For her part, 23-year-old Nicole Castillo, who doesn’t have ME, has worked on feature films and in television. Currently, she serves as a TV computer graphics technician and floor director. But her passion is social justice. After volunteering at a men's homeless shelter, a daycare center, a nursing home and even spending her spring break senior year living at a convent, she knew she wanted to make medical and social-justice documentaries and was itching to start. She just needed the right subject. And she found her inspiration closer than she could have imagined, in Prior, who is also her boyfriend.
Castillo is overseeing production, audio, camera and editing of the film. “I want to capture the spirit of what Ryan is trying to get across,” she says.
West Coast/East Coast Filming
Prior admits that he’s had a lot to learn about ME—and his education from the patient community has been swift. Even though he’s lived with the disease for nearly seven years, he, like many patients, used to accept the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) definition. At only 23, he hadn't been aware of the long, sordid history of the disease until he began writing about it. "But I did realize a much more national discussion needed to take place," Prior says. "The goal of the film is to bring more awareness to this disease.”
Prior and Castillo want their 90-minute film to resonate with the entire patient community—and at the same time to resonate with the public at large. The two will spend 10 days conducting interviews on the West Coast, and then move on to the East Coast. Among others, they hope to interview Dr. Andy Kogelnik at the Open Medicine Institute, Gunnar Gottschalk and Dr. Daniel Peterson at Simmaron Research, Staci Stevens and Dr. Chris Snell at the University of the Pacific, Dr. Judy Mikovits, Dr. Nancy Klimas, Dr. Ian Lipkin and perhaps government officials. “There are no plans to interview the Whittemores yet,” he says.
They also plan to meet with a few patients in the 25 percent—the sickest, bedbound patients. Both Prior and Castillo are concerned, however, that the interviews and the technology they’re bringing in their homes will be problematic for the patients, and they want to minimize their distress.
In addition to making the film, Prior and Castillo hope to raise $50,000 for 10 medical students to do eight-week fellowships with ME experts. “We hope they will help train the next Daniel Peterson or David Bell,” Prior says.
Following Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum’s ME protocol, Prior is highly functional now. That wasn’t the case when Prior, a serious soccer player and runner, first got sick and had to drop out of high school. Now, Prior can even exercise—every other day. When he tries to exercise daily, however, he crashes.
If Prior and Castillo raise enough money, the duo may continue filming in the U.K. and/or Hawaii, where the film Unbroken, based on ME patient Laura Hillenbrand’s book of the same name, is being directed by Angelina Jolie.
Where they go is up to the public—and funding. After the Kickstarter fundraiser for the film ends July 10, Prior and Castillo will ask patients to vote on where they should go next. “Aristotle said democracy was mob rule, but we feel that the patients have bigger and better ideas than anything Nicole or I can come up with,” Prior says.
If you’d like to contribute to The Blue Ribbon, go to Kickstarter by July 10, or donate to the film’s PayPal account after the 10th.