Host a Screening

A public screening of Laboring Under An Illusion might be a great benefit event for your birth or media literacy organization, and it’s a great educational tool for your community.  There is NO FEE for screening this film.  Find posters and a press release below.

Fun Idea: You might like to organize a panel of your local experts to lead a discussion with the audience after the film. Also, for additional fundraising, you might consider purchasing DVD’s in bulk and selling them locally to benefit your organization.

To advertise your public screening and list it in’s calendar and social network, or to invite  to introduce and discuss her film at an event, contact us.

The three posters are in PDF format and US Letter size. To open and print these files, Adobe Acrobat Reader is necessary. If you do not have Acrobat Reader, you can download it for free at

Poster color poster full color poster bw

Poster BW-Color

Poster Full Color

Poster BW only

Press Release


TV and movie birth scenes misinform real moms

Breathe!  Push!  Hurry!  Give me drugs!  Oh no!  I love you!  I hate you!  Help!  Are we bonding yet?

There are more pregnant women watching TV birth scenes than attending childbirth classes.  So when labor starts, they may be surprised by the real thing.

A documentary film, “Laboring Under An Illusion: Mass Media Childbirth vs. The Real Thing,” contrasts actual birth footage with the fictionalized commercial version.  In over 100 video clips, anthropologist Vicki Elson explores media-generated myths about childbirth.

“I tried to make a documentary that lets people make up their own minds,” says Elson. “I also tried to make it funny, because the subject can be so intense.  If you watch TV and movie birth scenes, you can get wrapped up in the drama, so I juxtaposed the clips so that the new context lets you look at it from a little distance and see how you’ve been manipulated.”

“I Love Lucy was the first of many madcap dashes to the hospital,” says Elson.  “But in real life, labor takes an average of 12 hours. On TV, laboring women lie in bed and complain.  In real life, birth works a whole lot better when women are upright, walking, moving freely, even dancing and making lots of noise.  Recently, Juno, Waitress, and Knocked Up offered both compassion and misinformation about dealing with labor.”

Elson says she is particularly concerned about the large numbers of women staying home from childbirth classes and watching “reality” shows. “Those shows will take footage of a nice, normal birth, and then give it scary music, tilted camera angles, and narration about ‘the most dangerous journey in life.’  They’ll do anything to keep us tuned in till the next commercial!”

As a childbirth educator since 1983, Elson observes how culture affects birth experiences, and she says it’s getting worse.  “I’m seeing healthy, smart women getting really scared by the silly, scary images served up by the profit-driven media.  I made my film for women in the US, but I’m getting mail from all over the world – apparently the film is relevant in Malaysia and Madagascar because we export so much of our media.  In reality, birth is hard work, usually simple, rarely complicated, but always miraculous and unforgettable.”

“Laboring Under An Illusion” will be screened [date, time, place, cost / donation / benefit]. For more information, visit [your website or phone number] and  # # #

Contact: [Your name and contact info],

[Suggestions: Use the headline as the subject line in your email.  Paste the press release into the body of the email.]

Introducing the film to your audience, here’s an intro you can use if you like:

From the filmmaker:

Hello [your town] !

You are lucky indeed to have a resource like the [your organization] in your neighborhood!  Look around – these are generous-spirited people, offering fresh perspectives, sharing the wisdom of their research and their personal experiences.

They want to give you a gift that you won’t find inside your television set or your computer.  Ask them questions!  Find out why they took the time to make this happen.

These nice people care about YOU having a healthier, happier, less scary birth experience.  They’re offering information that can help you lay the foundation for your life as a joyful parent.  They want to offer you alternatives to the warped ideas about your body that our deranged mass media churn out on a daily basis.

Childbirth is an opportunity for trauma or for transformation, and it is our responsibility as parents to make informed choices about how we will care for ourselves when we’re pregnant, how we will prepare ourselves for the powerful experience of birth, where and with whom we will give birth, and how we will care for ourselves, our babies, and our growing families.  Seek out skillful and friendly support, learn all you can about becoming a skillful and confident birth-giver, and then let go into whatever happens with all your love.

I made this film because over the years, my pregnant clients were getting more and more scared of labor.  Here’s to less fear and more fun.  Here’s to your neighbors in [your organization] for bringing you together tonight!

Vicki Elson, MA, CCE


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