The Return…

No I’m not talking about the return of Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose (who I told people that he wasn’t coming back at all this season but I’m getting off topic), I’m talking about the return of me working on my film again. It’s been a few months since I took a hiatus from working on the Wheelchair Chronicles to focus on finishing school (one more month til graduation…WOOOO!!!) and now I’m preparing to finally finish the film that I’ve been working on now for close to 4 years.

One of the great things about taking a hiatus is that it gave me a chance to clear my head. I was focusing on my film 24/7 with one idea for how I wanted to present this film and it was driving me insane and it felt like my head was going to explode. The time away from the film has help big time because it’s given me an opportunity to view other documentaries and get ideas on how to present my film. I so many ideas floating my head and I get a rush of excitement when I come with a new idea and so I’m itching to start working again.

I’m excited for the finish of The Wheelchair Chronicles and I can’t wait to update you all as I take the final steps in completing this film. While I love chronicling my life in a wheelchair through words (I have another idea about further chronicling my life in a wheelchair after my film but I’ll talk about that in a future post), I want people to see me and to watch me explain the trails and tribulations that have happened in my life.

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Being Scared and Looking At My Future

I’m scared. It’s hard for me to admit it but it’s true, I’m scared to death. The reason I’m feeling this way is because of my legs. Over the past few months I’ve been having a lot of pain in my legs, to be more precise, my hips. It seems like every morning I wake up and my hips feel like they’re on fire. I’ve tried for months not to worry about it and just block out the pain but recently that hasn’t been the case and now I’m worry that something is seriously happening to me and I’m beginning to question whether I’ll walk again.

Now I’ve had problems with my legs from the moment I was born. I’ve used braces as a child, walked with a serious limp through most of my teenage years, and I’ve been using a wheelchair for close to 13 years and I’ve never worried about my legs this much, so why now? Why am I so scared, why am I suffering with this fear of something bad happening to me?

Then it hit me. I’m scared because my life is changing right before my eyes. I’m preparing to graduate from college, I’m working on my first film, and now I’m thinking about things in my life that I’ve never thought about 5 or even 10 years ago. I’m thinking about marriage, my career, and whether I want to have children. Knowing that I have these leg problems, I’m truly concerned about how this will affect my future.

I don’t want to be constantly worrying about the condition my legs for the rest of my life, that’s why going to see this doctor at Northwestern Hospital is very important to me. I have to find out what’s going and figure what to do about it. I know I have the support of my friends and family through this tough time and I need every bit of support I can get now. I just want to find out what’s wrong with me and what I can do to fix it .

The Urge To Film Again

It’s been a while since I’ve written on my blog, but it’s been even longer since I picked up a camera. I’ve been done shooting my film for close to six months now and yet I miss filming.

I miss picking up a camera and shooting in different locations. Now I’ve got the urge again, the urge to pick up a camera and start shooting anything that moves.

I got a thrill from shooting my film. The idea of recording my experiences through the streets of Chicago invigorated me. I got to learn so much about myself through my travels and how being in a wheelchair has affected me and the people in my life.

I’m an artist and I have so many ideas in my head that are film related and I feel the urge again to record these new-found ideas and spread those ideas across the world.

Filming is my passion now and I need a camera in my hand to record my experiences.

Wheelchair Chronicles Film Update

As much as I don’t want to do this, I have to put completing my film on hold. With trying to finish up school, my time has been stretched out and I just don’t have the time to fully focus on finishing my film at this time. It’s a real difficult decision to make and it’s hurting me so bad now but I’m so close to graduating and I have to fully focus on that. It hurts because I’m so passionate about my first film and I don’t want to let you all down because you’ve been so supportive of me but school comes first.

Thank you all for supporting me and supporting my blog and supporting my film

Justin

I thought I would re-blog this for my followers

Life with Becky

I was going through old photographs today, and taking photos of them so I will have a digital record.  I have found that the images taken with my digital camera are so much better than using a scanner, and much quicker too.  I found these photos of Becky when she was between six and eight, I think.  I love all of them.  I think they capture her personality and happy disposition perfectly.

Becky 1 Becky 5Becky 2Becky 3Becky 4

This last one is my absolute favourite.  Becky and her friend were dressing up, and I just managed to catch them with the most magical smiles.  As you can see, I always loved black and white photos.  These were the way they way taken, no changes except cropping.

Now I can use my camera to take pictures of photos, my material for posts becomes almost unlimited.

I hope you enjoyed this little trip into the past.

