Thursday, August 3, 2017

At the Blackfish: Live Premiere

(This blog was originally posted on July 5, 2016)

After the screening I got to meet several of the former SeaWorld trainers featured
in Blackfish: Dean Gomersall (left), me, Samantha Berg and Carol Ray

Photo by Lisa McDougald

Many people who know me are aware that I am passionate about animal conservation--especially ending captivity of orcas (killer whales). On Friday, July 1, 2016 I enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the premiere screening of Blackfish Live at the Montalb├ín theater in Hollywood. I had already seen the film several times, including once in the cinema and many viewings on CNN and DVD. However, this event was extra-special because Jeff Beal, who composed the movie’s fabulous score, conducted the Hollywood Chamber Orchestra as they played the soundtrack to accompany the film. In addition, four of the former SeaWorld trainers featured in Blackfish attended the screening and were on-hand to discuss the film’s impact since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013.

I didn’t even expect to be able to attend the event when I first heard about it a couple weeks ago. While I always wanted to go, by the time I got around to investigating availability of a ticket I doubted there would be any seats left. Then Dean Gomersall posted a cheery “Hope to see you all there tomorrow evening” comment with the event’s link on Facebook. Of course, I “liked” the post. I knew it was now or never to get a seat, so I asked if he knew whether any tickets were still available. Long story short, Mr. Gomersall sent me a message and comped two tickets to the event for me. You could have blown me over with a feather at his generosity. We had never even met before, beyond Facebook!

The next afternoon, one of my dear friends and I braved the pre-holiday traffic on the 405 and 101 freeways driving to Hollywood to attend the screening. In addition to being excited about finally being able to meet him and several of the other SeaWorld trainers featured in the movie, we were thrilled to be able to see and hear the Blackfish score performed live. I had bought and downloaded the soundtrack off iTunes as soon as it was available last year, and I often listen to it driving in my car or participating in social media in the evenings. Two of the pieces—“Orca in the Wild” and “Blackfish”—always give me goose-bumps, and I couldn’t wait to hear the music played live. (Needless to say, I have also had the soundtrack booming out of my iPod a lot since last weekend.)

Lisa and I were happy to see that the theater was packed. Before the movie, concertmaster Mark Robertson asked the audience who had seen Blackfish before that night. Many people, including my friend, had never seen the movie before. The rest of the audience (including me) had watched it many times. This dichotomy said a lot about the staying power and enduring influence that Blackfish has had on the public. When the film came out, director/writer/producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite said her original intention in making the movie was to explore why Tilikum, a SeaWorld orca, killed trainer Dawn Brancheau during a show. The rest is history, as marine biologists and former orca and marine mammal trainers stepped forward to provide a darker picture about what captive cetaceans endure at marine parks. 

As evidenced last Friday evening, the power of the movie’s message of compassion for the plight of these magnificent mammals continues to move people. It has even inspired a worldwide, popular anti-captivity movement dubbed “The Blackfish Effect.” According to the post-movie video featuring personal testimonials from several of the former trainers featured in the movie and live commentary from Samantha Berg, Mr. Gomersall, Carol Ray and Dr. Jeff Ventre, this phenomenon shows no sign of fading away anytime soon. Without the courage of these and other trainers and marine-mammal experts who daily share their experiences and observations to raise awareness about the plight of captive orcas, these animals would probably continue to suffer in silence and darkness.

Thank you so much, Mr. Gommersal, for inviting us to experience Blackfish: Live!

 Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy®, please visit
(c) 2017

In Honor of Dr. K.

(This blog was originally posted on July 6, 2016)

Photo by Rick Hustead

One of the most interesting components of my hypnotherapy training at the Hypnosis Motivation Institute was video “classes” featuring HMI founder John Kappas, Ph.D. Dr. Kappas passed away a few years before I started my training; however, these tapes (now digital files, I’m sure) made it feel like he was still right there guiding future generations in his hypnotherapy method. Instructors at the hypnotherapy college continue to reference his methods and philosophies in their lectures.

The first time I “saw” Dr. Kappas was when I watched the 101-5 and 101-6 videos about his Emotional and Physical Sexuality concept. I had just completed the 101 mini-course about hypnosis and decided to pursue the hypnotherapy certification. My instructor suggested that everyone who planned to do the certification should watch these videos before the next (201) section of classes began in a few weeks. Ever the over-eager student, I reserved the videos and a viewing-booth right away and settled in to be amazed. Boy was I.

The first thing I noticed about Dr. Kappas was his incredible charisma and soft-yet-booming voice. I’m sure—I know—I went into a light trance watching the classes. I also thought he sometimes bore a strong physical resemblance to the late John Thaw, a British actor probably best known for portraying Inspector Morse in the popular television series. I’m sure that factor alone inspired me to “endeavor” to become the best hypnotherapist I could. (Sorry, I had to write that. I’m sure any Inspector Morse fans reading this blog got the pun.)

One of the first techniques I learned during my hypnotherapy training was how to do an inferred arm-raising induction. Dr. Kappas taught and believed this was the most effective way to help a client achieve hypnotic depth. It’s true. I confess that I did forgo the arm-raising induction for a very brief time when I started my practice. But I quickly realized/discovered that the hypnosis I was providing my clients without using this technique was not as intense or successful and quickly incorporated the I.A.-R. back into my hypnotherapy-induction repertoire. 

Dr. Kappas’s models of E. and P. sexuality and E. and P. suggestibility have also become a daily part of my own life. I can’t think of any situation social interaction in which these concepts do not somehow apply; they have certainly helped me to better understand behavior. I liken learning these theories and models to putting a technicolor spin on my psychology background and training. In addition to being a hypnotherapist, Dr. Kappas was also a psychologist; virtually every one of his therapeutic concepts is modeled on psychological theory. For example, did you know that passive-aggression is associated with very early stages of development? To address and change this behavior in hypnotherapy, I would desensitize the client to the various stimuli that trigger the resistance and help the person find more effective ways to express feelings and fulfill unmet needs.

When I look back on my life and various opportunities I have enjoyed, one of the greatest things I have ever done is become a certified hypnotherapist. This career enables me to incorporate the theories about the brain, psychology and emotion to talk directly to the client’s subconscious mind to help the person change unwanted behaviors beliefs and behaviors. Hypnosis is effective, drug-free and it has been around for centuries. And thanks (many, many thanks) to Dr. John Kappas’s teachings and the Hypnosis Motivation Institute, I am now part of this wonderful tradition and can help you achieve vocational and avocational self-improvement goals.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit 

© 2017