Dear Seth & Lauren,
My name is Jacob, and I’m the director of “The Long Goodbye”, a feature documentary chronicling one woman’s struggle with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. I’m originally from a small town in upstate NY, and moved out to Los Angeles to live in the narrative world. However, I was pulled back home to take part in the extraordinarily sacred process of documenting the journey of Linda Folley, a local woman who made a huge impact on our community and the countless people who loved her. After three years of shooting, and following her death in March of last year, I’m now in post-production.
Seth - I’m a longtime fan of your work, from the all-too-fleeting glory days of FREAKS AND GEEKS, spanning to your recent adaptation of one of my most beloved pieces of fiction, period - Ennis’s PREACHER. You’re truly a multi-faceted creative talent - known largely for comedy, but with a strong propensity for understanding drama, and just knowing how to tell a good story. I was surprised a few years ago when a friend sent me your address to congress, where you'd shared your own experience dealing with Lauren's mother's early-onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
It had the impact you’d intended - hearing you speak about your own experience, and also how sheltered you’d been from understanding the truly devastating nature of the disease, empowered me to talk more liberally about my process with others. Perhaps most importantly, sharing my story with others almost always resulted in hearing THEIR stories, because clearly countless people have Alzheimer’s stories, while most are reluctant to share them.
Now, to share Linda’s - Also an esteemed intellectual and creative powerhouse, Linda had fallen in love with her wife, Camila, in 2005. Three years later, at 48 years old, she received the buffer-diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). It was at 52 that she received the diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s. And it was then that Camila, fearing for all they would stand to lose in Linda’s regression, went searching for a videographer.
Like you, prior to my relationship with these two women, I thought Alzheimer’s affected only the elderly - in fact, phonetically, believed it to be “old-timer’s disease”. I was shocked to learn how ignorant I was of a disease that affects 50 million people, (not to mention their friends and family). It was two days into filming them that I realized the educational merit of sharing their story with the world. I was blown away by their willingness to embrace my vision, and allow for Linda’s struggle to be shared with the global community.
What began as a couple of interviews grew into an extensive video log spanning three years. I fell in love with them, their kids, and their grandkids, honored by the sacred privilege of capturing this woman’s light, and the last of her lucidity. But as was clear from our first interviews - Linda was proud, and protective of her family. She wanted to spare her loved ones from the sentence of her long-time care, as she would continue to lose cognition, and more importantly, her dignity. Last spring, on March 19th, Linda took her life, peacefully, in her home, surrounded by her closest friends and family.
While physician-assisted suicide has now been legalized in 5 US states (including, and more recently, California), Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are NOT protected by this legislation. It would require two physicians to certify that she would be dead from the disease within six months, and that she would be of sound mind. As I’m sure you know, these conditions are mutually exclusive when it comes to Alzheimer’s. That is why Linda chose to die while she had the power to do so - unassisted.
Last week, we launched our Kickstarter campaign to satisfy our post-production budget (we’re asking $50,000 of our blanket budget of $150k). With 23 days to go, our aim is to have this film finished in time to submit to the Toronto International Film Festival, which closes on June 2nd. I recently became aware that Quebec is considering extending the protection of death-with-dignity to Alzheimer’s/Dementia patients - making Canada the very first country to allow this. (Leave it to Canada to push the humane-envelope, right?)
I’m reaching out to you in hopes you might help in sharing our campaign, so that we may honor our friend, and tell her story to anyone and everyone willing to hear it. I’m not sure you will see this in time - I haven’t honestly attempted to contact any of my heroes on twitter - but I had to try. I’d be so grateful for your support, and pleased to answer any questions you may have. You can find me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), by phone (607-220-9382), or on the ground in Los Angeles.
I’m including the link to our trailer, and to our campaign, listed below.
Many thanks to you both, and keep up the important work you’re doing.
Jacob Y. Miller
Director, “The Long Goodbye”