 

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I Rather Be An Outcast

When I started out on my film journey, one of my many goals for the film and for myself was to finally be accepted not just by my peers, but by society . You can understand why I made that a goal for myself. At that time, I felt that being accepted by society as a person with a disability would benefit not only me but other people in wheelchairs and other disabilities. Now over a year later, my goal has changed.

I would rather not be accepted by society as a person with a disability. Let me explain. Throughout my 30 years of life, all I’ve wanted was to be accepted. I wanted to be accepted by my friends, family, and other people. I yearned for that acceptance and I was ashamed of my disability. I figured that if I wanted to be successful I had to embrace society, I had to be a part of it, I had to conform. Even when I was working on this film, I still was trying to gain acceptance. Now I don’t want that at all. I don’t want to be “accepted” anymore, I would rather be an outcast than be accepted by society.

Why should I work my ass off to force people to welcome me into their “little club?” Hell, they shunned me to begin with. They treat me like I don’t belong and I’m supposed to work hard to have them welcome me with open arms reluctantly, no way. So I rather stick with being an outcast. As an outcast, I get to be myself. I don’t have to hide who I am to be viewed as normal because I’m not normal.

There are things about me that stand out to many people who I’ve met throughout my life and that’s all that matters to me. Those people who I’ve befriended have accepted me from the beginning as a person and not a man in a wheelchair. I shouldn’t have to work for acceptance, as a black man and a person with a disability; I should already have that acceptance.

Justin

Winter Stories: The Day I Got Stuck In The Snow

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While being in my wheelchair, I’ve experienced many obstacles while traveling through the streets of Chicago. Being that we’re still in winter and with the first significant snowstorm in Chicago, that took place, I wanted to share with you all about the time I got stuck in the snow while riding in my wheelchair. This incident took place in my neighborhood and it was a frightening experience that turned into a great experience thanks to a Good Samaritan.

The incident took place in my neighborhood of Old Town. This happen in December of 2006 and this was at a time when me and my mom were still getting acclimated with our neighborhood just moving into Old Town in August of that year. I was also getting acclimated to my (then) new power chair and the “rebel” in me thought I can do anything in my chair even go through snow. Well on this particular day, I learned that this rebel can be stopped.

It happened on a Sunday morning and I normally go out at that time (no matter the season) to get the Sunday newspapers, get some fresh air and enjoy the sights and sounds of the neighborhood. I made a stop at the Walgreen’s on the corner of North Ave. & Wells. On my way there the sidewalks around where I lived and along North Ave. were relatively clean with a few patches and piles of snow (which I could rollover in my power chair). After picking up the newspapers from Walgreen’s  instead of going back the way I came, the “rebel” in me decided to ride around the neighborhood and go a different direction and that was a mistake.

Instead of heading back west up North Ave. and back to my house, I went east on North Ave. to the next street LaSalle and went south up one block to a street called Burton and that’s where I made my mistake. Now let me describe this street. Around there Burton between LaSalle and Wells is a really short street and it’s like a dead-end and at the end it has a long sidewalk leading to Wells. I went up Burton and I almost got stuck by an alleyway over there due to the snow but I keep pressing on, nothing was gonna stop me.

Wells & Burton
Burton Pl. – This is the street I came up from LaSalle

I approached this bar called Burton Place (pretty good bar, by the way) and there was a lot of snow in that area but I figured that I could make it and as I kept moving through the snow it was bad but then…my chair came to a complete stop! I’m stuck in the snow with no way of backing up. I’m scared to death! I’ve never been stuck in the snow and worse it was very cold. There were people around but I didn’t want them to think I was stuck in the snow. I panicked at that time because I was ashamed of asking for help. I was getting cold but then out of nowhere a man was walking down Wells with a shovel headed in my direction. He saw me and asked if I needed help. I told him reluctantly “yes I did need help” This Good Samaritan spent at least 20 minutes digging me out of the snow and making a path for me to get out. Eventually, I was able to back out and move forward to get out of there.

Burton Place Bar & Grill
Burton Place Bar & Grill

I was so grateful to this random guy because he didn’t have to help me at all. I was sad after that because I didn’t have any money left to give him and I really wanted to give him something for helping me. The interesting thing is that I never saw that guy again because where I live I’m used to seeing people around even if I don’t know them and I never saw that guy again. On that day I learned a tough lesson that day. I’m still a rebel in my wheelchair but at certain points when I’m traveling through the city, I have to shut down the rebel and adventurer in me and be more cautious especially during the winter.

