We’re making a film about the saddest disease you’ve never heard of. We’re looking for some funding to continue shooting and finish a project called Howard’s Brain.
Howard Glick is a 53-year-old man currently living alone in New York City. Howard’s funny, outgoing, talkative and has had an interesting life.
If you saw him on the street, you might not notice him. But there is one thing that makes him different from most of us: Howard has a rare brain disease called Frontotemporal Degeneration, or FTD.
A disease that steals your soul
Never heard of FTD? Join the crowd. FTD is a form of dementia, but instead of attacking memory like Alzheimer’s, it affects the frontal lobes of the brain, the part that controls your behavior and emotions; your personality. Take away your frontal lobes, the “social brain” and the you that is “you” ceases to exist.
FTD typically starts younger and affects people in the “prime of their lives”. No matter what age you are diagnosed, FTD is irreversible, untreatable, and incurable.
It is What it is
In 2010, I made a short film about four families struggling with this terrible disease. The film It is What It is was told from the perspective of a husband or wife caring for their spouse with FTD. Each of their stories was sad and heartbreaking but also some of the most powerful testaments to love that I have ever witnessed.
Still there was something missing. One of the effects of FTD is that it mutes the self-awareness of those afflicted with it. They lose the ability to make sense of and express what is happening to them. All too often, their voices are silent.
And then I met Howard.
Howard Glick, FTD
Howard is different: he knows he has FTD and he can describe what it’s like to live with the disease - from the inside. Howard is far from silent.
So last September, I gave him a video camera and asked him to record himself. Howard is funny, candid, introspective and articulate. You can get a sense of him and what he’s been through by watching the video above.
Like so many others with FTD, Howard was mis-diagnosed and suffered through six-and-a-half years of what he calls “absolute hell.” Once a successful businessman, Howard describes his current financial situation as “retro-economical.” He lives in a rent-controlled apartment in Washington Heights and gets by with a little help from his friends, a check from Social Security, and 63 cents a day in food stamps.
But Howard is a remarkable fighter. While he struggles to keep his own symptoms in check, he also started a blog and a FaceBook group to help others with FTD. He has online followers from around the world. He writes candidly about his own life and he speaks with a special wisdom of those benighted by FTD.
The challenge facing Howard now -- and for telling his story -- is that it’s going to take a while to write the ending. There is little that is typical about the progression of FTD so Howard lives in uncharted territory.
So we’ve set our sights on the horizon. We have about 100 hours of footage so far and Howard continues to film his daily life. My plan is to send a small crew to shoot what Howard cannot and to interview those closest to him. All the funds raised through this Kickstarter project will be used to pay for that shooting and to begin editing.
Howard’s Brain is the first-person account of one man’s reach for a life that is slowly extending beyond his grasp. I believe this film is a unique opportunity to raise the voice of FTD. Through Howard’s story we hope to spread awareness about FTD and support the goal of ultimately finding a cure. We hope you'll want to help us with that mission. Thanks for your support.
To learn more about FTD and Howard see these sites:
National Institutes of Health:
The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration:
"AFTD is delighted to support Joe Becker's Kickstarter campaign. His film It Is What It Is advances awareness of frontotemporal degeneration as only a film made with clear vision and a compassionate heart can.
We are certain that the completion of Howard's Brain will make another critical contribution to FTD awareness and care."
Beth Walter, AFTD Board Chair
- (30 days)