A Ride With Matt is a joint feature documentary about Huntington’s Disease as well as a charity fundraising effort. The film explores the history of the disease, who it effects, the families coping with it, and researchers and doctors looking for a cure. Through grass roots funding, sponsorship, and donations in-kind we are raising $100,000 for the feature documentary. All proceeds and additional money raised will be donated to HD Centers of Excellence for care giving, medical attention, counseling and support for research.
Producers are very proudly partnered with the San Francisco Film Society, a publicly supported 501 (c)(3) that supports Bay Area film-makers and documentarians. As a result, all donations made through IndieGoGo and are tax deductible.
ALLOCATION OF FUNDS:
To make "A Ride with Matt" possible there are a large number costs. Funds will go toward flights, transportation, camera rentals, editing, music, sound design, color grading, marketing, and distribution.
ALL additional money raised and money brought in from the distribution of the documentary will all go to benefit HD Centers of Excellence.
In 1970 Adam Austin’s father, Earl Francis Austin, was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease at 40 years old. Adam’s grandfather, Alfred, also had had Huntington’s disease but was mis-diagnosed and committed to a state mental institution where he stayed until his death. Adam’s uncle, Bill, was the first to discover the family’s shared disease, when tests proved that he himself had HD. When he told Adam’s brother, Andy, that he thought he had it as well, Andy did not respond well.
On May 4th, 1996, Andy rode his bike to the Water Street Bridge in Rochester, NY and jumped off, ending his struggle with HD. He left behind a wife he was estranged from and two young sons, Michael and Matthew. This is where our film starts.
Adam idolized his brother growing up. Andy often traveled around the country using any means possible: hitchhiking, drive-away cars, hopping trains, taking Greyhounds. Andy inspired Adam to seek what makes life such an adventure. He inspired Adam not only to live, but to live boldly.
Upon recently hearing that his nephew, Matt Austin (now 21), was diagnosed with Huntington’s, Adam saw an opportunity to make up for Matt’s missed opportunities at getting to know his own father. Adam decided to take Matt on the same cross-country adventure that he and his brother always talked about doing together. Biking across the East Coast and visiting and hiking in Colorado. All the while showing Matt the places his family always wanted him to see, while raising awareness, doing outreaching and learning about the Huntington’s community as a whole.
The trip began with a 400 mile bike ride down the East Coast, visiting the place where Adam and Andy were born and the bridge where Andy committed suicide. The trip was harrowing and eventful but brought the family together and helped heal multi-generational deep wounds.
For the next leg, Matt and Adam will fly to Colorado where Andy’s ashes were laid to rest: a beautiful, Rocky-Mountain sanctuary at the top of the Continental Divide. From there, they will fly to San Francisco to meet with scientists, medical professionals and doctors to explore the latest in research of a cure as well as to make sure Matt is taken care of as his HD advances.
The film will be viewed as close and intimate, in the heart and thoughts of the heroic and emotionally torn, periodically interspersed with interviews that inform the background of the story and what it means to have Huntington’s.
Thousands of families across the country have their own Huntington’s story. But more often it is a story turned away from. In telling Adam and Matt’s story head-on, we hope also to tell everyone’s story, and at the same time to tell the universal story of life, death, and fighting through it with family (whether biological or discovered).
WHAT IS HD?:
Huntington’s Disease (HD), is a neurodegenerative, genetic disorder that affects muscle coordination and leads to cognitive degeneration and dementia. The disease is caused by an autosomal, dominant mutation on either of an individual’s two copies of a gene, called Huntington. Because the gene is passed down through families and because of the nature of the gene, as the disease is passed down symptoms develop at younger and younger ages.
The most common of the two forms of Huntington’s is adult-onset HD, where symptoms typically develop around one’s mid 30s and 40s. The less common form, which is the case with Matt, is early-onset HD, where symptoms begin in childhood or adolescence.
In terms of inheritance, any child of a parent who has one affected copy of the gene has a 50% chance of inheriting the disease. In the rare situations where each parent has one affected copy, the risk increases to 75%, and when either parent has two affected copies, the risk is 100% (all children will be affected). Physical symptoms of Huntington’s disease can begin at any age from infancy to old age, but they usually begin between years 35 and 44. If a child does not get the gene from a parent, the disease cannot be passed on. Persons who do have the disease usually die within 15 to 20 years, more often from infection but also from suicide.