The Art of Driving a Wheelchair

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With the debut of the Wheelchair Chronicles Facebook page, I decided to talk about the art of maneuvering in a wheelchair. This is a topic that has intrigued many people who have seen me in my wheelchair. People are “amazed” at how well I ride around in my wheelchair. Well maybe the reason for that is that I’ve had plenty of experience. I and many others who use wheelchairs have turned maneuvering into an art form (yes! that’s right, an art form)

I call it an art because whether you live in the city, suburbs, town, etc. as a wheelchair user you a performing a delicate dance through people, cracked concrete, streets, construction zones, cars, tiny spaces, and let’s not forget the weather, I can list a bunch more but you get the point so I’ll spare you.

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It’s an art form because it takes time and patience to become an actual expert in controlling a wheelchair. When I got my manual chair in 2001 it was hard to maneuver, getting around spaces in my apartment because I was horrible at (still am in some instances) and because I hated being in my wheelchair. When I got my first my power chair 5 years later I met with the same problems and crashing into plenty of walls in the process.

 

As time went on I became better at it controlling both of my chairs through my apartment and through the streets of Chicago. Hell I even started learning a few tricks like quick turns, moving through extremely tight spaces, and even learned the art of drifting (all my racing fans and car enthusiasts know what I’m talking about). Since I got my second power chair  (aka the speed demon) a few months ago I’ve had to relearn how to maneuver all over again because it a lot bigger and faster than my other power chair.

What a lot of able-body people don’t understand is that there’s a process that us wheelchair users have to go through when we’re maneuvering in either are manual or powers chairs or hell both. There’s even a process when setting up are chairs to help us transfer either to our beds, other wheelchairs, etc. So when people are amazed at my ability move in tight spaces without scratching up walls, when I can ride fast in my chair without hitting you on the streets (even though sometimes I really want to) just remember that maneuvering in a wheelchair is a process and an art that in my 12 years I have mastered and I’m still learning.

Justin Cooper

P.S. My new Facebook page to the Wheelchair Chronicles is up so give it a like and tell your friends about it as well. It’s a way for me to connect with my fans. Thanks!

 

A Breakout Year: 2012

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It’s been a while since my last post. I decided to take a little break after a grueling quarter at DePaul, finishing up shooting the film and other personal things I was dealing with. With the year coming to an end I wanted to look back at the great year that I had. I consider this year to be a breakout year for me because of the things I was able to accomplish in my life.

It was a breakout year for me because I finished shooting my film that was three years in the making. I never thought during my college career at DePaul that I would be making an actual film and better yet, finish shooting a film. A year of work has put me in a position to tell my story to the world, an opportunity to make a name for myself in the film industry. I really proud of the work that I accomplished this year.

This year I also got a chance to meet some new people who share the same passion for film making as I do and has inspired me to push myself and work harder than I’ve ever worked before in my life. I’ve also met others who have touched my life and have been proud of my work and what I’ve done in my life. Those people have given me the courage to be myself, to be the person that I am today.

2012 has been great to me. It has set me up to do bigger and better things in 2013 with my life. I’m putting together my team to help me finish my film and hopefully I will have my film all done by the spring of 2013. After that I’ll immediately go back to work on another film project that I’ve always wanted to do and now I have a chance to do it. I’ll continue to work on this blog and improve it, to give my readers a better understanding of who I am and my film.

Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad  and all that good stuff.

Justin

 

 

Filming Without A Vision

Vision Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.
What’s is my vision for my film?

A few days ago I completed shooting and capturing footage for the Wheelchair Chronicles. I’m still in awe at my accomplishment because I never envisioned that I would actually finish shooting or better yet start working on this film. I am so proud of the work that I did for this film and I can’t wait for you all to see the finished product. Before I show you all a finished product, I have to figure out what my vision for the film is going to be.

A couple of weeks ago I had to complete my senior project for my senior capstone class. Basically, the premise of the project was figuring out what we plan on doing after we graduate from DePaul and the resources we plan on using to learn more about the career we plan to get into. During my research I cam across an article called “5 Simple Mistakes Documentary Filmmakers Make” and one of the mistakes that’s made is filming without a vision.

This is a main concern that I have and trying to figure out with the film footage I captured and the interview session that I did in August. What is my vision for the film? As a filmmaker this is question I have to ask before I can go through the process of finding an editor, music for the film and putting together the rest of my team. I need to have a strong vision for the film, a vision that “informs every creative and editorial step along the way.” I need to create a vision the I strongly believe in and that I can share with the people I chose to be apart of my film because I need to choose the right people who understands my vision and with their knowledge and talent can take my vision to a whole new level.

Justin