Sweat Test, a documentary
It all started last winter...
Young received a call from his old friend and college roommate, Brennen, saying that after seven years he finally wanted to meet his donor family - and that he wanted Young’s help making a movie about the experience.
Brennen was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a rare genetic disease that effects about one in every three thousand Americans. When Brennen was in high school, he was told that he wouldn't survive into adulthood without a double transplant. So, finally, on February 21st, 2011 Brennen successfully received his new lungs.
Since that initial phone call, this project has grown in ambition and scale. We realize that to properly tell Brennen’s story, we have to tell a broader story about this disease and how it affects people’s lives. We want to interviews patients, families, nurses, transplant surgeons and transplant recipients. We also hope to shine a light on the other, less visible side of the donor spectrum - the families who lost a loved one, allowing someone to receive an organ.
Instead of painting over the ugly parts, we’re gonna zoom in on them, linger on them, explore them as deeply as we can. Cystic Fibrosis is a nasty disease. We see it as our job to be as honest as possible about that fact. Through the eyes of someone who has dealt with the messy reality of having this disease every day of his life.
And, of course, we still want to meet his donor family.
What is Cystic Fibrosis?
According to the Mayo Clinic:
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs, digestive system and other organs in the body.
Cystic fibrosis affects the cells that produce mucus, sweat and digestive juices. These secreted fluids are normally thin and slippery. But in people with cystic fibrosis, a defective gene causes the secretions to become sticky and thick. Instead of acting as a lubricant, the secretions plug up tubes, ducts and passageways, especially in the lungs and pancreas.
Where will the money will go?
Making a great film is neither easy nor cheap, and we understand that finishing our movie will take more than we are trying to raise today. That being said, the money we raise on Kickstarter will be essential to beginning the process of telling these stories.
Honestly, most of the money raised on Kickstarter will be devoted to various travel expenses. Young lives in New York, Brennen lives in Charleston - we have plans to conduct interviews in Durham, St. Louis. Michigan and beyond.
Also, while we have been lucky enough to raise enough money to cover some of our equiptment costs - we hope to be continually improving our tools, so as to deliver the most beautiful looking and sounding film possible.
This money will also go to help fund the hiring of an excellent (soon to be determined) animator, to help us gorgeously depict some of the more technical aspects of the disease.
Why does this need to exist?
"Film is, to me, just unimportant. But people are very important."
About 30,00 Americans have Cystic Fibrosis. Many of them are currently waiting for a lifesaving lung transplant, or have had their lives already saved by one. Few people understand they daily struggle.
While there have been several great documentaries made about Cystic Fibrosis (notably Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist, an inspiration for our film), there has yet to be a comprehensive film made about the disease - especially one that focuses squarely on the role organ transplants play in the lives of people effected by CF.
Great documentaries give viewers the chance to walk in someone else's shoes, to understand the struggles of others, in short, to be empathic. We hope to do exactly that.
Our working title
Sweat Test is our working title. It comes from the name of a medical procedure typically administered to new borns to measure the concentration of chloride excreted in the sweat. People with cystic fibrosis typically have elevated chloride levels. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation considers the sweat test the “gold standard” for diagnosing the disease. It is, for many people, the beginning of their journey with CF.
Brennen was born July 16, 1991 on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Eight weeks later he was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.
A normal childhood wasn’t an option for Brennen - from the doctor’s office, to school, to baseball, back to the doctor’s office - managing the disease was primary focus of the Reeves family.
In high school, with his health declining, Brennen was told that he would need a double lung transplant to survive into adulthood - which he finally received, in February of 2011.
After his transplant, Brennen went on to graduate from the College of Charleston with a degree in Theatre Performance. Since graduation, Brennen has been on tour with his solo theatre piece, Breathe, based on his life and struggles with CF. He credits his family with giving him the strength to continue fighting.
Brennen is an advocate for CF and organ transplantation and can often be found speaking at various events, locally and regionally. He is also working on a memoir about his experiences.
Young Stowe - Director
Young Stowe is a Brooklyn based filmmaker. After graduating from the College of Charleston, Young moved to New York and began working on film projects large and small. His films Sea Legs and The Danny Variations, both inspired by the work of the late, great filmmaker Raul Ruiz, are set to be released this year. You can usually find him behind a camera, slumped over his editing desk, or in the third to last row of some downtown Manhattan movie theater.
Grace Hammerstein - Producer
Grace is a producer living and working in NYC. Grace got her start in Washington DC as a production coordinator creating short docs for political clients as they toured the country promoting their progressive agendas. Following her time in DC, she became a post producer at an editing company in Manhattan where she worked on countless ads for web and TV. Grace’s passion for production is fueled by her love of storytelling and collaborating with other creatives.
Nick Heitmann - Assistant Director
Nick is an NYC-based director, comedic writer and filmmaker from Hilton Head Island, SC. His recent works include co-hosting and producing Standing Room Only! a comedy podcast and video sketch show, as well as filming several shorts with his co-created Snuggle Box Productions. He thinks Brennen is just decent.
Risks and challenges
Every film project comes with its own risks and challenges, ours will not be any different. The easiest way to make a boring and ineffective film is to rigidly adhere to some predetermined path. Filmmaking, especially documentary filmmaking, demands spontaneity and an embrace of risk. Therefore, our strategy for dealing with the eventual hurdles and setbacks will be to remain looking outwards, fully open to new direction. Your support reminds us that we have a job to do, and a film to deliver.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)