By Sherrie Norris
If you ask Andy Wilson how a stroke changed his life, the young husband and father from Boone could give you a laundry list of answers. But, recently winning coveted Hollywood awards for his film trailer, nearly a decade after his world was turned upside down, was beyond anything he could have anticipated.
It’s apparent that Wilson is no ordinary young man, nor was he willing to succumb to the ravages of a life-altering event that could easily have left him and his life’s dreams deflated and defeated.
Rather, Wilson brought his journey to life through a short film ‘BlindSight” which he wrote, directed and captured in Boone “with the help of a lot of great people,” depicting his journey and how he beat the odds.
After submitting it to various film festivals in the last year, the accolades began pouring in.
In August 2017, it was chosen as a finalist for the Global Trailer Film Festival in Beverly Hills, and was selected for Best Trailer at The Black Sea Film Festival in Vama Veche, Constanta.
In September, it was named best trailer for Lucky Strike Film Festival in Hollywood. In November, BlindSight won another film festival trailer award at the KAPOW Intergalactic Film Festival in North Hollywood.
Most recently, in January, the film was selected to be shown at the Gold Movie Awards Goddess Nike in London, England.
And, perhaps the “big one,” to date, came also in January, when Wilson flew to Hollywood with friends to receive the Most Promising New Filmmaker award at the Kapow Film Festival as his film received the Award Best Trailer award at the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival.
From here, the only way is up for Wilson, who hopes to secure funding to turn the trailer into a full-length movie.
“I think we’ll be able to do it, “ Wilson said. “But, if nothing comes of it, at least I went for it. I don’t want to wake up when I’m 100 years old with regrets that I didn’t give it my best shot.”
For someone who doctors predicted might never walk or talk again, Wilson’s leap to stardom has been incredible, to say the least.
A self-described “Boone boy,” Wilson was born in St. Petersburg, Fla. “but never lived there,” he said; he attended Hardin Park Elementary and graduated from Watauga High School before receiving his undergraduate degree from Youngstown State University in Ohio and completing his master’s degree at Appalachian State University.
“I went from having an MBA to not being able to read, which is kinda crazy,” Wilson said. But, at the same time, he realizes it’s all part of the bigger picture.
At age 32, Wilson was working at a local bank as a commercial credit analyst when he began seeing letters bouncing around his computer screen. Soon thereafter, he was diagnosed with an ischemic stroke, due to a genetic protein C deficiency he knew nothing about. “Doctors told my wife and mother that I might not walk or talk again, but that same day, I did both,” he said.
Coupled with “the amazing power of prayer,” Wilson contends, and the fact that he’s always been “fairly positive and not one who feels sorry for myself,” his situation began to improve, but not without lengthy, grueling rehabilitation and difficulty accepting that life might not ever be “normal” again.
“I couldn’t understand a lot that was going on around me,” Wilson said. “I had to relearn how to read, as well as my multiplication tables and ABCs. I’d get to the letter G and couldn’t go any farther. I experienced some memory loss, mainly short term, and I’m still not 100 percent, but it’s much better than it was at first.”
And, yes, he has a “blindside,” a visual field cut, he described, “meaning that if I look at you, I can’t see half of your face.”
Because of that, he cannot drive, he still has a “heavy feeling” on his right side and still limps a little.
But, Wilson is quick to say, “You can’t just sit around and wonder what might’ve been, or what could’ve happened, you’ve just go to get out there and make the most of what you’ve got now. My wife, Kelley, and I had been married a year before it all happened, and now we have two great kids, Lucas and Jack, who are a huge part of who I am today, and who I couldn’t live without. I don’t have a choice but to move on and do all I can.”
Wilson had developed a love for cinema when working for Blockbuster Video for four years during college. “We could watch five free movies a week, and let me tell you, I watched a ton of movies and fell in love with it all and wanted to be a part of it,” he said.
He had begun writing a script when his stroke occurred.
