2 Brothers, 1 vision... 0 sight

For more information, visit drivingblindfilm.com

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Latest Festival update

Check out our interview with The Chain NYC Film Festival!!


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.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Domani VisionFest, June 26-30, 2013

I had the great pleasure of being able to attend the screening of our little film at Domani VisionFest on Thursday, which was sold out! And on top of that, the festival had to decided to have some of the proceeds of our block of films and monies collected during the festival donated to the CRF.

The Tribeca Cinemas is this totally awesome little venue that has it's own bar in it, so it makes movies that much better, and me a blind drunk! :)

We had been nominated for two awards, one for best documentary, and one for cinematography, which meant I was going to be back up here on Sunday for the awards ceremony. (I had to be back in DC for Friday and Saturday for work obligations, plus my parents were coming up to see me, and attend the Vision Conference, more on that later)

After Thursday's screening I was whisked away to a comedy show, that my friend Rebecca was producing. And got to see Rain Pryor and Rick Overton doing stand up, which was pretty darn cool. I grew up watching her on Head of the Class, and I always remember him as one of the Brownies from Willow. After the show, Rick came over to the Creek and the Cave and hung out with us until the wee hours of the morning. He was a very cool and humble guy. Totally unlike me. :D

I headed back for DC on Friday, as my parents were heading up to DC to attend the Vision Conference. On Saturday, my parents were interviewed about Driving Blind for the Foundation Fighting Blindness' website, you can read and hear what they had to say here.

As the weekend came to a close, I said goodbye to my parents as they headed back to GA, and I got on a train to head back to NYC for the awards ceremonies for VisionFest. We had been nominated for two awards from the festival, but there were all two awards that they festival was giving out that had no nominations, they just chose who the winner was out of all the films in this year's festival. The first award given to films was the Special Jury Prize for Social Consciousness, which WE WON!!!!!!!!!

And even though we did not win the two awards we were nominated for (but the winners TOTALLY deserved to win those), we were and still are super excited to have won this prize. It was a great festival, full of fantastic and dedicated filmmakers. I look forward to seeing these films again on the big screen or on DVD sometime in the near future.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

BHFF - Day 3

We woke up early(ish) with the intention to drive out and visit Crazy Horse. For those who don't know, crazy horse is Mountt Rushmore for native Americans. Apparently, you can fit the entirety of Mount Rushmore into Crazy Horse's forehead.

It was a beautiful sight to see, and the museum/gift shop was absolutely fantastic, displaying the history of Crazy Horse's construction (which is still going on today!) and such beautiful artifacts from the area as they have been continuously trying to finish the monument.

The we headed back to Hill City to catch some more films at the Harley Davidson store.

Shoot the Moon - A short student film about people dealing with loss, and coming back from it. Tod and I said that if you could follow the Ellen Burstyn character from Requiem for a Dream, you would have this film.

Little Red - A feature film that retells the story of Little Red Riding Hood with all human characters. A character study in just how creepy people can be. It was a hard movie to watch for many reasons.

Muchacha con Paisaje (Girl in Landscape) - a Spanish short film about the last five minutes of human existence due to a super solar flare, and what one woman thinks of in those remaining precious moments.

After the block of movies, we were staving so we went over to the Bumpin Buffalo, to grab some lunch. And wouldn't you know it, they had mountain oysters!
It comes with all the sauce you can dip!
And they still taste the same as they did in the movie. Laura decided to give in and try some.
And she loved them!!
 I also ordered the buffalo bratwurst, which was so good! If you get a chance, you have to try it.

After lunch, we headed over to the Black Hills Institute for a reception they were having. This place is a dinosaur museum! We did some more schmoozing and shopping, and then I needed a nap, and some time to digest all that buffalo meat so we headed back to the hotel for a bit.

Later there was another screening of two films at the Hill City High School.

Herd in Iceland - a short documentary about the wild horses of Iceland. It was a really great film to watch.

Running Wild: The Life of Dayton O. Hyde - A feature length documentary (which took over 11 years to film) about a man who created a sanctuary for the wild horses in the Dakotas.

After the screening there was another reception at the Prairie Berry Winery, just outside of Hill City. We milled around, sharing with people and trying all the local wines and cheeses. NOM NOM NOM.

After this long day, we shuffled off to (Buffalo) our hotel to recoup for the next day's activities!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Black Hills Film Festival - Day 2

So, with our first day behind us, delicious new meats tried, new friends made, and all our festival swag loaded, we did some exploring today.

While Tod and Darci went off to the badlands, Laura and I milled around Rapid City. For those who don't know, they also call Rapid City the city of presidents. On just about every street corner, there is a statue of one of the presidents, from Washington up to Clinton, at least as far as I have seen.
This is even better than the Hall of Presidents at Disney!

Around 5 o'clock, there was a VIP party for the filmmakers at the Vertex bar at the top of our hotel, and we did some schmoozing. Tod had made some fliers and we were passing them up to the people, trying to drum up more turn out for the film's screening on Saturday.
This is all Tod's magnificent work!
After the party, we headed across the street to the Elks Theater, to watch the block of movies for that night. It was a beautiful theater and the films were very fun.

An absolutely beautiful theater, right in the heart of the city.
Three Doors Down - a cute little short film about love blossoming in a neighborhood over the course of youth to adulthood.

Apart - a beautiful animated short about what one is willing to give up for the thing they love.

Good Dog - The story of one family member's willingness to sacrifice to save the others, told from the perspective of the family pet.

Tiger Eyes - a full length film dealing with loss of loved ones and finding the strength to let go of the past. I found afterward two thing about this film, it is based on a Judy Blume book, and it was directed by Judy Blume's son, Lawrence.

Derby Kings - A short film about two brothers who have lost their father, and are seeking to relive their father's glory through one last demolition derby.

It was a great night of films, Q&A, and partying. South Dakota knows how to throw a festival.

Hanging out after the first block of movies and meeting the people behind them. Here we have (from L to R) Ella (whose last name I never got), Lawrence Blume (Director of Tiger Eyes, AND Judy 'Superfudge' Blume's son), little ole me, and Angelique Midthunder (Stunt Coordinator of Tiger Eyes)

Me with Tatanka Means, co-star of Tiger Eyes, and Russell Means' son. (Look him up, he was an activist for Native American Rights and film star in his own right)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

This is a video from our brothers to the north, and Dr. Ian McDonald, who is trying hard to help find a cure for Choroideremia. For more information, you can check out choroideremia.ca or curechm.org