By Elizabeth Chatelain
My name is Elizabeth Chatelain, and I’m a filmmaker and writer from North Dakota, now living in Brooklyn. My background has mostly been in documentary films, such as My Sister Sarah, which was about my sister’s struggle with drug addiction and recovery. I have also worked as a documentary editor on programs for PBS Frontline, HBO, and most recently Disney+.
As I’ve moved into writing screenplays, I find myself always drawn to stories of women on the margins. Whether the issue is homelessness, health care, addiction, mental illness, disability, or simply being from a working class background, I feel women’s stories are so rarely portrayed accurately in film. With my background in documentaries, I know the importance of interviewing for research. While many filmmakers rely on books or Wikipedia, I find it absolutely crucial to interview people face to face (or now via Zoom) to begin to understand other perspectives before portraying them on a page or on screen.
A few years ago, a family friend living in Minneapolis suddenly lost all feeling in her body. After days in intensive care, she was finally diagnosed with transverse myelitis. It took a lot of time and physical therapy, but she was able to regain the strength to operate a motorized wheelchair, has gone back to work part-time, and takes care of her young son. I am currently working on a film script where the main character is diagnosed with transverse myelitis, and it is my hope that I can interview as many people with TM as possible, because I know everyone’s story is different. My goal is to present the everyday life of a person with TM. To confront the stigma. To confront the stereotypes. Stereotypes about disability and beauty, strength, sexuality, and things that are uncomfortable for able-bodied people. I am looking for anyone willing to share their experience of TM with me, so that I can begin to better understand the condition and present that experience as truthfully as possible.
If you are interested in contacting Elizabeth, please email us at [email protected], and we will put you in touch with her.