Among his frustrations, post stroke, included alexia without agraphia, which he described as, “A Latin term for having the ability to write or type something that I couldn’t read afterward.
It was “pretty bizarre and still a challenge.”
Today, Wilson can read “just about anything,” he said, “even if it does take me longer. And, my computer will read back to me anything that I highlight, which is a big help.”
Not wanting to “give too much away” about his film, Wilson said he was initially writing a “murder mystery thriller,” but after his stroke, the script changed dramatically.
“It’s still a mystery, but now the main character is a guy who had a stroke and can’t remember, told pretty much through my eyes and what I went through. It’s like he’s in a very bizarre place and can’t determine what’s real or not. There’s so much more than what the trailer shows, and I did try to make it intriguing, but it does have a good message at the end. There is hope, and that’s what I want people who are going through tough times to realize.”
From King Street to the red carpet
BlindSight, filmed by Wonderland Woods Productions of Boone, features a local cast and familiar scenery.
“I did a kick-starter campaign to raise a little money, but most of my cast donated their time and talent,” said Wilson.
He is currently exploring funding opportunities for a full length film and laughs when asked what he needs. “It depends on who you want as a leading character, me or Leonardo DiCaprio.”
Wilson said his appearance in the trailer was not intended, “and might be a little confusing, but I’m there just because someone couldn’t do it at the last minute.”
He’s hoping his recent exposure in Hollywood “is a good thing,” and that his awards can be used as a marketing tool.
“I’m learning as I go,” he said with a chuckle.” I don’t know what I’m doing, you gotta remember, I’ve had a stroke.”
It is important to Wilson that others know, “Just because something happens to you, it doesn’t mean that life is over and that you can’t create.”
“I had a lot of great people working with me and encouraging me to do something with it,” Wilson said. “I just wanted someone to read my scripts, but wasn’t sure what to do with it, really. It’s hard to sell a script in Boone.”
Deciding to enter it into competitions “and get it out to film festivals,” was the right thing to do, Wilson said in retrospect.
“I guess you could say I’m having a little success with it. It’s not every day you can go to Hollywood and get a plaque for your work.”
What’s next? “Well, I’d love to see this be made into a full-length feature film,” he said. “It will be called ‘Finding Money,” as a play on words, but it just makes more sense. It’s not just about money, but more about the main character who has to go through a lot of hardships before finding what’s really important in life.”
Wilson’s goal is not to become a millionaire, he said, but ultimately, to increase awareness of what a stroke patient can become . . . and that life is not over.
Since his own stoke, he has talked to a lot of other (stroke) patients, at UNC-CH, Wake Forest and Duke, as well pre-med students and others familiar with stroke.
“Many (stroke) patients can’t speak, and I want people to know that even though they can’t communicate, they are still very much aware of what’s going on. They have their right minds, many times, but they just can’t share what’s going through their minds. It’s important for people to realize there is still hope.”
Informing Wilson of one of the trailer’s successes, Curt Clendenin, with KaPow, wrote: “Your story of going through your stroke and being able to retrain and reeducate yourself to do things that once ‘came natural,’ is astonishing and deserves to be made into a feature film. Just think, your future self is currently making that movie! Congratulations on Winning Most Promising New Filmmaker! You share this tie with Sarah Gampel from Sweden, as you two both have such compelling true-life stories, yet vastly different in nature.”
Something he has learned through his journey, Andy said, is “When you don’t know where to go, God is there for you. The times when you need him most, he reveals himself to you more — to comfort you and get you away from the world.”
For more information and to view the trailer, visit Wilson’s Facebook page.
Will Call: David Schroeder
Nora Call: Hope Caroselli
Police Captain: Dusty Stacy
Investigator: Terry Woolard
Writer and Director
Director of Photography
Editor: Eitan Abramowitz
Original Score: Doug Kaufman
Boom Operator: Matt Rath
Casting Director: Amy Beane
Production Assistant: Lucas Pruitt