It was an honor and a privilege to photograph the New Orleans premiere of GLEASON. If you haven't heard of this documentary by now you must be living under a rock. In short, 1300 hours of Steve and Michel Gleason's life was culled down to a short 110 minute documentary. A daunting task for sure, but their tale is brilliantly told. I was tearing up in the first 30 seconds as Steve blocked the punt. I didn't stand a chance.
This film is raw. I'll save you a review...there are plenty of them out there. What I will say is just how real and emotional it is. Steve and Michel put everything out there, for the whole world to see. It is easy for the rest of us to see Steve and Michel and Rivers and think, Steve looks good! Look how happy Michel is! They must be doing well. Steve, you're my hero! What a man he is...good for them. Congrats on all of this!
"It's easy to make a difference with the world, versus the reality of the hardness it is to maintain relationships." - Michel
It's easy to label Steve as a hero. It's easy to label Michel as a loving, caring and devoted wife and partner. It's easy to come out to a bunch of fun events every year and 'show your support'. What's not easy is to see just how terrible this disease really is. It's not easy to see how torturous is it to slowly become paralyzed, trapped in your own body. ALS is freaking brutal. It's pure agony.
But perhaps the worst part of this disease is the toll it takes on your loved ones. Steve and Michel don't hold back. They show their struggle. They show their frustration. They show you the side of ALS that you don't want to see. And that is the brilliance of this film. You can't forget it...you can't forget what you saw. It resonates with you. You think about it over and over again. You count your lucky stars and then you try to figure out how to become a better person. That is the power of this film.
Even before this film Steve and Michel were two of the bravest people I've ever met. They've always put it all out there, even when they didn't want too. But now, they've shared their most intimate and private moments for the world to see, and that takes a bravery that most of us don't have in us. They were admittedly nervous before premiering this film in front of the hometown crowd, their best friends and family.
"I believe my future is bigger than my past."
But despite this new reality there is hope. There is reason to look to the future with optimism. It is impossible to put into words how many lives Steve has touched. Steve chooses to live. He chooses to live as long as he can with the help of technology, and he's dedicated his life to making sure others have the same option. Steve is living for Rivers, and he's living for a cure. With the rate of medical knowledge and technology increasing exponentially everyday, who's to say that a breakthrough isn't right around the corner?
We can help.
Go watch this movie when it comes out later this summer. Spread the word. Talk about it. Discuss it. Let's bring ALS to the forefront again. It opens in New Orleans on July 29. Buy your ticket!
Here are a few photos from the red carpet and after party. It was such a fun night (after we all had a good cry). Also, the Orpheum is a great venue for film...go check out some movies there this summer! Enjoy!
If you've ready any of the press coverage from this night, you know that when Sean Payton started talking about Steve he got a little choked up. It was at this moment, without skipping a beat, that Steve called him out as a "pussy" in front of everyone. The place erupted. Payton paused and then shook his head in agreement. It's easy to see that Steve has not lost his great sense of humor. Their reaction in these photos says it all.