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Fellow Nonprofit, Women in Film, Lends a Helping Hand in Support of ALS Community and The ALS Association Golden West Chapter

Women in Film (WIF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting equal opportunities, encouraging creative projects, and expanding portrayals of women in all forms of global media. One of their many programs is an annual charitable PSA production project. Through a year-long process, professionals are selected who volunteer their time and talents in writing, directing and producing public service announcements (PSAs) for local charities using in kind gifts of industry-standard equipment, locations, and other resources. In 2014, a special donation was made to WIF to enable an additional PSA project to be added to their 2015 production roster to raise awareness about ALS and the challenges their caregivers face.  The gift was made in honor of Gayle Nachlis, WIF’s former Executive Director, whose husband Marvin had passed away from ALS in 2013. Gayle and her daughter, Sara, participated in The ALS Association Golden West Chapter’s 2014 Los Angeles Walk to Defeat ALS in his memory.

WIF PSA- slate  
WIF PSA- onset  

The leadership at WIF reached out to the Golden West Chapter about working together on this special project. Led by executive producers Julie Nicholson and Tessa Bell, a creative team was assembled and the background research began.

“I didn’t know much.  I knew that ALS was called ‘Lou Gehrig’s Disease’, named after a baseball player, and that it had something to do with the nervous system,” shared producer Maria Leicy. “And I knew that a lot of people participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money and awareness.”

Director Ora Yashar adds, “Before I embarked on this project, I knew that ALS was a paralyzer- a life taker. What I didn't think about, or didn't want to, was that one's mind could still be intact while inevitable changes are taking place to the body -- which an individual has no control over.”

The WIF PSA team worked on many concept ideas before deciding to focus on how ALS might impact a young family, where the disease had taken away the ability of one of the parents to move and speak. They also wanted to highlight the global awareness raised by the 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in a unique way, while showing an audience that the need for financial and volunteer support still exists. Staff from the Golden West Chapter worked with the team on the project’s scope, focus on caregivers and families, and production timeline. The PSA team also came to many chapter events and support groups, and met in person with chapter care managers, caregivers, and people living with ALS. After reviewing several script proposals, chapter staff and the PSA team all agreed that one entitled, “Helping Hand,” told a common story for many people living with ALS.

“The members of the WIF team captured many key elements about living with ALS in their script,” said Fred Fisher, President & CEO of The ALS Association Golden West Chapter. “For example, the inability to move is a challenge that some people with ALS face every day. Most people with ALS live at home through their battle with the disease. Their daily care needs are provided by their families, which are willingly undertaken out of love. Over half of primary caregivers are women, who are also caring for children while, at the same time, they are also working to financially support the family.”

  WIF PSA- glass
  WIF PSA- table
  WIF PSA- boy

"I want to give my heartfelt thanks to everyone at the Golden West Chapter for opening my eyes to the reality of ALS,” said writer Magda Marcella. “Having the ability to meet with people living with the disease, and their families and friends, and have the opportunity to listen to their stories was compelling.”

The PSA was shot at Smashbox Studios in Los Angeles, and features the talents of Lacey Mael as the wife/caregiver, Robert Esser as the father living with ALS, along with Boston and Rhys Patton as their young children.

 “Playing a young father with ALS was a tough role,” said actor Robert Esser. “In preparation, I watched numerous documentaries on the disease and each one affected me deeply. It happens to too many good people.”

“As a writer, my goal was to create a compelling story to engage an audience and expand awareness of the disease, the needs of the ALS community, and the importance of the many services that The ALS Association Golden West Chapter offers.” said Magda Marcella. “Before this project, the importance of raising ALS awareness was a topic that I would have probably skimmed over out of sheer ignorance; it is now something that I am very passionate about.”

My focus in directing this PSA was that we must offer people with ALS and their loved ones compassion and support.” said Ora Yashar. “I hope it will serve as a call to action to lend a helping hand to the ALS community.”

“As a producer, I learned that ALS is an overwhelming illness that affects not only the person with the disease, but their loved ones as well,” said Maria Leicy. “With resources and support from the Golden West Chapter, many people with ALS live longer and with a higher quality of life. As a result, the disease can be studied more, which will help bring us closer to a cure. Those working together to defeat ALS are very courageous and dedicated.”  

“The work that WIF does for the community is amazing, and we are honored to partner with them on this project,” said Fred Fisher. “On behalf of the ALS community that we serve, we are grateful for their commitment to increase the public’s understanding about the very important subject of caregiving and ALS.”

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