If we can’t laugh a little about the ups and downs of diabetes, we’re bound to lose our minds. That is the premise behind a new dark comedy web-series being produced by fellow type 1 and longtime diabetes advocate Erin Spineto, who doesn’t shy away from new adventures or challenges in life -- to say the least.
You may recognize Erin’s name as a T1 since 1996 with a visible presence in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) via her cleverly-named Sea Peptide projects. She's an accomplished sailor, surfer and triathlete who was active with the now-defunct D-athletes group Insulindepence. A few years ago, she published her book Islands and Insulin, that recounts her solo sailing trip down the Florida Keys. Based in San Diego, by day Erin is an eighth grade science teacher and mom to two girls. Whew!
And now, she’s trying her hand at TV and film production.
She's producing a new comedy series (a “Sea Peptide Production”) titled, A Bad Case. It focuses on four main characters, three of whom are living with T1D. They all face seemingly impossible situations and have to get very clever dealing with them. For instance, imagine the hypothetical scenario planned for the pilot episode: You’re wanted for murder and being chased by the cops, and as you’re running away you experience a low blood sugar that cripples you... Now what...?
“It’s super-dark humor, about having fun and laughing at aspects of diabetes,” Erin says. “There will be things that are probably offensive -- hopefully not to too many -- but to some people, yes. For others it’s going to be hilarious.”
The six-episode web series will play on platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, iTunes, and Amazon. Each episode will range between 5-8 minutes, making it easy for viewers to watch the entire series in one sitting. She also plans to explore getting these shorts into actual movie theaters, via community programs that bring independent films into local theaters.
"Junk Food Writing"
Erin describes the content of her new series as “not some politically-correct, educational crap about fighting stereotypes and bringing a message of hope and happiness to the world.”
Rather, it's all about pure entertainment value and laughs, she says. Even the title is based off of a clip from a Japanese language video, where women were doing aerobatics while also learning to speak English. In this particular clip, it was about learning to say they had a bad case of diarrhea, and Erin recalls laughing so hard and thinking it sounded like a “bad case of diabetes.” It all blossomed from there.
“I’ve always dabbled in screenplay writing; it’s what I call my junk food writing. I love it. But it wasn’t what I was planning on doing… it was just what I enjoyed as a hobby. After adventuring for 4-5 years, I came to a point where I needed to just take a break and figure out what I really wanted to do in my creative life.”
She notes: “For so long, it’s been about just torturing my body with these long-distance adventures in hopes of inspiring other people to go out and do their own thing. But I needed a break, and what I really found in that six-month timeframe was that I really love movies. I love writing stories for TV and movies, and I decided that it was time to pick up my hobby and make it the focus of my year.”
Eventually, Erin would like to produce a feature film – not necessarily about diabetes, but one that uses all she’s learned through the process of making A Bad Case. Yup, this web series is about getting her feet wet in the movie and production world.
The Monty Python Effect
Each episode will nod to or spoof another work of film, Erin says. For instance, she’s heavily influenced by Monty Python and wants that feel within her entire script, poking fun at various aspects of real, serious history and also the Catholic Church.
“They took it so far... to just before it was disrespectful. It was just beautiful and perfect,” she says. “That’s what this is too. It’s basically sketch comedy.”
T1D Actors Included
The cast will include three PWD characters, all ages 25-35: a male named Thoreau and two females named Eliot and Haley. There’s also a non-diabetic “Type 3” named Eddie. Erin tells us they manage and live with diabetes differently, and that’s meant to suggest that there is more than one approach to D-management, each having advantages and drawbacks.
Here’s a description of each character, specifically:
Erin’s aiming to have actors from within the Diabetes Community, who can portray the main roles based on their own experiences. “Type 1 actors don’t often get Type 1 roles,” she points out.
“When I went through casting initially, I realized I don’t know many actors because I’m not in that world. So that’s why I knew I’d need help, and got a casting director who has T1 and has this huge network of T1 actors. Just throwing out a cattle call out didn’t work in getting what I needed.”
Community Support for Gallows Humor
After casting decisions are complete and the pilot episode is ready for distribution over the Summer, Erin plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign online to help bring in more support from the D-Community. If all is well-received, she’ll also begin filming the rest of the episodes during the summer months with a goal of releasing the full series in the Fall – by Diabetes Awareness Month in November, she hopes.
What does she hope comes from A Bad Case, in terms of our diabetes community?
“My hope is that we all learn to loosen up and laugh at ourselves,” Erin says. “Diabetes is so freakin’ horrible at times, and all you can do is just laugh at it. The more you can come together with your community and laugh at it with gallows humor, the better off you are.”
** UPDATE: We're excited to see the pilot episode released on Sept. 22, 2018 and it can be viewed online!