Chris Sparling Brings Type 1 Diabetes to the Big Screen with "Greenland"
Chris Sparling Brings Type 1 Diabetes to the Big Screen with "Greenland"
The new big-budget disaster movie Greenland comes out on streaming this week. It starts Gerard Butler as the central character, trying to save his family including his son who lives with type 1. Award winning screenwriter Chris Sparling had never put diabetes into one of his movies, but he knows all about T1D. His wife is Kerri Sparling, writer of the very popular, and now archived, blog Stacey & Chris talk about writing something personal into a movie and then handing over control to a different director and producer, as well as what it's like to try to make movies during COVID restrictions. In innovations –JDRF begins at-home early T1D detection. More on the new This podcast is not intended as medical advice. If you have those kinds of questions, please contact your health care provider. ----- available to Diabetes Connections listeners! ----- Get the App and listen to Diabetes Connections wherever you go! Episode Transcription (rough transcript, computer only - check back for proofed version) Stacey Simms 0:00 Diabetes Connections is brought to you by One Drop, created for people with diabetes by people who have diabetes by Gvoke HypoPen, the first premixed auto injector for very low blood sugar, and by Dexcom take control of your diabetes and live life to the fullest with Dexcom. Announcer 0:21 This is Diabetes Connections with Stacey Simms. Stacey Simms 0:27 This week, there's a new movie all about a big global disaster and it features a main character with type one. award winning screenwriter Chris Sparling had never put diabetes into one of his movies. And he was a bit concerned about how it would all turn out. Chris Sparling 0:41 I became so in a way overprotective of getting it right. And it being portrayed right because the last thing I wanted to do was to finally incorporate diabetes into a movie of mine and for it to end up being portrayed wrong. Stacey Simms 0:55 Many of you already know Chris, sort of his wife Kerri Sparling wrote the very popular blog six until me for almost 15 years. We talk about diabetes in the movie and at home and about the entertainment business during this time of COVID in innovations JDRF begins at home early T1D detection. This podcast is not intended as medical advice. If you have those kinds of questions, please contact your health care provider. Welcome to another week of the show. I am so glad to have you here. I am your host Stacey Simms and we aim to educate and inspire about diabetes by sharing stories of connection. Something different This week, we're going to talk about Greenland. This is a movie it's releasing in the US on video on demand it stars Gerard Butler and Marina Bakkerin who you probably know from the Deadpool movies. I put the trailer in the Facebook group and Diabetes Connections of the group. But the basic plot is that these are estranged parents, maybe they'll get back together, but they are working on their marriage just as a world ending cosmic disaster happens. And wouldn't you know it, their son has type one diabetes, so diabetes, type one insulin, this all becomes a plot point. Now we've talked about this a lot before so many films and TV shows have gotten diabetes exactly wrong. But Greenland has a big advantage. And that is as you heard in that opening tease, and that screenwriter Chris Sparling, whose wife lives with type one, we will get to Chris in just a moment. But first Diabetes Connections is brought to you by one drop and getting diabetes supplies is a pain. Not only the ordering and the picking up but the arguing with insurance about over what they say you need and what you really need. Make it easy with one drop. They offer personalized test strip plans plus you get a Bluetooth a glucose meter test strips lancets and your very own certified diabetes coach. Subscribe today to get test strips for less than $20 a month delivered right to your door no prescription or co pays required. One less thing to worry about not that surprising when you learn that the founder of one drop lips with type one, they get it one drop gorgeous gear supplies delivered to your door 24 seven access to your certified diabetes coach, learn more, go to Diabetes connections.com and click on the one drop logo. My guest this week is an award-winning screenwriter. He is someone that I've never met, but I feel like I kind of know because for many years I and many of you read about him in Kerry Sparling’s blog SixUntilMe. Kerri spent more than 14 years writing about her life with type 1 diabetes which included meeting and marrying Chris, who has been featured in blog posts about kids and family and everything you would expect. Kerri has stepped back from the blog to pursue other projects in her own writing. And Chris has a big movie coming out this week as this episode