October 2016

Beyond the Cloud: A Documentary Film


More Documentary Films about Vaping Finally Emerging

By Tony Ottomanelli II

I have always wondered why there aren’t more people attempting to produce documentary films about the vaping phenomenon.

It’s not an easy venture to execute, but it is surely an adventure beneficial to any willing to contribute. Thus, I was under the assumption when I began researching possible vaping documentaries that there would be a long list.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some exquisite 10-15 minute short documentaries that covered vaping, but many of them just seemed like promotional videos or a plea to the general public to show how fantastic vaping truly is, which is very entertaining and commendable. However, where were all the balanced feature films that were produced under logical viewpoints?

It was a question that went unanswered. That is until I met Ghyslain Armand from the Vaping Post: www.vapingpost.com. Armand is the filmmaker behind a soon-to-be-released feature length documentary, which investigates answers about why vaping has become such a complicated issue.

The title of his film is “Beyond The Cloud.” The film was fully financed by the VAPEXPO, where Armand had already spent a few years of his professional career. Since 2013, Armand was in charge of the Trades Fair Conferences held at the VAPEXPO in Paris.

As a matter of fact, vaping personality Phil Busardo makes a brief appearance in the film. So, Busardo interviewed Armand on one of his YouTube videos. Busardo says he remembers meeting Armand at the EXPO in Paris a couple years back and was very impressed with Armand’s level of professionalism—especially with how he was able to showcase the overall appearance of the
conferences portion in the VAPEXPO Trades Fair.

What is most important about this film is that its creator did not make it with the intention of generating large amounts of money in return.

“It’s a free movie,” Armand explains. He also points out that, “This is not a film based on pure advocacy—we are not seeking out some hidden truth. We’re simply illustrating an exploration of why vaping is so complicated.”

He added, “Basically, to reveal the complexity of the debate and hoping people learn from it in some way.”

I asked Armand to summarize his film in one sentence. As challenging as this might seem, he quickly responded by saying, “The story of smokers who don’t want to die.”

After hearing this answer to what I expected would be a difficult question to reply to, I was beginning to understand; this was going to be quite an undertaking
for a filmmaker to execute properly, as if it was going to be a kind of documentary unlike any other than we may be used to seeing.

After asking Armand what his primary motivators were to make this film, he told me that after setting up the conferences for the VAPEXPO in France, it seemed to appear as if the audience members were not very attentive. “So I told Patrick, my boss at VAPEXPO, let’s try to reinvent this and think outside the box.”

Patrick then told Armand to think of a plausible idea and write

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it down on paper, then type up a budgetary explanation for where he would need to travel and what he would attempt to accomplish.

Armand tells the brief story of a woman in the film who was diagnosed with lung cancer from years of smoking. Needless to say, she switched to vaping and so her story was, according to Armand, “very touching and has the potential to generate a lot of empathy and emotion among the viewers of this film.”

Armand recalls one of the times he spoke with a doctor in France, who told him something truly interesting. “When you speak with experts, the one’s who are against vaping, are the one’s who don’t spend much time around smokers,” Armand said. It is obvious that this was a statement by the doctor that resonated with Armand a great idea.

For the purposes of this particular film, Armand, along with his videographer, Sebastian Duijndam, traveled to shoot footage in France, Switzerland, and Poland. They also travelled to the U.S. in order to interview individuals in California and New York, including some key representatives from Philip Morris International (PMI).

It’s worth mentioning that it took Armand nearly six months to get an interview. Considering this, he explored the stance of the California Public Health Department’s Still Blowing Smoke campaign and the opposing ‘Not Blowing Smoke’ movement that is at odds with the California’s Public Health Department and has become a mouthpiece for the vapor product industry.

Armand used a number of effective methods to discover what people thought of vaping. In some cases, he would simply just stroll up to random people walking around populated urban areas in order to find some answers, or to just ask people if they even knew what vaping actually was.

Armand says that there are so many people being affected by the vaping phenomenon, that it tends to become unclear where people stand on the issue.

“Just as much as us vapers are advocating and trying to make the world a better place, those who oppose vaping are essentially doing the same thing through their eyes—that’s just their way of thinking.”

“This is their way of making the world better, they’re trying to do their jobs and support their own lifestyles and livelihoods.”

Armand explained the complexity behind many of the answers he’d receive when asking ordinary people on the street what they thought about vaping and whether they believed vapor products were more toxic than traditional tobacco products.