HD affects roughly 250,000 Americans. Every innocent stumble, trip, muscle twitch or mis-pronounced word triggers a sub-conscience question, “Do I have HD?” There is a genetic test to determine if you carry the HD gene, but there is currently no cure for those who discover that they have it. Understandably, 95% of at-risk people choose to not get tested.
THE TEAM:ROBERT RIPPBERGER, PRODUCER/DIRECTOR
Recently, Robert co-created and sold a documentary archive site called, ThinkingAloud.com, producing and directing segments in London, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and LA. Clips are currently being used in the online version of the NY Times’s column, The Stone.
Robert also ran and operated a profitable commercial production company with clients such as Spyder Active Sports, Warren Miller, The Jane Goodall Institute, and others. Commercials ran nationally and aired during the 2009 Thanksgiving Parade in New York.
Robert has studied under directing teacher Judith Weston, at UCLA Film School, and he received a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was awarded The Eisner Prize for his short film, “In the Middle.” The Eisner Prize is the "highest award for creativity given on the UC, Berkeley campus."
ADAM AUSTIN, PRODUCER/RIDER
Adam’s father died of Huntington’s disease as did his brother. Adam, too, is at risk with the disease but has never been tested. He is eager to share this experience and be there for his nephew, Matt, as he copes with the disorder.
In 1996, Adam began work in the film industry first in the art department and then in the camera department as a film technician. His credits include The Terminal, XXX, Click, The Guardian, Spider-man, Iron Man, National Treasure, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Incredible Hulk, Transformers, The Green Hornet, and Mission Impossible 4.
Artist, musician, filmmaker, competitive cyclist, traveler, and father of two, Adam has always been one to break the mold. Born and raised in Palmyra, New York, Adam dropped out of college to travel around the country by motorcycle, make snow at Keystone Ski Resort, play guitar and sing at local coffeehouses, and then earn his BFA in Sculpture from the San Francisco Institute of Art.
Most recently, Adam released the EP, “Finally Found” (2002) with the help of Sam Raimi, and he continues making music today with his band Mud Creek.
MATTHEW AUSTIN, RIDER
Matt tested positive for Huntington’s disease two weeks before his 20th birthday. Eight months later he was medically discharged from the Air Force. Matt currently works in Stockton, CA in financial services at Primerica.
He was raised in Oakley, California and graduated from Deer Valley High School in 2008 where he played soccer, baseball, and basketball. At age 18, Matt joined the United States Air Force. He spent three months in Keesler, Mississippi learning Electronic Principles, another eight months in Witchitah Falls, Texas, and was qualified on the F-16. Matt was one of few who went through the General Atomics course with an average test score of 97.5%. He was always the first man there and last to leave and his strong work ethic and kindness led to many great friendships during his Air Force years.
ROBERT LLAMAS, RIDER
Bob is a semi-retired (with emphasis here on “retired”) licensed psychologist and marriage family therapist who has always been active in sports, especially bicycling.
Distinctions include state and national podium finishes and championships, among which are two Everest Challenge wins in the 65+ age category (a two day stage race out of Bishop, CA that covers 210 miles and 29,000 total feet of elevation gain) and most recently the USAC Masters National Cyclocross Championships in the 70+ age category.
During the last several years Bob has taken an avid interest in diet and nutrition as it relates to health and longevity.
DEANE BRANNEN-JURGENSON, CO-PRODUCER
“A Ride With Matt” is Deane’s first feature-length production and she is proud to be a part of Aletheia Films.
Deane has worked for over six years as Project Manager and Executive Assistant at TBG, a company specializing in global communications and consulting for Fortune 500 companies.
Deane is a native of Berkeley, CA, where she attended the University of California, Berkeley and received her B.A. in German Languages and Literature, as well as a Minor degree in Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies.
AMY AUSTIN SCHADE, CO-PRODUCER
Amy is Adam’s older sister and lives in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts with her husband, David, and their three children. In 1998, when she was pregnant with her youngest child. Amy was tested for the HD gene and tested negative.
For the last 25 years, Amy has worked at Toxikon Corporation, a life science contract research laboratory that works with pharmaceutical and medical device companies developing and testing new technologies. She has filled the roles of Study Director, Laboratory Operations Manager, Quality Manager, and is currently the Director of Corporate Compliance.
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