a documentary short by Jason Hanasik

How To Make A Pearl



For 53 years, John Kapellas frolicked underneath the bright sky of the American West. Without warning, he started breaking out in rashes and feeling as if his entire body was on fire whenever he was exposed to light. Diagnosed with a rare photosensitivity to the entire spectrum of light, Kapellas (now 63) has lived the last decade in darkness. “How To Make A Pearl” explores Kapellas’ current reality, his coping mechanisms, and the shadows in his past.  

Latest News

August 2017: "How to Make a Pearl" has been acquired by The Guardian's Documentaries division.

August 2017: "How to Make a Pearl" has been named a finalist for the 2017 Student Academy Awards!

October 2017: "How to Make a Pearl" has been nominated for the IDA's David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award!

Film festivals

November 2017 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)- International Premiere 

November 2017 DOC NYC- NYC Premiere

September 2017 Camden International Film Festival- North American Premiere

Other Events

Community Screenings will begin in 2018


Community Screenings

Through a Berkeley Film Foundation grant, Filmmaker Jason Hanasik is partnering with Executive Directors of nonprofit mental health organizations and private therapists in 2018 for free community screenings of "How To Make A Pearl" across the United States. 


Trauma Resources

Click the button below to learn more about the therapeutic modality John discusses in the film and how to find a therapist in your area.


John Kapellas

Visit John's personal website and check out more of his artwork!



Intimate, sympathetic but never maudlin, Hanasik’s short film is exquisitely shot and edited, and unfolds with a subtle, enveloping musical rhythm. ‘How To Make A Pearl’ is a gem.
— Edward Guthmann, former San Francisco Chronicle film critic