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Take the Pain and Make Art: An Interview With Will Stocker About His Film “Crippled”

Posted on December 21, 2021
Article written by
Bryce Parks

Will Stocker is the producer and lead actor in “Crippled,” a film by Unicorn Propaganda. The creators describe the film as “an emotional and physical horror film about a man with muscular dystrophy and the nightmarish journey of dealing with his nurses,” and “a Kafkaesque interpretation of what it is like to be disabled.” (You can watch the trailer.) Stocker lives with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and is a member of mySMAteam.

Stocker spoke with mySMAteam about the making of the film and his passion for sharing this story.

What inspired you to make “Crippled?” Being a writer with SMA myself, I tend to have little echoes of myself between the lines of my own projects, but you didn’t make it subtle.

Originally, the film was going to be a documentary. Then we talked a bit more and decided to combine the idea with what we’re best at: making cool, weird, experimental work. We realized that by showing what it feels like from a metaphorical/emotional level, it might actually be more impactful and more of an original take than a documentary, which has already been done. Then it became about sharing a story that is greatly personal, yet one that is not unique to me.

Why did you decide to use that word as the title? Many find it offensive, and it leaves a strange taste, even for people like us. I have a feeling that you knew that, though.

"Crippled," a horror film about a man with muscular dystrophy and his nightmarish caregivers, is currently in postproduction. (Unicorn Propaganda)

To me, that question ties into the point of the film. At the core, I would say it is about trauma. How can we encapsulate trauma? Not a single traumatic event, but a complex, pervasive, interpersonal, long-term trauma? The title of this film speaks to the pervasiveness of the trauma.

There are the big three things we’re trying to tackle in the film: body, mind, and soul.

One of the ways we address the body is in a shower scene. This is important because it shows the most violation of the body. The film, in general, shows how much of a struggle it is to have freedom while living with a disability when others have so much access and control over our bodies.

For the mind, it’s anxiety, dread, frustration, and fear. The creature or bird person [in the film] is essentially a manifestation of all of these things and how these feelings may become just as dangerous and harmful as any physical harm.

For the soul, things get dark, but light can shine if we remember that we’re the source of our light. If we can somehow prevent [the soul] from breaking or detaching, it may prevent the body and mind from breaking as well.

What do you hope viewers will leave with after watching “Crippled”?

For the viewers who have had negative nurse or staff experiences, I hope they understand that they are not the only ones, and that their story is worth telling. You always have the option to succumb to the darkness. To close your eyes and wait for the next life that could be better. But you also have the option to push back. To take the pain and make art.

For those who haven’t dealt with that trauma directly, I hope they become aware of an invisible issue that they may not have thought of before. Other than anything related to disability, I’d just love for people to leave thinking about all of the cool practical effects we were able to pull off.

Share your thoughts with others. Click here to add a comment.

Does SMA affect your journey as a filmmaker at all? In my case, transportation is a nightmare. Do you have any struggles in that sense?

Regarding the making of this film, having SMA granted me with challenges for which we had to come up with many creative solutions. This film demanded quite a bit. A pool scene, a shower scene, me floating in a black void, these were all challenges that we planned for and accomplished!

How big is the team you work with? How did you find each other?

Zak Seidman is my friend and frequent collaborator who I met through college. I would help him out with random film homework assignments and would often act in projects for him. “A Tree Full of Rain” is the first short we created as Unicorn Propaganda that was accepted into film festivals. We realized on that project that after you are accepted into one festival, it makes it significantly easier to get into other festivals. We began to win awards in places like London, Paris, Sweden, and all across the globe.

Regarding “Crippled,” it was the biggest crew I’ve ever worked with, which was really enlightening. I not only learned about all the different jobs it takes to make a film, but I also got to meet the most interesting, kind, and unique people who have all become my friends.

What kind of release do you hope for, for the film?

We are currently in the process of submitting “Crippled” to various festivals. Ideally, we will get into one or more of our dream festivals, and that will get the ball rolling for a festival circuit run and give us exposure to potential buyers and streaming service platforms.

With the nature of the film, we understand that it will not necessarily be everyone’s cup of tea, but we want as many eyes to see it as possible, and that starts with a good festival run.

How are you raising funds to complete "Crippled," and what’s the goal you’re trying to achieve? How can people help?

We have been using a GoFundMe campaign which is still open and available to receive donations. Donations at this point will go entirely towards finishing up postproduction (sound and color grading) and film festival fees, which can add up fast.

One of my goals is to have as many people as possible to see "Crippled." Another goal is for those in the health care field to see this film and understand how important and impactful it is to do home health nursing. Even though it may only be a job to some, the interactions that they have with the person they are serving could mean everything, and those interactions do have a deep and lasting effect.

Outside of donating, what we are looking for right now is word of mouth. Spreading the trailer, following our various social media platforms, posting our links on multiple platforms, and simply talking to people about the film and why it’s important can help us out enormously.

Bryce Parks has SMA type 2. He hopes to make a difference to people through a variety of creative forms. Learn more about him here.

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