Detroit PTV documentary to focus on bipolar entrepreneurs

By Dru Sefton

Detroit Public Television has received pre-production funding for a documentary examining how bipolar disorder both hinders and inspires successful business leaders, to be produced by a duPont-Columbia Award winner.

“Very often people with this type of brain wiring have advanced us as a civilization,” said Kristen Fellows, Detroit PTV spokesperson for the project.

Ride the Tiger: Entrepreneurs and Bipolar Disorder (w/t) will profile heads of industry who cope with the unpredictable mental illness, and those who have learned to use its manic highs and depressing lows to their advantage. The film’s title comes from the Chinese proverb, “He who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount,’’ and captures the combination of the exhilaration of the ride and the fear of the sudden crash.

The film centers on Heinz Prechter, a German immigrant in Michigan who founded the successful American Sunroof Co. to supply the auto industry, but committed suicide in 2001 after struggling with the disorder for years.

Producer is Ed Moore, a 2012 duPont-Columbia winner for Detroit PTV’s Beyond the Light Switch. Fellows said that two-hour presentation on energy issues was the station’s first foray into documentary filmmaking and achieved 94 percent carriage.

Fellows declined to specify the amount of funding for Ride the Tiger, which came from a local individual. The station also received a matching grant for up to $200,000.

The station is currently seeking stories of entrepreneurs with bipolar disorder for inclusion in the film, which is scheduled for national release in 2014.

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