Park City High alumnus Cole Sax creates ‘Second Sight’ and will screen his film in Salt Lake City
What: ‘Second Sight’ screening
When: 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10
Where: The Broadway Centre Cinemas, 111 S. Broadway in Salt Lake City
Filmmaker Cole Sax wants to introduce audiences to Joanaly Laniohan and her husband, Virgilio, who live in the Philippines.
Cataracts had rendered Joanaly blind for two years, and Virgilio had added the role of his wife’s caretaker to being the family’s provider until the opportunity came for a free and simple surgery that could restore Joanaly’s sight.
Sax, who graduated from Park City High School in 2011, will tell the Laniohan’s story when he screens his new documentary short, “Second Sight,” at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10, in honor of World Sight Day, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas in Salt Lake City. The 30-minute screening, presented by the Salt Lake Film Society’s MAST program, is free and open to the public.
MAST (Media Accellerator Studio), is a nonprofit program founded by Salt Lake Film Society’s CEO Tori A. Baker and Miles Romney, a Tony-winning Broadway fundraiser and co-producer, that develops artists into entrepreneurs.
The idea to make “Second Sight” came from Sax’s childhood, when he was introduced to vision health by Park City opthamologist Dr. Jeffrey Tabin, who travels around the globe to stop unnecessary blindness caused by cataracts with his nonprofit, The Himalayan Cataract Project.
Cataract blindness affects nearly 40 million people around the world and is brought on by malnutrition and overexposure to sunlight, according to Sax.
“For those in developing countries it is a death sentence, taking people out of work and causing a significant decrease in life expectancy,” he said. “I knew it was a story I wanted to share at some point.”
After graduating high school, Sax studied film at the University of Utah and secured a job in the local filmmaking industry. Nearly three years ago, Sax and his friends learned of film grants offerd by Musicbed, a licensing and production company, and began brainstorming ideas.
“Inspired by Dr. Tabin’s work, we decided to do a documentary that would focus on one person’s journey of trying to understand what they have and learning about the free 10-minute surgeries that would make it possible for them to see again within 24 hours,” Sax said. “It was a powerful story and pretty straightforward and we submitted it to the initiative.”
Their idea was selected out of 6,000 submissions.
“We were given the grant, and they provided us with a bunch of gear,” Sax said. “But to make the film we wanted to make, we needed to make more money. So we hunted for a nonprofit to come onboard to help budget-wise and to help promote the film.”
Sax and his group connected with See International, a nonprofit that works in over 40 countries, where it has provided more than half a million sight-restoring surgeries.
“They came on board and gave us all the access we needed, and we ended up going to the Philippines to film our movie,” Sax said.
Sax and his crew met the Laniohans from a list of 60 other families. After Sax met with the Lahioans, he found his story.
“She had been blind for two years, and I felt I could also put myself in the shoes of her husband Virgilio, who had to become the caretaker,” he said. “I think it’s pretty relatable that someone would do anything to care for someone they love.”
Sax and his crew shot the film over nine days last October and finished editing it this March.
After completing the film, Sax decided to build a digital website, secondsight.seeintl.org, where the film could live and garner some new donors and support.
“If people can’t attend Thursday’s screening, they can watch the film on the website and learn about the issue,” he said.
Sax said one of the biggest challenges of making “Second Sight” was making a quality and thought-provoking film that focused on his subjects’ plight.
“You want to be sensitive to their story and their journey,” he said. “We also had a responsibility to be authentic, because we asked people to invest in our film. So we were committed to deliver something that those who gave us grants and donated money would be equally proud of.”
Upon release a few months ago, “Second Sight” was selected for a string of 2019 festivals including Hollyshorts, Rhode Island International Film Festival, DC Shorts and the Hawaii International Film Festival, to name a few.
“It’s rewarding to have an audience for the project to get people to understand what the experience has been like for this family, let alone millions of people with cataracts worldwide,” Sax said. “There has been a positive response and people feel connected to the characters in the film, and to me that is powerful, especially if they want to get involved in some capacity or get involved in a larger project.”
“Second Sight” is one of Sax’s more personal films, because of his own experience with sight issues.
“During high school, I noticed a bunch of black specks in my vision, and after I went to opthamologist, I was told I had eye floaters, which is very common,” he said. “Then after shooting in the Philippines, I noticed I had a hard time focusing on the monitor for long periods of time, and I was getting sensitive to light.”
Sax got his eyes checked and was informed he had intermediate uveitis, an autoimmune disease in the eye.
“They told me there was a lot of scar tissue that had built up, but that the uveitis was dormant, which it has been for a few months, now,” he said. “So in a way, I’ve come full circle with this film and my personal life.”
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