By Shawn Chitnis
DENVER (CBS4) – A Colorado couple who know the struggle and stigma around traumatic brain injuries will finish shooting the final scene for their film this week tackling the topic, one step closer to sharing this story inspired by true events.
“You take on a new normal, I think that’s partially what we’re trying to do with this film,” said actor Scott Takeda, the co-writer and director of the film “Remembering Us.” “A lot of times with traumatic brain injuries, the person after is different from the person before.”
Takeda was in his own house watching TV when he slipped on the hardwood floor and suffered a TBI. The injury happened at the beginning of 2016 but his recovery lasted the remainder of the year. Some of his symptoms included sensitivity to light, slurred words, and intense dizziness. Takeda says he often needed rest and was tired most of the time.
“A 15 minute job would take me three hours and then I’d be exhausted and go back to sleep,” he said.
The actor has been featured in films including “Gone Girl,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.”
He wrote the story for this film along with his wife, Lori Allred. She is also a director for the film. They have changed the names of all the characters and adjusted the story slightly but it is their experience that inspired the film. A majority of scenes for the film were shot inside their own home.
“One of the things that helps heal a traumatic brain injury is time so we decided to use time as a character in the film,” she said. “All the films we have shot have been personal stories so it was a natural step for us.”
The couple says they were moved to create this film because the issue had not been covered by anyone in film before them. Their goal was to show that people have options, including medical marijuana as a treatment. They learned firsthand it was a viable option and that you did not have to smoke it to get the benefits from cannabis.
“It is a story that we have not seen,” said Allred. “It’s something we hadn’t seen before and rarely do you come across something you haven’t seen before.”
Allred said it is worth comparing a TBI to a broken leg to help people understand the challenge. When someone is wearing a cast or using crutches, it is a physical reminder that they are not well. TBIs do not give patients the same visual aid to help others understand their injury.
“Traumatic brain injuries are invisible,” she said. “You may be sitting on the bus with someone or having lunch with someone and have no idea that they are challenged with that at that time.”
The project has already had an impact on people who suffered a TBI, telling the couple they did not share their injury with anyone because they were embarrassed. They also want the film to highlight the impact a TBI has on a family, often times a loved one must become a caregiver for the injured.
“You do get frustrated and you do lose your cool and that is real so we show that in the film,” she said.
The impact is significant on all involved. It forces everyone to push themselves and face a daily challenge together. Takeda admits his wife did so much in 2016 when he was early in his recovery. Not only was she taking care of him but she was also maintaining an income and keeping up their home. He also says the support of his friends and family were essential to getting him where he is two years later.
“It’s a very humbling experience to go through, a traumatic brain injury,” said Takeda. “Whatever ego that you have, whatever confidence that you have is completely stripped away.”
While the couple now advocates for everyone to share their experience and try to remove the shame from a TBI, they admit they were not ready to do that themselves when Takeda was first injured.
The Centers for Disease Control list TBIs as a major cause of death and disability in the United States. The latest numbers from the CDC show that 2.8 million people were treated in some way for a TBI. The couple says even with these statistics the stigma remains across the country.
“When you live with someone with a traumatic brain injury at times it feels like you’re living with someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia and that’s tough,” said Allred. “I don’t know what to do and because we kept it a secret for so long, I don’t know that I did the right things.”
But they did notice a difference in Takeda’s condition, nine months into his recovery, when he started using medical marijuana. He admits he was apprehensive to try it, especially as a drug that was considered taboo when he was growing up as a child. Even after he got his medical card for cannabis, he waited 30 days before using it. To his surprise, and many others working on the film, there are other options to the drug besides smoking. Takeda was able to place oil drops on his tongue at the needed dosage for his medication.
“We’re turning pain into art, it’s what artists do,” he said. “Going through a traumatic brain injury can be a very isolating experience, you don’t want anyone to know about it.”
The couple plans to submit the finished film, around 30 minutes in length, to film festivals in the U.S. including some in Colorado. They also hope based on the early feedback they’ve received to turn the story into a feature film.
“We really hope that once people see the film, they’re not alone anymore in this,” said Allred.