positive mindset, practicing gratitude, becoming aware of their thoughts, and doing set aside time for the imagination.
I'd like for every teacher and student in the international community to read my book Imagination Creates Reality. The words of Richard Hawkes Chief Executive of the British Asian Trust may ring more loudly than my own: "Imagination Creates Reality is a truly inspiring read that really provokes the reader to think and believe in a different and creative way. As an experienced social sector Chief Executive I am always looking for different ways to both inspire colleagues and also to encourage young people to believe that they can change the world for the better. I will be strongly recommending this book to all of them as it will help them stretch their imagination way beyond the artificial boundaries we can all set up."
Do you think the way in which the British Asian Trust engages with the British Asian diaspora in the UK can be replicated for the diaspora in the USA?
I believe The British Asian Trust's open-minded and innovative approach is key to success. The problem is that in the USA sometimes we take the opposite approach and we think we know it all. In the US too often seek to come in and indoctrinate people with our own beliefs. We must first fully understand the problem fully before attempting to solve it. If we're going to solve problems like this we must eliminate our own ego's need for credit, and we must be willing to serve alongside with everyone regardless of affiliation or skin colour if we're going to make a lasting difference. In the USA we have much to glean from the British Asian Trust indeed.
What dreams do you have for South Asia?
We need to enable children in South Asia with the tools to plant good seeds in the garden of their mind by training them to use their own imagination. Otherwise, we can deliver all the aid in the world and it will not solve the problem. That is if we only feed, clothe and give knowledge through well-meaning educational avenues we are merely solving the symptoms and leaving the root of the problem to sprout up again and again. I believe if everyone really had the opportunity to grasp the simple principles in my book Imagination Creates Reality we could completely transform the world for good. I'd like to see a copy of this book in the hands of every individual in South Asia struggling with mental health problems.