For Zach Jankovic, Parkinson’s had always been a part of his life—but not in the way you might expect. Until recently, he hadn’t personally met many people with PD.
Zach’s connection to Parkinson’s was through his father, Joseph Jankovic, MD. A professor of neurology, Dr. Jankovic is the director of the Parkinson’s Disease Center and Movement Disorders Clinic at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He is also a member of The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board. Now a film school graduate, Zach recalls, “I first learned how to edit watching my mom edit footage documenting the symptoms of my dad’s PD patients.”
With an early interest in Parkinson’s, Zach chose to explore how film could raise awareness around Parkinson’s and serve to tell people’s stories. For the past two years, he’s been working on The Astronaut’s Secret, documenting the life of Rich Clifford—a NASA astronaut who kept his Parkinson’s secret for 17 years but has since become an advocate for participating in clinical research.
Zach has also partnered with the Houston Area Parkinson Society (HAPS), an independent patient support organization, on another video project. He just wrapped up production on a short film, “I Am The Face of Parkinson’s,” which HAPS submitted to the 2013 World Parkinson Congress Video Competition.
“Through a tapestry of different perspectives, we wanted to capture what it’s like to live with PD,” says Zach. In one long day of filming, he interviewed 14 people with Parkinson’s. But the interviews were the easy part, he says. The challenge was paring it down to three-and-a-half minutes. “Each person found their own way to deal with the disease, handling it with courage and grace. I wished I could include everyone. But I now better understand what my dad sees each day with his patients,” he says.
Although Zach’s familiarity with Parkinson’s had initially been more scientific, he has come to know the many faces of the disease. “I’m even more inspired to help find a cure,” he says. “I only hope by sharing these stories, we can help inspire others to take action.”