Preeclampsia will feature prominently in a new feature film set to go into production in March of 2009. How did this come to be? Is the writer a female preeclampsia survivor? Did the director lose a loved one to the disease?
Neither case is true.
What is true is that the writers were in search of an illness that would occur during pregnancy. Their research led them to learn about preeclampsia and the Preeclampsia Foundation. At the time the writers, Craig Weintraub, Brian Steinbach, and Joey O’Bryan, had never heard of it, which was fine with them since they did not want to incorporate something that was really well known. That was in 2005, around the time of the first Saving Grace gala in Minneapolis. Weintraub, the film’s Director, and his partners were still writing the story at the time, so they attended the event to learn more from survivors and medical practitioners. Once they learned, as Weintraub puts it, “How could you not want to become more involved to raise awareness and funds for the disease?”
“In our own lives,” Weintraub adds, “there is no experience with preeclampsia; but when you hear the stories [of survivors], you feel like you are part of their family.” Of course his first priority is to complete the film—and to tell a story that is original in all aspects. But in conjunction with that goal, he is interested in doing two things for the Foundation: bringing more awareness to the cause and bringing more money to the effort for research.
The movie is entitled, Baby Grand, and is the story of a man in his late twenties/early thirties with everything in place in his life – a good job, a new house, and a pregnant wife. When he finds out he was adopted as an infant then finds out all the information in his adoption papers is false, things begin taking an unexpected turn. Weintraub won’t divulge what happens or what the exact circumstances are to avoid taking away the element of surprise in the story.
Weintraub believes that with preeclampsia as a major element of the story that the disease will be put on center stage. He hopes the film will have a national and international release. The filmmakers will give a portion of the proceeds from the theatrical release to the Preeclampsia Foundation. In addition, there will be a small featurette on the DVD bonus materials to explain more about preeclampsia.
Once the movie is released, there will be private screenings that will act as fundraisers for the Preeclampsia Foundation. In fact, even on paper, the film has already raised money for the Foundation. A walk-on role in the film was auctioned off at Saving Grace in September and brought in $1,000. Weintraub says it is way too early in the process to know exactly how the auction winner, a Preeclampsia Foundation volunteer, will be used in the production. The film is nearing the pre-production stage which means casting and budgeting are starting. Filming will take place in New Mexico.
Weintraub is a native of Long Island, NY and attended New York University film school. His resume includes second unit directorial work, a stint with Scott Rudin Productions (which produced films such as Little Man Tate and Searching for Bobby Fischer), and an award from the Long Island Film Festival. He set out to write this story four-and-a-half to five years ago and wanted to write a strong story that would attract “A-list” talent. “We don’t have millions of dollars,” Weintraub says, “but we do have control over what we write.”
He says the film has already attracted top talent and will definitely make a theatrical release. “We are aiming high,” he says, “the higher we go, the more recognition preeclampsia will get. . . [this] is very special to us because of the power of what it can do.”