Michaela O’Brien (WIFVNE member) and Melissa Langer are two first-time filmmakers producing In Crystal Skin, an intimate documentary that explores the lives of four Colombian individuals challenged by Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), a rare and debilitating skin disease which currently has no cure. Although O’Brien and Langer have both worked in Boston’s production community for multiple years, nothing could quite prepare them for the world of independent filmmaking like their boots-on-the-ground approach to making In Crystal Skin.
O’Brien, who is also a documentary photographer, came upon this story while photographing the lives of the disabled at an orphanage in Bogotá, Colombia. There she met Nixa, 21, and her older sister Nury, both of whom were born with EB. O’Brien felt an immediate connection to their story, and upon her return to the US, began reviewing footage with editor Melissa Langer. Together, the two embarked on the journey of producing an in-depth portrait of Colombian lives affected by this disease. Now tracing the lives of two additional characters, the film’s scope has expanded to include a ten-year-old girl crossing the threshold of a complicated adolescence and a middle-aged mailman searching for a companion in a bustling city.
From the get-go, the two young filmmakers have embedded themselves in a milieu that lends a rawness to their storytelling, living alongside the characters and experiencing their day-to-day routines firsthand. For them, producing the film has been a process of cultivating their artistic voice as well as using their art to serve a social purpose. They prioritize experimentation both behind the camera and in the edit room and are intentional in highlighting their characters’ unique personalities and strengths rather than their struggles. Their hope is that by calling attention to the grit and optimism embodied by those with EB, In Crystal Skin will spur much-needed dialogue about managing life with a rare disease.
Interested in finding out more about the documentary? The filmmakers will be holding a fundraiser to raise post-production funds for In Crystal Skin. They will be screening their trailer and displaying photography for sale. Join them for free food, drinks and raffle prizes from local JP stores! The event is on Thursday, April 18th from 7:30 – 11pm at the Aviary Gallery in Jamaica Plain.