In November 2006, I met a kind, respectful, and very intelligent person named Meghan O'Hara. Meghan happens to be producer of SiCKO and had come to my music studio for an on-camera interview.
This is Meghan, her film crew, and me.
Francisco Latorre, production sound
Peter Nelson, camera
Meghan O'Hara, producer
Lisa Emrich, at the piano
Christine Fall, field producer
How in the world did I meet Meghan and her film crew you ask?
Well, after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I encountered some difficulty in receiving and paying for the medical treatment I required - and this while being 'fully' insured. I had been put through the ringer by several programs which propose to help uninsured and under-insured patients pay for and obtain their medications or which focus on multiple sclerosis.
By the summer 2006, I had approached and/or applied to programs offered by (or previously offered by) the following organizations:
- Shared Solutions (refers patients to NORD)
- National Organization for Rare Disorders
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society (no money for meds)
- Multiple Sclerosis Society of America (no money for meds)
- Multiple Sclerosis Foundation (no money for meds)
- Patient Advocate Foundation
- Patient Access Network Foundation
- PAF Co-Pay Relief Program (no longer has MS fund)
- Patient Services Incorporated (no longer has MS fund)
- Cephalon - Provigil Assistance Program
- National Organization for Rare Disorders
- Partnership for Prescription Assistance
- HealthWell Foundation
- Chronic Disease Fund
- Pfizer Connection to Care
- Rx Outreach
His production company was looking for 3 real people who fit certain criteria to feature in his movie SiCKO. My real-life situation fit the requirements - and I thought to myself "why not" - so I spent an hour or so that afternoon and composed a lengthy email detailing my situation, my struggles, and the numerous insufficient outcomes. I pressed the send button although I had never seen a Michael Moore film before.
Less than 2 weeks later, I received a phone call from Christine Fall, a field producer of Michael Moore's production company. Apparently, my email had grabbed someone's attention and found it's way to Christine's desk for further investigation. We spoke on the phone many times over a couple of months with her asking questions related to what I had shared in my email, follow-up questions from our talks which her colleagues wanted asked, and questions related to other experiences and thoughts I had about certain things (including the Big Orange 'Help is Here' Bus.)
Eventually we worked up to the big question -
"Would you be willing to be interviewed on camera?" I said yes.
So in November 2006, on a rainy Thursday evening, a film crew came to my music studio to interview me regarding my experiences with the 'heathcare system' and to see me in action with a student or two. Of course, I had to okay it with the student and his/her family beforehand.
I had never spoken with Meghan before and we did not discuss any of the questions she would ask beforehand. That way what was caught on camera was non-rehearsed and organic. My mother watched the monitor for those several hours and later said that I was very impressive on camera - calm, articulate, compelling. The interview lasted much longer than Meghan or I had anticipated, likely due to my charismatic nature (hehe).
During the interview itself, I didn't crack a tear or resort to showing the piles of bills, explanation of benefit statements, or rejections from various programs. I spoke the truth, clearly and honestly, without great drama or pretense. I even shared my discoveries regarding Cephalon's deal with TEVA regarding Provigil.
A month or so before the Washington, D.C., premiere of SiCKO, I received a call from Rehya Young (associate producer) informing me that my scenes had been cut from the film, although there were those who fought to keep them in. But who knows why editors make the decisions they do, otherwise one of the major difficulties which MS patients face, being expensive pharmaceuticals and financial security, would have been placed on screen for the world to see. Oh well - a missed opportunity.
I was invited to attend the DC premiere which I did in June 2007 as Mr. Moore's guest. Outside the theater, several reporters from local papers were looking for folks involved with the film to interview. My mom got someone's attention to see if he would like to interview me. The question first asked was, "Were you one of those who went to Cuba?" Well, no. "Not interested, sorry."
Media only wants the "stars." Another missed opportunity.
I did enjoy the movie and afterwards met Meghan in the lobby of the theater. She recognized me immediately and apologized for cutting my scenes. We talked for a while and she asked if I had met Michael. I had not.
I stayed around until the crowd dispersed, leaving only a smaller entourage. Meghan introduced me to Michael and his first words were, "you're the horn teacher!"
"I'm sorry we had to cut your scenes."
He told me that he had asked the British pharmacist about the cost for filling my prescriptions in England. (If you saw the film, you know what this refers to.)
And that maybe....include on the DVD....
But they're not - a final missed opportunity.
However, my name is included in the credits, right below Danny Elfmann.
I'll be watching and will cheer if SiCKO wins the award.