airs, Greenland, which debuts on American streaming this week. Chris, thank you so much for joining me. Welcome to the show. Chris Sparling 3:53 Thank you. Thank you for having me. Stacey Simms 3:55 It's great to have you. I feel it. As I said, I feel like I kind of know you. So I appreciate you kind of taking the leap and coming on not a movie or writing podcast, but a diabetes podcast. So this should be really fun. What made you decide I mean, you've been writing movies for an awfully long time. What made you decide to put diabetes? Chris Sparling 4:14 You know, it's something I've been wanting to do for a while this movie presented a pretty unique opportunity for me to do it for a couple of reasons. One, the movie is the first of what's called Greenland. And it's about an incoming asteroid that's going to hit Earth or comet, it's going to hit Earth. It's this existential threat that everyone on earth faces. So kind of by nature of that alone, there's a ticking clock built into the movie, right? It's just when this thing's going to hit you're trying to get to the bunkers in Greenland. I tried to get there safely and survive. And so on the macro level there is that that large ticking clock at play, but the movie itself is different than say, deep impact or Armageddon in that it operates more on a personal level than those two movies do. You know it's not a movie checking in with what the government's doing to try to up the asteroid or anything like that, it's really more like the movie, the impossible if anyone listening ever saw that it's a great movie. And it's all to do with seeing it through this one particular family's lens, how they're going to survive this, this Cataclysm. So built into that I wanted to have a more personal, it's a more personal story. And I'd like the idea of having a more personal ticking clock as well. And so the son in the movie has type one. And now that's not to say the only reason why I gave him type one is to say, oh, that'd be a cool narrative device is to add yet another ticking clock. But it also quite honestly, it just, as I said, at the beginning of this long winded answer is that it gave me You know, I've been wanting to do it for a while, you know, Kerri and I have been together for a very long time. So I've seen type one up close and personal for a very long time. And, you know, I think it's kind of, it's somewhat misunderstood, if not even known condition by a lot of people. So it was, you know, I'm kind of hesitant to use the word educate, because I'm not really trying to do that, but maybe just shine a light on it a little bit. And, you know, this was a, an opportunity to do that on a, I guess, a large screen, or one of your house. Stacey Simms 6:08 But I'm really curious, as you said, This isn't a movie where you're going to take time to actually do a formal education about type one, just as I wouldn't expect a formal education about a comment hitting the earth, and you know, what would happen, but you do have to explain these things. And I'm curious, you know, how do you work that in, you know, I assume we'll see things like injections or a pump or something like that. But was it difficult to kind of write it into the fabric of the story without, you know, Hey, everybody, we're gonna talk about diabetes. Chris Sparling 6:34 Now, it was, to a certain extent, because, you know, as you will know, it's diabetes, you know, it's sometimes can fly a bit under the radar. You know, I recently, it was kind of bizarre to do it. But it's fun, I did it, I did an interview with Kerri. And so we were talking like you and I are talking now. And as I told her, then, and I don't always know when she's low, I don't always know when she's high, you know, things are beeping and everything else. And sometimes she takes on a certain characteristics, when that's going on. And I do know, or if I see you're sweeping a bunch of juice or whatever, but like, but sometimes I just don't know. And so to kind of to represent that on screen is difficult, because if you try to go too far in one direction, or the other, it may start to feel very false and forced, and almost cartoonish. And I say 100%, didn't want to do that. But if you go too subtle with it, which diabetes can sometimes be a rather subtle condition, you know, at times, and, you know, if you do that, then it just, it doesn't register for the audience at all. So to kind of dramatize that, what I did was I had the boy, the young boy in the in the movie, let's take one, I gave him a pump. And, you know, to kind of develop a shorthand with the audience, right out of the gate, there's a scene early on in the movie, where Gerard Butler who started in the movie, he's seeing that basically, he's been away, he, his wife had marital problems, and he's kind of they're trying to work it out, he and his wife now and he's coming back, he hasn't seen his son in a little while. And you see, there's a nice tender