My docu-drama: another paralysis-related movie

Posted by Michael Collins in Life After Paralysis on July 15, 2016

It would be nice to have more financial resources, and it seems that I have been overlooking an opportunity that might have a fantastic return for a minimal amount of effort. While mulling over choices about how to add to my modest monthly income, it occurs to me that anything to do with movies might be a winner. Producing them would take a big bankroll to begin with, so that is probably out. However, starring in movies could be lucrative, although the paparazzi would be a bit annoying.

I am not much of a movie buff, and never really have been. Over time, covering many decades, I have seen many of the classics but I seldom visit theaters since stadium seating became the norm. My neck and back suffer from tilting my head upwards to watch giant figures jump and whirl across a screen that is far too close for my liking. The nearby theater that had back row seating for wheelchairs closed recently, and I don't believe it will open again in that configuration.

The raucous Dolby sound systems also annoy me, as theater owners must think that everyone in the theater is hard of hearing: if they weren't when they arrived, they probably were when they left. Those theater sound systems are sufficient for any large professional baseball stadium so I prefer to preserve my hearing by avoiding them, and the front row of concerts, whenever possible.

Thankfully cable television and several other means are available for watching recent films in the comfort of my living room at a reasonable price. If I need to replicate the theater experience, I can microwave some popcorn and run a $20 bill through my office shredder to equal what I would probably spend for a night at the movies. Despite my reservations and pointing out all of the drawbacks, millions of people head for their local theaters to watch the latest movies every year. That is why I believe getting into the movie business would be a good choice for me.

From what I have been reading lately, I believe that I should begin by promoting my availability to a filmmaker or corporation that is interested in producing a film about the real life, including love life, of an actual quadriplegic. My purpose in doing that would be to increase awareness of how normal life can be for someone living with any type of paralysis. I have experienced most of the things that other people my age have lived through, and added many more adventures that I consider "unique additions" during the 29 years that I have been using a wheelchair.

I understand that a recent movie has claimed to do that, but, since I haven't seen it and don't intend to, I can't really comment on the quality of that particular film. From what I have heard from many of my peers who have viewed it, I don't feel that it provided an accurate portrayal of the quality of life that my friends and I live.

For most of us, we have chosen to accept paralysis as a way of life. That doesn't mean we love it so much that we wouldn't take another alternative if it became available, as long as that alternative means we could have even more of what we believe is quality of life.

Other than trying to stay healthy and strong while waiting for scientists to develop an elusive cure for what "ails" us, our time is spent in trying to remain in control of the varied lives we live. We also seek enjoyment, good health, comfort, loving relationships, a healthy family life, rewarding employment and the freedom to get out and about whenever and wherever we choose.

A few years ago Clint Eastwood made a movie based on the premise that being paralyzed meant life was not worth living. That is completely counter to everything I believe in, so I didn't waste any money to watch it. That will be my stance on this recently released movie, which remains unnamed and, in my mind and the minds of many of my friends, not worth watching. People interested in learning more about life with paralysis have better options available.

Several years ago my friend Jeff Shannon wrote a newspaper review about a movie called "The Waterdance" which showcased life in a spinal cord injury rehab ward. It was not a documentary, by any means, but many aspects of it were realistic because the film was written and directed by Neal Jimenez, who had lived through most of those experiences including the paralysis. The film's female love interest was Helen Hunt, and in my mind the role that she played elevated her to stardom status long before she was a mainstream star. The movie was entertaining, even though it didn't make it to the screens of many large theaters. It was on cable movie channels for a while, and could probably be located with some searching today.

Another paralysis-related movie based on a true story that I enjoyed at home was "The Sessions." That film was released in 2012, but I just got around to watching it this year. Based on real life, it was both educational and entertaining. Helen Hunt also played a lead role, as a sex surrogate, in this movie, and played it well. Be forewarned that it is rated R, but worth adding to your low-budget home movie-watching list.

Being paralyzed is not something that we can afford to let weigh us down to the point where life itself does not seem worth living. Instead, we need to continue taking on the many challenges that seem to confront us on a regular basis, just like most of the people I know, and seek whatever help we need when necessary.

© 2016 Michael Collins

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.