A SPARK OF NERVE is a story of personal triumph and medical innovation. Loren was fifteen when a prisoner mistakenly released from San Quentin followed her into a San Francisco bakery and brutally stabbed her five times, severing the nerves in her neck. Neurosurgeons said her arm would never move again. Michael, an Illinois attorney, was facing a similar, dead-end diagnosis after a freak chain saw accident paralyzed his arm. Eighteen-year-old Chelsey survived a horrific late night car accident in St. Louis, which left her arm useless as well. None of these patients were willing to accept paralysis or worse, possible amputation. Unfortunately they also didn’t know they were in a race against time or the paralysis would be permanent. Each desperately went searching for a cure and found hope with Dr. Susan Mackinnon and her pioneering work in nerve transfer surgery, which is restoring movement to limbs that many doctors believe to be permanently paralyzed. The film follows the charismatic Mackinnon and several of her patients for three years as their emotional stories unfold - from trauma and disappointment to hope and finally joy as the freedom of movement is slowly regained. Mackinnon is committed to sharing her groundbreaking surgical “recipes” and is creating a military funded teaching website for all surgeons anywhere in the world. With rare access, we visit the Walter Reed Peripheral Nerve Clinic in Maryland to see how nerve transfers are being used to help wounded soldiers returning from the Middle East conflicts.
A SPARK OF NERVE will inspire the millions with nerve injuries to not lose hope and to seek out these little known but life-changing surgeries.
Linda Schaller, Producer/Director: Linda Schaller is a San Francisco Producer-Director who tells character driven stories that are visual, dramatic and inspiring. A four-time Emmy winner, Linda focuses her documentaries on the arts, history and now medical science with “A Spark of Nerve” – her first independently produced and directed feature length documentary. As Producer-Director of “And Then One Night: the Making of Dead Man Walking” (PBS), Schaller juxtaposed the making of the new opera with the real life death penalty debate. It received a National Emmy nominated and a Northern California Emmy. The performance documentary “Kicking the Notes the Toradze Way” (PBS), won two Chicago Emmys and honors at the Golden Prague Festival. “Nijinska: A Legend in Dance” (PBS), with host Mikhail Baryshnikov, won the prestigious Grand Prix Video Dance International Documentary Award in Paris. Linda was additionally honored to create short historical documentaries for the PBS “Great Performances: The Nutcracker” and the San Francisco Opera, Beach Blanket Babylon and American Ballet Theater gala events.
Tim Schaller, DP/Editor/Animator: Tim Schaller brings to all his projects a complimentary set of talents – cinematographer, editor, 3D animator and colorist. His camerawork benefits from being an editor and the animation benefits from his real world lighting and shooting experience. Tim’s work has been seen on A&E, Discovery, CBS, ABC, PBS and throughout the tech world. For the performance documentary, Kicking the Notes the Toradze Way (PBS), he won a Chicago Regional Emmy Award for editing. The documentary, Ireland: The Celtic Wayselected Schaller to shoot, edit and animate in stereoscopic – winning Best Documentary in the Los Angeles 3D Film Festival. To create their LULU Interlude film, the San Francisco Opera chose Tim for set & virtual set design as well as effects directing, editing, animation and compositing. It is his constant blending of the real and unreal world that inspired the name of his company, Fogline Features.