In the teaser trailer for “Beyond The Cloud,” we are shown clips of people responding to the toxicity question Armand was asking of them. Some of these ordinary people replied “I think that thing is more toxic,” when referring to vapor products.

Some other comments consisted of “If they want to poison themselves with it, let them.” which after hearing this, I wish the FDA held the same mindset. Even though I do not agree with the concept that vaping is akin to the act of poisoning, I just would rather hear the FDA say something like, “If they want to do that stuff, let them.”

Another man’s comments to Armand, who held a vape pen and an ordinary tobacco cigarette as visual aides during his interviews, said that he thought it was best to avoid vaping entirely.

I told Armand that I wish I was able to join him as he set out to make his documentary of exploration because this seems like it was an extraordinary learning experience.

Without hesitation, Armand agreed that it was indeed a very eye opening experience and he realized this was far more complicated than he initially thought.

“What I learned was that this is about learning how to reorganize our information as a vaping community,” Armand said. “As vapers, how do we get non-vapers to empathize and relate to where we are coming from? We have to reorganize all of the information, because this has become a very complicated issue.”

He added, “I learned that you must put yourself in the state of mind where you have to explain something very complicated in the simplest way.” After hearing this, I realized that I was hearing a pro vaping stance I’ve never considered or heard before my interview with the documentarian.

I agree with Armand’s concept due to the fact that since the announcement of the FDA regulations, I’ve witnessed a number of advocates really step up their efforts, yet what I’ve also noticed is that there has been a number of businesses within the industry who have simply decided to close down shop and forget this industry ever existed.

It is very frustrating to see working Americans giving up on their dreams and walking away from what had been their livelihoods.

Regardless, Armand continued to explain what he had learned, and proceeded by saying, “As someone who has been writing about vaping for five years… making the film allowed me the opportunity to really hear the other side of the story and that people who are non-vapers or those who are not advocating on behalf of the industry are all genuinely good people merely doing what they think is right.

Considering this, I asked

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Armand if he felt that the information being expressed by those opposing the vapor movement was still misleading the public in a very dangerous way.

“I can tell you that they are not involved with misleading the public in some sort of conspiracy, these ideas they have are just a portion of a collective mindset that is easily misinterpreted as spreading misinformation and lies,” Armand said.

“Perhaps these ideas do sound very much like a series of lies, but in most cases their claims are just a reflection of what they believe to be the truth,” he continued.

To that, all I can say is “wow” simply because I certainly came to experience a realization.

I’m a vaper who writes about vaping and I particularly enjoy writing about all the misleading information that is being spread relentlessly from the inside out. I too am that person and just as much as I am frustrated with the people who refuse to hear my argument, I am also reluctant to hear, listen, absorb or perhaps accept any notions that are in opposition to vapor products and the lifestyle it promotes.

As a sociologist, I should know more than most that this type of mindset is always counterproductive. Then again, it seems as if the FDA was so quick to judge the vaping industry and so effortlessly refused any type of compromise to preserve this lifestyle.

As a result, many American vapers see this type of bureaucratic reaction and then tend to latch onto it by reacting in the same undiplomatic fashion. It seems as if we are not advocating for our cause properly—or are we? It’s difficult to tell. Armand was absolutely correct; this is far more complex than many of us realize.

We need to adopt the same collective mindset with a clear, concise and more simplified message allowing everyone to better relate to our cause. I feel like we, as vapers, are complicating this debate and further pressing issues that may not be worth the effort.

Some ideas should be left alone, others should be embraced. We all just need to better unify our efforts and not be so divided.

As a film, “Beyond The Cloud” is beneficial for the viewers of this film to know that most of this film is in subtitles as Armand interviews quite a few French speaking citizens, yet at the same time, there is also quite a bit of

It’s worth noting that if you intend to watch the “Beyond The Cloud” documentary most of the film will be subtitled, as Armand interviews quite a few French speaking citizens, yet as the same time there is also quite a bit of English speakers featured in the film as well.

The film will be officially shown at the VAPEXPO in Paris, a special Saturday night screening is planned for professionals on September 24, at the conferences portion of this notorious trades fair. Then of course it will be immediately released to the public and made available for viewing on YouTube.

To watch the teaser trailer for “Beyond The Cloud,” please visit the following link: www.vapingpost.com/2015/12/04/documentary-trailer-beyond-the-cloud/