Sandbox Films, Gamechanger Films Developing Documentary About Dream Surveillance as Part of New Accelerator Award (EXCLUSIVE)

Saelyx Finna, Mia Imani and Laurie Polisky
Courtesy images

Sandbox Films and Gamechanger Films will develop “Under the Dream,” a new documentary feature that will be co-directed and co-produced by Saelyx Finna, Mia Imani and Laurie Polisky. The film is a creative documentary about the uncharted realm of dream technology and the Black-led movement to protect our minds at night. Gamechanger CEO Effie Brown, and Sandbox Film’s Jessica Harrop, head of production and development, and founding director Greg Boustead will be executive producers on the project.  

Sandbox is the documentary studio behind “Fire of Love,” a look at married volcanologists that debuted at Sundance before selling to National Geographic Documentary Films, and Gamechanger Films is the production company behind the upcoming A24 release “The Inspection.”

“Under the Dream” was the recipient of the new creative science nonfiction accelerator, which is a collaboration between Gamechanger and Sandbox. The initiative was launched last year as an open-call award designed to amplify diversity, equity and inclusion in the science documentary space. It includes $50,000 to develop a new nonfiction feature, and provides a full spectrum of creative and practical support from Sandbox and Gamechanger.

Finna, Imani and Polisky came together through their individual work in art and film, and discovered a shared commitment to raising awareness about the significance of dreaming. Their interdisciplinary backgrounds also include work in neuroscience, journalism, Black liberation, organizational change and community organizing. 

“We are inspired by and in conversation with the Radical Rest Movement, neuroethics and neurorights advocacy, contemplative practice and contemplative science, and the myriad artists and dreamworkers across millennia who have honored the dreamscape as a powerful site of discovery, expression, problem-solving, ritual and liberation,” Finna, Imani and Polisky said. “We are members of the Guild of Future Architects, one of the homes for our work with dream tech and Radical Rest.”

“As filmmakers, we believe that sleep and dreams are sacred spaces for personal and collective healing,” they explained. “With ‘Under the Dream,’ we seek to raise questions like: How could tech that interacts with our dreams help or hurt us? Who can afford to dream? How might rest become a central part of racial reparations?”

“Gamechanger Films thrives on expansive storytelling that challenges what we think we know and demands alternative perspectives. ‘Under the Dream’ is undoubtedly a project that will stir many minds to reframe and reimagine their respective places within the universe, and sit with our conceptions of leadership and protection and what that looks like,” said Brown.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate with Mia, Saelyx, Laurie and the Gamechanger team to create something quite unique and exciting, continuing to push the boundaries of science storytelling to explore new realms and new perspective,” added Harrop.

Imani interrogates the ways that disenfranchised communities can heal individual, communal and societal trauma by creating works that live in between the worlds of art and science. This “third-way” mixes unconventional methods (dreams, rituals) and science (ethnography, geography, psychoanalysis) to dream new potential ways of being. Her creative and collaborative work has appeared at the Northwest Film Forum, Seattle Art Museum Lab and Savvy Contemporary, and is expanding into the digital and other interdisciplinary spaces. Her written work has been featured in Cultured Magazine, Contemporary And, Daddy Magazine, Frieze, Hyperallergic and Vice.

Finna has over a decade of experience as a film nonprofit CEO, producer, story and distribution consultant, film programmer, impact producer, and dream tech researcher. As a consultant, Finna has worked with Sundance, AMC, DOC NYC, the Criterion Collection, Film Independent, Cinereach and Academy Award nominees. Previously known as Courtney Sheehan, Saelyx is the former artistic and executive director for Northwest Film Forum, a nonprofit film center and art house theater in Seattle. Finna has presented on the neuroethics of dream tech at the Interaction Design Association and International Association for the Study of Dreams. She produced the narrative feature “Mugri” and is a creator and host of the podcast “Under the Dream.”

Polisky is a filmmaker and podcast producer with a background in neuroscience. She is the director and producer of the feature documentary “Pain Brain,” which follows a mind-body study on chronic pain, on which Laurie was a co-author; the results were published in JAMA Psychiatry. She is also the producer of the mental health podcast “Tell Me About Your Pain” and is a creator and host of the podcast “Under the Dream.” She has worked on films including “The Social Dilemma” and “Classic.”