Oftentimes the Diabetes Online Community does feel like a real, organic community — filled with all sorts of wonderful people who share your interests, and are just waiting to become closer friends with you. But it's hardly a club that any of us elected to join. In fact, it's scary as all get-out when you're first diagnosed, with doctors and nurses telling you about all the horrible things you're going to have to do (take injections, test your blood sugar) and all the things you can't do (don't eat this, don't try that!). It can feel like diabetes is the worst thing that could ever happen.
But Nova Scotia-based Jonny White and his crew at Make Good Media want to change all that. Jonny, who was diagnosed with type 1 at 15, and his business partner, Oliver Brown, have officially launched a year-long documentary film project called Welcome to Type 1. Check it out (note - the intro video is kinda long at 11 min):
"We're creating a documentary where we take a young person newly diagnosed with type 1 and expose them to all these wonderful groups and individuals. As we have fun and learn about living with type 1 diabetes, you'll start to see a psychological change taking place, both in the young person, and in the audience," Jonny says. "From my perspective, there are two key things that people need to live well with type 1 diabetes. The first being motivation to take care of yourself and the second being the information and tools in order to do that."
Jonny hopes this film will fulfill both of those goals, by showcasing folks who are doing amazing things with diabetes in the main documentary, and by having Special Features on the DVD that will contain the "information" side of things, covering the basics of insulin pumps, blood sugar monitoring, and diabetes and exercise.
Jonny certainly knows a thing or two about "wild and wonderful" accomplishments. In 2006, he took a bicycle trip across Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town, and created a documentary film called The Long Road with support from Medtronic Diabetes of Canada (btw, that documentary will be airing on NBC/Universal Sports in October! We'll post details when we have the date). After that trip, Jonny traveled to many conferences to speak about the film and met with other inspirational, accomplished athletes.
"I feel like only .5% of people with type 1 diabetes get to attend these conferences and get those positive, proactive messages," Jonny says. "I meet people in the grocery store who notice my insulin pump, but they see diabetes as a limitation and feel that they were very unfortunate to be diagnosed. I felt like, 'Why can't everyone be exposed to a positive, proactive mindset?'"
The "lightbulb moment" about the Type 1 documentary actually came last summer — while in the shower! — when Jonny decided to merge his vocation as a media psychology professor with his avocation as a diabetes advocate. Yup, this guy's a professor.
"I teach about new media and how the stories we receive via media shape our own perceptions of our own lives," Jonny explains. "The time is right for a media-based resource that can give people motivation — that you can live well with type 1 — and the information about how to do it."
Jonny and his team are just beginning to finalize the folks who will be featured in the documentary, but they hope to include people who run organizations for diabetes, professional athletes, and others in the community (did you spot Dr. Bill Polonsky in the intro video?).
But Jonny says: "The main goal is to show people from different walks of life that you can identify with. What we want to accomplish is that no matter who sees the documentary, they'll see someone they'd like to be like."
While the eventual goal is to make a feature-length documentary, right now Jonny and his team are creating more opportunities for in-depth exposure to these amazing, inspirational folks with diabetes. Each person featured in the documentary will also have their entire video interview posted on the website. Since most documentaries only include a fraction of footage taped, this will give viewers the chance to get to know the "stars" of the documentary much better.
"We want to provide a potential connection for everybody," Jonny says.
Currently on the website, you'll just see the teaser video posted above. Over the course of the year, more footage will be posted, leading up to the final product, which Jonny says he hopes to complete by Fall 2012. Sponsors will help support sending 10,000 copies of the documentary to hospitals and clinics for doctors to pass out for free to newly diagnosed individuals so they can get exposed to a positive message about diabetes, instead of just the scary facts and statistics. Plus, the video will be available for purchase on the Welcome to Type 1 website. We certainly could use more messages of hope around here instead of just doom and gloom...
While the DOC might not be the community any of us dreamed of joining, Jonny does hope that at the end of the day, folks who watch the documentary will think, "I'm joining this club with people who are doing interesting things and having exciting lives!"
The DOC is certainly filled with spirited, enthusiastic individuals and we at the 'Mine can definitely get behind this message. We applaud this film in advance!