Several years in the making, Logan's Syndrome is a feature-length documentary film that follows a unique artist who creates hyper-realistic, autobiographical paintings in spite of daunting physical limitations. Logan Madsen and older sister Heather, were born with Miller Syndrome, an incredibly rare genetic condition that affects fewer than thirty people in the world--they also share a lung disease and are autistic. The film journeys with Logan as he boldly expresses through paint, what it means to be born different. Told through the lens of childhood friend and filmmaker Nathan Meier, the piece is an intimate collaborative effort. Their mutual trust makes for a surprisingly frank and honest portrait.
The viewer is invited into Logan's daily existence as he completes his series "Syndrome Psychology". Through his own exploration of the self, we are taken into his past. For the Madsen's life has been full of challenges. Both he and his sister have endured countless surgeries, constant pain and the ever-present stares from others. When they were quite young, their parents divorced leaving their mother Debbie to raise them on her own. Her determination to create a good life for her children saw them through many trying times.
Years later, by total chance, Debbie would meet and marry a brilliant geneticist. This remarkable circumstance led to the Madsens making medical history when they became the first family to have their entire genome sequenced. Geneticists were finally able to identify the gene responsible for Miller Syndrome, providing answers to questions the Madsens had held for over thirty years.
WHY THIS PROJECT IS IMPORTANT
People with severe disabilities are often marginalized in society. They get overlooked, are forgotten or ignored. Logan's paintings invite the viewer to stare at his physical deformities. They are confrontational and challenging, but they open the door to an important dialogue. He is in a unique position to honestly address what it's like to have a genetic birth defect and a form of high-functioning autism. Sharing his story is very important to Logan and he hopes it can enlighten and inspire many people. He sees this film as his legacy, something that will remain even after he is gone.
I've known Logan since we were in grade school. We each grew up in Mormon families in a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. Our friendship began in high school art class where we bonded over our shared love of art-making. We were both a little strange. Of course, Logan was clearly different, but we never discussed his condition. Back then he was in denial about his differences and it would be years before he would open up to me about his struggles with Miller Syndrome.
After high school we lost touch. I became a dad, got married and moved to California to study filmmaking. Logan studied graphic design and began to make stylized paintings of flowers and people. In 2006 we were reunited at the gallery where he was having his first one-man art show. I had graduated from film school the year before and was in Utah to visit family. I was thrilled to see that he had continued to pursue the arts. When I returned to California, we began to have long phone conversations about our goals as artists.
It was around this time that Logan told me his idea to make a series of autobiographical paintings. I thought it was the best thing he could pursue and demonstrated just how far he had come since high school. Being able to talk about his disease allowed us to become closer as friends. The first painting of the series began on the floor of my one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles while he was visiting from Utah. I had been making oil paintings and urged Logan to make the switch from acrylics and was amazed by how quickly he took to it.
We talked about collaborating on a video project as he felt there were certain representational limitations with painting that the moving image could overcome. In 2008, I spent a night taping Logan as he painted in his basement apartment. I was struck by how open and honest he could be on camera, but didn't edit the footage into a short piece until two years later. The resulting film became the genesis for the current feature-length project.
The shooting of Logan's Syndrome began during the summer of 2011. I was able to gather enough resources to spend a week shadowing Logan as he went about his daily routines and continued to make his self-portrait paintings. Because the project was completely self-financed, I was only able to work on it sporadically. Whenever I was able to travel to Utah I would bring a camera and spend some time with Logan. Over the years I had amassed quite a lot of great footage, but an overall structure eluded me. When Logan was offered his second solo show at Art Access Gallery in Salt Lake, I felt we had finally found our direction.
"Syndrome Psychology" opened at Art Access Gallery on April 18, 2014. Over six years of painting went into the completion of this body of work. Each piece explores in vivid detail, an aspect of Logan's life, both physically and psychologically. His art-making has been the backbone of the film as each piece is an exploration of the self that invites the viewer into Logan's world. The show's opening may function as a climax of sorts, but it is really only the beginning for Logan and his career as an artist.
– Nathan Meier
"Syndrome Psychology invites you to stare at my deformities caused by my rare genetic disease Miller Syndrome, by staring at my oil paintings. The unknown is scary. With this exhibit I am baring my reality for everyone to see. This includes the psychological effects of looking different alongside autism and a chronic genetic lung condition. My autism locks onto the subtle details in life as exhibited in my paintings. There is beauty and magic that exists in even a small patch of skin. We all have skin. Please come and share my rare experience and celebrate how much we all have in common."
– Logan Madsen
HOW THE $ WILL BE USED
Because of our access to high-quality video, film and sound gear, we've had the fortune to avoid much of the initial production costs on this project, which has allowed us to get as far as we have. That said, the post-production for a documentary of this nature can be very costly. The majority of the funds will go to the editing, which is a labor intensive and time consuming process--this includes both personnel and equipment. Other funds will cover the crucial sound mix, color correction, film to video transfers and final outputs. There will be future shoots, which will involve travel expenses. We also need to plan for promotion and distribution, including film festival submission fees and shipping costs. In order to get the rewards to our dear contributors, some funds will need to be allocated to fulfill our promises to you. And finally, some of the money will be used to help us relieve certain debts we have incurred thus far.
The money we are asking for, though no small number, is the least amount we can conceivably raise to properly complete this picture. It is not uncommon for similar films to have budgets many times greater than ours. In spite of our modest figures, we truly believe that we can deliver a beautiful, powerful, thought-provoking piece. We are able to achieve this through the support of many highly talented artists, from award-winning editors, sound designers and musicians who believe in both the project itself and in us. Meeting our goals will allow us to compensate these essential team members.
Risks and challenges
Autobiographical documentaries come with a myriad of potential challenges. When dealing with real people, one must take great care in how they are represented to the public. In 2000, Nathan Meier was the subject of a PBS documentary that aired throughout Utah and some surrounding states. The outcome was eye-opening for him, as it came with both great highs and lows. He learned what a tremendous responsibility one has to the people presented in such films. The insights gained from that experience have been invaluable for this current project.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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