Viral Marketing

Week of May 31, 2007

The Unreal inbox thrummed recently with notice of Innerstate, "a first-of-its-kind documentary providing insight into the 'inner states' of three everyday adults facing chronic, life-altering inflammatory diseases": rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and psoriasis.

As we eagerly await Saturday's free screening at the West Olive 16 in Creve Coeur, we killed some time by calling director Chris Valentino to find out whether "first of its kind" refers to the 58-minute film's subject matter or the fact that Innerstate is effectively an advertisement, having been bankrolled by Centocor, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson that manufactures the pricey drug Remicade, which treats...rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and psoriasis.

Unreal: How do you make these diseases entertaining?

Chris Valentino: It's not about making it entertaining. The film isn't about the diseases. It's about their lives.

Then why should we go see it?

It's about the human condition. Everyone has obstacles in their life. Everyone has something they're trying to overcome.

Have you landed any more work as a result of this film?

I think there's a lot of misconception around it because of the company that was behind it.

You feel that people are biased against your film because it's paid for by a drug company?

I don't know that for sure. In past interviews people were quick to challenge the validity of the film. That's a disservice to the people that were in it. Each of us put something personal into the film.

If you were reviewing it, what would you say?

I would say it's a touching, heart-warming film that really is a voice for many people who may suffer from an autoimmune disease and don't have an opportunity to find their own relief.

Would you call not mentioning that all these people are taking the same drug a, um, plot hole?

No, because it wasn't anything specific to the story. We do talk about biologic treatments in terms of how they've helped these patients. This is not a branded film.



El Camino

Novelist Cormac McCarthy's got nothing on Saint Louis University student Jordan Waldschmidt. McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Road tells the agonizing story of a father and son roaming a post-apocalyptic America, warding off cannibals and thieves, scrounging ancient cans of pork 'n' beans and gnarled apples. You know: roughing it.

This past fall Waldschmidt, a 21-year-old environmental-science major, spent 78 days in the wilds of Baja California as part of the National Outdoor Leadership School. She and thirteen fellow adventurers endured the elements, lived off the land (well, kinda: rations had been deposited at checkpoints) and battled open waters in longboats and kayaks.

Interviewing Waldschmidt, we couldn't help but note the parallels to The Road.

McCarthy: A raw hill country. Aluminum houses. At times they could see stretches of the interstate highway below them through the bare stands of secondgrowth timber. Cold and growing colder. Just beyond the high gap in the mountains they stood and looked out over the great gulf to the south where the country as far as they could see was burned away, the blackened shapes of rock standing out of the shoals of ash and billows of ash rising up and blowing downcountry through the waste.

Waldschmidt: So many different types of environments. It's forest in some parts, then it's desert. It can be very arid and dry. Other times it gets cold. But also hacking through brush, through a jungle almost. It can't be summed up into one environment. A lot of desert, a lot of forest. Thick forest. And mountains.

McCarthy: They thought they had enough food to get through the mountains but there was no way to tell. The pass at the watershed was five thousand feet and it was going to be very cold.... There was a good chance that they would die in the mountains and that would be that.

Waldschmidt: We traveled down the canyon. Three thousand meters down. It was very beautiful. But really scary. Very steep and kind of treacherous. It was one of the most important parts of the hiking part. We traveled in groups of four or five.... We almost ran out of water.

McCarthy: On the outskirts of a city, they came across a supermarket. A few old cars in the trashstrewn lot. They left the cart in the lot and walked the littered aisles. In the produce section in the bottom of the bins they found a few ancient runner beans and what looked to have once been apricots, long dried to wrinkled effigies to themselves.

Waldschmidt: We ate a lot of rice, a lot of pastas. A lot of dried nuts and fruits. Lots of carbs. Mostly carbs. During the sailing and kayaking sessions, we got to hold onto the vegetables because we had coolers. But during the hiking part, we couldn't.

McCarthy: Within a year there were fires on the ridges and deranged chanting. The screams of the murdered. By day the dead impaled on spikes along the road. What had they done? He thought that in the history of the world it might even be that there was more punishment than crime but he took small comfort from it.

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