scene between him and his son, where he notices the pump, the insulin pump, and he says, you know, you know, basically, there's something to the effect of I do like that better than the shots. And you know, just kind of getting it across to the audience, someone who may not be as familiar with it as you are. Or I might be what's like, oh, okay, I get, you know, I can understand that you're certain things, I have a certain amount of knowledge about diabetes. So yeah, it's not, it's small things like that along the way, I've no doubt there will still be things that some people watching, it won't fully kind of hook on to, and they won't fully get. But at the same time, I think there might be elements of it that people watching might be like, Oh, I had no idea. I had no idea that having diabetes would require something like that. Or even to say, the immediacy and the importance of insulin, it kind of where I spoke earlier about this massive macro level existential threat that they're facing. But they still have to get to these bunkers in Greenland, if they're going to survive. And there becomes a situation where this boy get he needs his insulin, because he gets separated from it. And it's like, well, yeah, the large scale goal here remains, but if we don't get you there safely, and again, I mean, just maybe telling maybe to a certain degree, informing the audience who might not know that insulin is not just something like, again, you take it whenever you don't know, I don't know what some people might think, like, you just take it once in a while you take it as you feel like it or I don't know, whatever the misconception might be, Stacey Simms 9:09 that we eat a cupcake, you need your insulin, right? (laughs) Chris Sparling 9:12 Yeah, yeah. I think if nothing else, maybe it'll open, not open people's eyes. That's actually wrong, especially maybe just kind of illuminate the topic a bit for some people. Stacey Simms 9:19 You know, again, I said at the beginning, I'll probably say a few times. I know very little about the industry, the movie industry and and what it takes to write a movie and produce and get, but I would imagine that and you've done projects before, where you've been involved in every step, right, you've written and then you've produced it, or you've been more involved. But with this, you you wrote it as my understanding, and what happens after you kind of hand off your baby because the director can change things, right. The actors have to change things. I guess I'll ask it both ways. First about the diabetes. Did they get it right the way you had hoped? And then we can talk about the movie? Chris Sparling 9:53 Yeah, well, I mean, yeah, I mean, first, even before diabetes, yes, that always happens. I mean, I've directed movies, I produce movies, all of which have been ones that I've written. So, you know, in those instances, I have obviously quite a bit of control over what the final movies gonna look like in this instance, having just written it. In other movies I've only written, you know, there's always an understanding that when you hand it off, essentially, you know, your depends on the project, quite honestly. I mean, sometimes just as the screenwriter, I am still very much involved with the production because the director or the producer probably see the value of having the person conceived it but but with this, I was involved but not see, like, on a day to day level, that's for sure. Look for the diabetes of it all. You know, I was happy with it. And I was, there were a couple days when I was on set. And, you know, there was I just happened to be there. One of the days they're shooting a scene in in the grocery store and use the sons, they're shopping with his dad, and he's like, Hey, can I get some juice in the dad's like, yeah, sure, go get some. And I remember talking to the directors like Rick, listen, he's like, I was like, you know, my wife generally doesn't drink juice for fun. I'm not I mean, again, I know. She perfectly well, I should be no problem. She could if she wanted to just you know, but I was just I became so in a way over protective of getting it right. And it being portrayed, right, because the last thing I wanted to do was to finally incorporate diabetes into a move your mind and for it to end up being portrayed wrong. But in talking with Rick, he was like, No, no, it's cool. You know, I guess he was, meanwhile, he had his friend on speed dial who was the parent of a child of type one. He's like, No, no, I talked to them. I've consulted with them over and over again. And they said they get no, they let their child have juice if they want it and everything else I was like, and like, on an intellectual level, it made perfect sense to me. But I was I mean, I was kind of like waiting that we hold on a second rate bumps, you know, so to fully answer the question, I think the director, the producer was I think they did a really good