Friendship Inspires Film

Published in the Richmond Hill Post of PostCity Magazine // January 2016 issue

Budding Thornhill filmmaker puts talent to good use
by Jennifer Cheng

Thornhill resident Melissa Cultraro recalls feeling shocked when she learned about a close friend’s medical condition in university.

“She looked perfectly healthy,” said the 21-year-old, who is in her final year at Ryerson, where she met Mary Gyulay in the radio and television arts program (now known as media production).

In 2014, Gyulay was diagnosed at the age of 22 with multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system, with symptoms that affect vision, hearing, memory, balance and mobility.

It’s an everyday struggle that inspired Melissa Scicluna, another close friend from the program, to come up with a film idea as a fourth-year thesis project. Cultraro is part of the eight-member executive team that worked on the 30-minute feature film, Viable, which finished filming Dec. 7. It follows a high school senior and gifted pianist who is diagnosed with MS days before her audition with a world-renowned music school. In the movie, she struggles to apply eyeliner since she is blind in one eye, one of many scenes that capture Gyulay’s real life.

“I never thought that MS could affect such minor, everyday activities,” Cultraro explains. “‘Viable’ means capable of living, especially under unfavourable conditions This directly relates to MS and the messages we want this film to convey.”

At press time, the team had raised $40,000 toward the Viable project, which includes a screening event and fundraiser to raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. Viable is scheduled to be released in February.