Andrew Rubin and Ricardo Villarreal’s film Ride With Larry is about more than a guy with Parkinson’s pedaling across South Dakota. It’s about the singular idea that whatever life throws at you the best choice is to live to the fullest. “I’ll never give up,” Larry Smith says at one point during the film. “I know that this will some day take me, but I’m not going to walk away from life.” We first heard about Larry when Andrew and Ricardo came through town to interview our CEO Anne Wojcicki and Emily Drabant, who heads up our Parkinson’s Research Community. Larry is a retired police captain who opened a small town bakery. His example has already inspired his family and the people in his small town of Vermillion. Andrew and Ricardo hope to inspire others with Larry’s story. For Andrew the film is also personal as his own father and a cousin are living with Parkinson’s. He hopes to rally people behind efforts to research the disease, including 23andMe’s own Parkinson’s Research Community. A few days ago we got wind that “Ride with Larry” was in post-production, along with the note, “Would we like to see a short preview?” It’s an awesome peek at what the filmmakers have been up to and we’re grateful that they’ve shared it with us. Andrew and Ricardo, who are still busy editing, also were gracious enough to answer a few questions. How is Larry doing since you guys finished up?
Andrew and Ricardo: Larry is doing great; he is obviously very excited about the film and can’t wait for it to be finished. Larry has become a small celebrity in his state of South Dakota and continues to inspire his community in many ways, including his determination to get up everyday and bake his famous bread. Since we finished shooting last summer, Larry also has a new granddaughter. In terms of his battle with Parkinson’s, Larry continues to fight. He exercises regularly and this June the people of Vermillion, SD are planning a one day ride in honor of Larry to continue raising awareness for Parkinson’s. What have you learned or are most excited about from the experience of shooting this film?Ricardo: What I learned from shooting this incredible story is that life is so precious and there is no excuse not to enjoy it and live it the best way you can. Although there’s no cure for Parkinson’s yet, we have the power and the choice to live life to the fullest. This experience also taught me that real heroes can be found within ordinary people. You don’t have to be someone famous, rich, or powerful to be a role model and to make a positive impact in your community. The excitement about shooting the film is that we have this great opportunity to share this inspiring story with the world and spread Larry’s message of hope.
At the same time, we are also excited to work together with great organizations that are working hard to find a cure for Parkinson’s and we want to be part of this movement. Nothing would be more rewarding than to know our film has inspired many people to live better. Additionally, we believe our film can help bring more people to contribute to Parkinson’s research. Everyone can make a difference, and the more people get involved, the closer we will be to finding a cure. Andrew: In the process of making this film I learned to embody the very lessons I’ve witnessed behind the lens of a camera. Making Ride with Larry has given me perspective. Every day I watch the struggles of both my father and Larry as they battle Parkinson’s and Larry’s wife Betty and my own mother as they confront the difficulties of life as a caretaker. In the act of telling Larry’s story, I have come to recognize that in sharing his message, I must also learn it and live it. The struggles of Parkinson’s are of the whole body and mind. They are second-to-second, nerve ending to muscle. And they choose not to succumb. If I can face my challenges, no matter how small or large, with the gift of perspective, then I know I can rise to meet them. It has been amazing not just to be a witness to Larry’s victory, but to be a part of his ride. The next exciting part of this journey will be in sharing this story with the world and working to get as many people as possible involved in the Parkinson’s community and the search for a cure. What’s next?Ricardo: With “Ride with Larry”, the next thing is just around the corner: to show this film to audiences everywhere and to grow this movement.