job. I think people watching the movie and will it be 100%? Right? I don't know. I mean, people might see it and say, Hey, I don't know if I agree with that. Or not. But everyone's situation in their approach is different. But I could say if you kind of widen the aperture a bit and take a look at it, I think people are gonna I think it does it handles it accurately. For the most part. Stacey Simms 12:02 I would have been like Gatorade zero, and then he can get a juice box for later. Chris Sparling 12:08 Yeah, I mean, that's I'm saying like, everyone's situation is different. Right? Stacey Simms 12:11 So let's talk about movies for a little bit. Was this your dream job? Was this something you always wanted to do? Right back to Chris in just a moment. But first Diabetes Connections is brought to you by Dexcom. And you know, I've talked about this before, but it's still striking to me when Benny was a little, you know, you give your kid a bath almost every single day or he goes swimming all summer long. And I always noticed his fingertips, you know, they were poked so much, that they were full of these little holes up and they just looked really awful. Especially when they got wet. It was almost 16 I'm not looking at his hands very much anymore. But man, when we go to the endocrinologist and Dr. V looks at his fingertips, they are normal. We've been using the Dexcom for so long. Now it was seven years. And with every new iteration, we have done fewer and fewer finger sticks. The latest generation the Dexcom g six eliminates finger sticks for calibration and diabetes treatment decisions. Just thinking about doing the 10 finger six a day we used to do chasing my toddler around, it makes me so glad that Dexcom has helped us come so far. It's an incredible tool. If your glucose alerts and readings from the G six do not match your symptoms or expectations. Use a blood glucose meter to make diabetes treatment decisions. learn more, go to Diabetes connections.com and click on the Dexcom logo. Now back to Chris and he's talking about whether this is still his dream job. Does he still love working in the movies? Chris Sparling 13:38 Yeah, 100% I mean, I started like eons ago, I started as an actor. And I lived in Los Angeles for several years doing that. And while I liked that, and sure, it would have been great to have ultimately done that it just wasn't really it's a really, really tough racket, trying to be doing the struggling actor thing. You know, it's fine when you're really young doing it. But at a certain point, you just feel like, wow, I have like no agency, I've almost no control over my future. You know, it's just really, really tough. So I just kind of felt I needed a little more control over my career. And so yeah, so to be involved in this industry in any capacity was was always my goal. Stacey Simms 14:16 How does it work these days? I mean, people will say, well, you can write from anywhere. But I've got to imagine that the whole industry, if not moving slower, shut down. I mean, 2020 it's been a mess for everybody. But from a filmmaking standpoint, how did this even get done? When was I guess we'll talk about Greenland, but in general, like, how are things getting made right now? Chris Sparling 14:36 I mean, yeah, Greenland was all written, shot well before the pandemic, but at the same time post production, it got shut down for a while in post production. So it didn't get completed, completed until in the midst of the pandemic, you know, and then as far as the release of it, yeah, I mean, it's supposed to be in theaters two or three different times, then take a push back and push back. But separate from that, you know, as 2020 is going on. I've actually had two other movies shoot during the pandemic, I just had one that wrapped two days ago in Albuquerque. And so for me personally, it's been a, you know, again, I mentioned earlier, but I can't complain people have like real, you know, things there, especially during 2020 people have had really awful things that they've kind of faced, I'm not certainly gonna, I'm not going to complain about having a movie pushback or not being able to visit set because of COVID. But yeah, I mean, it's been a bit of a bummer. That's, you know, I'm still human, like, it was a bit of a bummer to, to have two movies that, you know, I wrote and produced, and I was basically producing from, you know, one was an Ontario as a movie called Lakewood that I did with Naomi Watts. And then a movie that I just did born in Albuquerque that wrapped two days ago. And it's like, I was watching real feed, like real time feeds from the camera, in my house, in my home office. And my situation of you know, being very protective in particular carry, you know, having type one, and so we are, we're very, very locked down here and the COVID of it all. And so me going to set me being on set just wasn't really an option for me. So Stacey Simms 15:58...