Wednesday, April 3, 2013

UAB alum's film wins recognition, hearts

For 24-year-old filmmaker Ingrid Pfau, UAB was a place of firsts. It was the place where the Birmingham native first became a filmmaker and where she was first diagnosed with epilepsy.

The 2011 UAB alum who majored in environmental science filmmaking told her story of living with the neurological disorder in a five-minute film that was recently named runner-up at The Neuro Film Festival in San Diego presented by the American Brain Foundation.

“I was honored to be selected,” said Pfau who today is pursuing her master's degree in science and natural history filmmaking at Montana State University. “I learned that the more personal your story, the more global it is.”

While in the second semester of her freshmen year at UAB, Pfau had a seizure that “freaked out” her roommates, she said. They immediately took her to UAB’s emergency department.  

“It was very convenient that there was a world renowned-hospital next to my dormitory,” said Pfau.

While a student, she had to learn how to wade through the world of epilepsy and filmmaking, and faculty like Rosie O’Beirne and Michelle Forman in media studies and Michael Sloane, Ph.D., in the UAB Honors College, were a big help.

“UAB was one of the biggest support systems I have ever had.”

Life as a filmmaker with epilepsy is not easy, Pfau said. She is limited because the medicine she takes makes her sleepy. Plus, she must get a lot of rest, which means she cannot conduct life like a typical graduate student who works into the wee hours of the night.

“That would surely guarantee a seizure,” she said. As a matter of fact, she had two seizures yesterday.  

But, hearing the stories of those who were touched by her film gives her encouragement.

“The most rewarding has been the reaction by people,” she said.

A man from the United Kingdom told Pfau that he cried when he saw her film. He told her that it demonstrated what he had been telling his doctor for years. He shared the video with his physician.

After Pfau graduates in 2014, she would like to create more films, including a 30-minute to one-hour piece on how families deal with epilepsy.

“There are a lot of stories that need to be told.”

About the blogger: Marie Sutton,, is a media specialist in the UAB Office of Media Relations. Her beat includes humanities, social sciences, the School of Education and student life. 

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