Everyone says "write what you know" and there's nothing I know better than pain. As I approach a decade of constant widespread pain and chronic illness due to hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia & endometriosis, my one mission remains: to write that pain. I don't think there exists any representation in media of what chronic pain and chronic illness really look like. It's my goal to change that.
As a chronically ill woman, I've found most opportunities in any industry just aren't available to me. After graduating college, I quickly learned that the disability resources I was provided there were beautiful, wonderful, and sadly quite unique. I've written a lot of standup comedy that has never been performed; there are no provisions given to sick people who can't sit and wait at open mics for 8 hours to do a bit. I love standup comedy, but I'm simply not built to do it as often as it requires, so I'm finding ways to incorporate it into my writing for film. Because of my lack of ability to hold more than a part-time job, finances also limit my opportunities greatly. There are no exceptions for missing work regularly, missing auditions, etc., so I had to get creative in order to create.
Luckily, I've found a home in writing and producing my own content, because most of that work can be done from my couch in my pajamas, where my heating pad, medicine, and cozy furniture live. I started with a comedy sketch about catcalling that I wrote and produced with a video sketch comedy group for iO comedy network. In a true sick girl miracle, that sketch actually caught the eye of a fellow actress and female filmmaker who I had met in a class at The Second City, Flavia Borges.
Flavia believed in my ability and talent without me having much experience and invited me to become a creator of a new indie series with her and another amazing actress/director, Devon Carson. Our project MENACE, a new series coming to Instagram this fall, is now in post-production.
MENACE is microseries told in 1-minute episodes on Instagram. That's right -- the whole series will be conveniently on Instagram @menaceseries! MENACE is a story about three women hiding out in a small apartment from the mass femicide raging through the country. Set in the near future, it imagines a United States where women's rights have been further stripped away. We wanted to create three female characters that we wanted to see represented on screen: Ana, an undocumented immigrant struggling with body image as she desperately seeks a husband with citizenship; Daisy, a fiercely independent financial dominatrix; and my character, Jane, a recent runaway from her abusive husband. I felt passionately that I wanted to play a character in pain who is neither tragic nor without plenty of flaws.
MENACE has been a huge blessing to me creatively, and I can't wait to continue writing and producing. I am just now embarking on a new project that's been in the works for several years. I'm writing a darkly comedic web series based on my experiences as a chronically ill woman. I want to expose the disadvantages, disbelief, cruelty and ignorance that people with chronic pain and chronic illness face every day. But I also want to show the behind-the-scenes of what living with chronic pain and illness feel like. I also just want to relate and make every sick chick laugh her ass off -- and if I can help healthy people better understand chronic illness in the process, I hope I can feel that at least some of the pain is worth it.
Sarah Alò is a filmmaker & actress in Chicago, Illinois. When she's too sick to function, which is often, find her on Twitter (@sarah_alo) and Instagram (@sarahjoalo).