Thursday, June 11, 2009

Can a film end a disease?

Several weeks ago a wonderful person named Claire Collier passed away from ALS.

If you're not aware, ALS - often referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease - is a nuero-degenerative disease that robs people of the ability to speak, move, and care for themselves. It is at once agonizingly slow, taking years to completely pilfer a person's life, and blisteringly fast. Yet as horrible as the physical effects are, there is more to it.

Ask any person with ALS, and they will tell you one of the most frustrating things they endure is people seem to define them strictly by their disease.

In a recent conversation, a lawyer living with ALS explained: “People sometimes walk up to my wheelchair and without even looking at me will ask my nurse’s aide how I’m doing. They proceed to have a conversation about me as if I weren’t there… as if I didn’t really exist.”

ALS is a thief, but what it cannot do is rob people of their personality. It doesn't steal their love of friends and family, their desire to hug their kids, have a drink, tell a joke, scratch an itch, watch a ballgame or a movie, play poker, or be seen, heard and involved.

Claire was tireless, outgoing and funny. It was impossible not to feel welcome in her presence. She met with Senators to advocate for patient's rights, and toasted anyone who fought the fight. When she got too weak to hold a glass of wine she had her friends drop a straw in her glass.

Losing people like Claire to this disease is unacceptable, so we're doing something about it. The idea is called Project Right Angle and it's based on a fundamental insight that others seem to have missed.

Project Right Angle is a non-profit initiative being founded to raise awareness and enlighten public perception towards people living with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) and Muscular Dystrophy. It was founded on the notion that storytelling can do more than entertain -- it can inspire, transform and motivate action.

Our goal is to bring ALS research to the forefront of the public's attention by changing the paradigm by which messages are made, delivered and most importantly, received. We will do this through short, story-driven films about people with ALS distributed via the internet.

Because these short films (none longer than 3 minutes), tell stories about people instead of a disease, they are often humorous, sometimes irreverent, and always inspiring -- such as the young woman who maneuvers her wheelchair through a crowded mall looking for a bargain, but instead finds a most unlikely friend.

We've already got a dozen scripts ready to go, and a team of filmmakers ready to shoot. We're raising money to get this started right now. If you have something to say, or if you wish to help out financially, drop us a note. The official PRA web site will be launching soon, but in the mean time we can be reached at

So, about the title of this post: Can a film end a disease? Unfortunately no. But the people who watch, share, and create the films can, and that's the point. We'll see you on set.