(Click on INTERVIEWS, DRIVING BLIND)
Q: What drew you to this story?
A: Driving Blind is the story of two journeys taken by my brother Justin and me – a physical journey around the United States to meet people and see the beautiful sights the country has to offer, as well as an emotional journey to confront and deal with the possibility that one or both of us could go blind sometime in our lifetime.
We originally decided to go on an epic road trip together, and then later came up with the idea to film the trip and make a documentary about the experience. We were fortunate enough to meet the film’s director, Brian Griffo, who pulled together two longtime friends to work as a crew on the trip. The three of them followed us in a crew van for 38 days as we traveled around the periphery of the country (significant because choroideremia attacks peripheral vision). After the trip was over, Brian and I returned to Los Angeles, where we edited and cut the film, finishing it in September 2012.
Q: What was the most unusual/surprising thing the brothers did on the journey?
A: In Portland the crew arranged for a surprise for Justin and me – they booked us time in a sensory deprivation tank. This ended up being a very raw experience for both of us, as the tank forced us to experience true blindness. Confronting the reality of what our condition might lead to was frightening and disturbing, but also ultimately affirmed the greater purpose of the trip, which is to push through obstacles, take risks, and not be held back by perceived or actual limitations.
Q: Describe one episode from the journey that you found particularly inspiring.
A: Meeting with David in Minnesota was amazing. He is essentially completely blind but has an absolutely positive attitude towards his life. It was great to see someone so completely at peace with his condition and filled with happiness. Also, spending time with Eric “Artman” Hartman in New Orleans was very cool. His vision is extremely limited but he speeds around the city at a speedy pace – I had to hurry to keep up with him. He is an artist who still paints even though it takes him much more time to visualize his work due to his condition.
Q: How did the journey change the brothers?
A: I was officially diagnosed with choroideremia several years before our road trip. After my diagnosis (although I had been certain that I had it before hand), I became depressed and withdrawn. I would come home from work and just stay in my apartment feeling sorry for myself and too nervous to go out and experience life. After the trip, I felt much more comfortable putting myself in new situations.
After the trip, Justin decided to take a risk and follow his dream of being a performer. He teaches improv in Washington DC.
Q: The film’s trailer talks about how the brothers lost their sight but gained vision. How so?
A: Our goal in going on the trip and creating Driving Blind was to increase awareness about choroideremia, which is an extremely rare condition, and to promote fundraising for research into the condition, which currently has no treatment and is irreversible. We also wanted to experience the beauty of America while we still could. During the course of the trip we learned we could put ourselves in uncomfortable, new situations and come out the other side having not only survived but secure in the feeling that we tested ourselves and were up to the challenge. For anyone, taking risks can be a difficult thing to do. For a person with limited vision, it can be especially frightening to be in a new place. Forcing ourselves to do just that each and every day of the trip made both of us more confident and more at peace with our situations. Our goal was to take the audience along with us on our trip, and to have people appreciate the beauty and kindness we encountered, and feel the hope for the future that we both experienced.