A new documentary on a Milford man fighting Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) will premiere in Watseka March 11.
Austin Crawford’s battle against MSA was chronicled in the 2018 award-winning documentary “Fighting MSA: Austin Crawford’s Story.”
The first film, which was directed by Phil Gioja and produced by Center Street Productions and sponsored by the MSA Coalition, detailed Crawford’s life with MSA and the support he has received from family and friends.
“Fighting MSA” can be watched online at www.centerstreetproductions.com/documentary-filmvideo/msa-patient-story-milford-il/4038
Gioja and Center Street Productions teamed up with Crawford again for a second film, “Driven to Help,” that will premiere March 11 with a special screening event at Trinity Church in Watseka.
Crawford was diagnosed with MSA in 2017 after previously being misdiagnosed several times in the years prior.
In “Fighting MSA” Crawford described how MSA is a rare disease that affects four to five in every 100,000 people in the United States.
Crawford recently spoke with the Times-Republic about the upcoming film as well as the impact of the first film.
Asked about the response he has heard from people about the first film, Crawford said he has received quite a bit of positive feedback from those who have watched the film.
“It’s not a very cinematic film, but the storyline behind it, I’ve heard, is very heartwarming and very inspirational from what I’ve been told,” he said. “And how impactful it is for them to see my struggle and others think ‘If he’s doing it, I can do it.’ It’s kind of been inspirational for others and for myself to hear that.”
“Fighting MSA” also highlighted Crawford’s lifelong love of motorcycles.
The first film featured a trike motorcycle that was customized to allow him to continue riding after he was unable to continue riding his regular motorcycle.
In the first film, Crawford said that once he was unable to ride, he planned to “pay it forward” to someone else who needed the custom trike to ride.
“I wanted to make sure that another bike rider got it,” Crawford told the Times-Republic.
The person who got the trike, in turn, gave Crawford the 1970 Dodge Dart to work on.
“He turned around and gave me the 1970 Dodge Dart that he actually had,” Crawford said. “He didn’t want to see me give up so we basically ended up kind of swapping. He got to ride. He’s got a cane. He can’t walk very well. Now he can actually continue to ride.”
Crawford said the car represented a new journey that he could take.
“With the car, me wanting to continue with it, it was just a kind of a journey off of that bike,” he said. “Not wanting to give up and show others just to continue to keep going.”
Crawford said the new film kind of starts off from the end point of the first film.
“In the first film we had a trike,” he said. “In this film we have a 1970 Dodge Dart, that I’ve actually built by myself for the most part, the motor and everything, to actually raffle off to purchase mobility devices for those that can’t afford it.”
Crawford said they tagged the car with MSA and contacted different car events and went to local car shows in Watseka and Champaign to promote the project and raise money.
Crawford said the film’s title, “Driven to Help,” refers to the car but also captures the drive that Crawford has to bring awareness to MSA and the passion behind it and just what it takes to keep going.
The film also includes footage from a tattoo studio in northern Indiana.
“There was actually a lady who actually got a memorial tattoo for me in the film,” Crawford said. “Which was pretty nice.”
He said the film also discusses the medical care and decisions that come along with MSA.
“Since it is a terminal illness, we do discuss with my palliative care doctor about end-of-life decisions and what it takes,” Crawford said.
Crawford praised filmmaker Phil Gioja and Center Street Productions for producing both “Fighting MSA: Austin Crawford’s Story” and “Driven to Help” and depicting the realities of MSA while remaining positive.
“It’s kind of heartwarming, it’s a little bit of car show, rock and roll, tattoo parlors, a little bit of education and Phil was magnificent filming for 10 months there in Watseka,” he said. “There’s some rock and roll music and a lot of heartfelt memories. It’s depicting more towards the end of life, but it’s still remaining positive.”
Crawford said the MSA Coalition, which sponsored the first film, will be adopting him as a representative for the coalition with this new film.
“I’ll be representing the Coalition with honor I hope,” he said.
“Driven to Help” will premiere with a screening at the Trinity Church, located at 1658 E. Walnut St. in Watseka, March 11. Doors will open at 6 p.m. with the event starting at 6:30 p.m.
He said Center Street Productions will be hosting the screening along with him.
Crawford encouraged anyone who was interested to visit the Center Street Productions or his own Facebook page for more information.
He said those who are unable to attend the premiere in-person can watch a livestream of the film on Facebook or YouTube at https://www.centerstreetproductions.com/driven.
Crawford said anyone interested can also find the links to watch the film as well as information on how to help raise awareness about MSA at www.fightingmsa.com.
He said the site also features links for his charity, Wheels for a Cause 2, that raises funds to help others suffering from MSA purchase power wheelchairs and mobility aids.
Along with the film premiere, Crawford said they will also be screening the first film “Fighting MSA: Austin Crawford’s Story.”
“We are going to be showcasing the first documentary since it won it’s 51st award,” he said.
Crawford said the MSA Coalition will also be sending a representative to speak and offer a question and answer section for audience members after the screening.
“It’ll be a two hour journey with questions and answers at the end,” he said.
Crawford said there will also probably be some door prizes for audience members during the event.
Asked if there were any elements that of “Driven to Help” that really stand out to him, Crawford said that he feels the main part of the whole film transpires in its final seconds.
“The main part of the whole film actually transpires in the last 10 seconds of the film,” he said. “And it picks up the last 10 seconds where I left off on my [first] film and it says that ‘I’m the richest man in the world and it’s because I have my family and my friends.’”
Crawford said that’s what the film is about.
“That’s what it’s about,” he said. “It’s about remembering that your family and friends are there no matter what.”