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CAREGIVING CANCER: THE SILENT HEROES

by 3 cubed studios, LLC

"Caregiving Cancer: The Silent Heroes" is a documentary film dedicated to the caregivers of cancer patients. It reveals the reality of cancer and caregiving, provides valuable resources and inspiration, and gives a voice to the often-voiceless caregiver.

 
 

LOG LINE

In 'Caregiving Cancer: The Silent Heroes,' witness an intimate journey captured on video as a devoted wife confronts her husband's cancer. Follow her discovery of the need for support and resources, advocating for caregivers. This groundbreaking film illuminates caregivers' untold dedication, empowering through firsthand accounts from caregivers and supportive organizations.

 

SYNOPSIS

As we face over 20 million new cancer cases this year, with every 1 in 6 people being impacted by cancer worldwide, and a staggering rise to over 35 million new annual cases predicted by 2050, the silent struggle of caregivers takes center stage.

These caregivers are the spouses, parents, children, and friends who step into the breach, offering an average of 33 hours a week — the equivalent of a full-time job — to support their loved ones battling cancer. Yet, they do so often without training, with 62% bearing a heavy load that stretches them to their limits, both emotionally and financially.

These caregivers, integral to the fight against cancer, perform daily tasks and complex medical care that go unseen, and they do it with little preparation. They are often wracked with emotional stress, while many are forced to adjust their work lives drastically, seeking reduced hours or leaves of absence to manage the care they provide. Many require workplace accommodations to balance caregiving duties, with some experiencing financial hardship.

The impact is a testament to the far-reaching consequences of cancer, underscoring the critical need to recognize, support, and provide for caregivers. They are the unsung pillars of care, whose stories of adversity and resilience demand to be heard.

This is the moment to bring their narrative to the forefront, igniting a call to action to support these indispensable yet overlooked heroes. By amplifying the voices of caregivers and shedding light on their unyielding dedication, this film promises to ignite a movement of solidarity, compassion, and support, ensuring that caregivers receive the recognition and resources they rightfully deserve.
 


STORY SUMMARY

In "Caregiving Cancer: The Silent Heroes," a deeply personal documentary chronicles the transformative journey my husband Justin and I undertook when confronted with cancer. Inspired by our experiences and drawing from extensive live video footage captured from diagnosis and beyond, the film offers an unfiltered portrayal of our emotional odyssey—our shared fears, moments of profound hope, and unexpected displays of resilience that defined Justin as the patient and myself as his caregiver.
 

 
 
Our story unfolds with a series of poignant plot points mirroring the rollercoaster of emotions and physical challenges we encountered during our cancer journey. It commences with the seismic shock of diagnosis: a massive germ cell tumor inside his chest, wreaking havoc on his heart and lung—followed by the whirlwind of medical appointments, having to immediately move into the hospital for invasive treatments, and the relentless uncertainty of the future, which included an 8-hour open-chest surgery and a cardiac tamponade requiring emergency surgery facing only hours to live. Each juncture represents a pivotal moment of reflection, where we grappled with difficult decisions and discovered reservoirs of strength amidst the chaos.

Throughout the film, viewers are introduced to a diverse cast of characters who played significant roles in our narrative tapestry. From compassionate healthcare professionals guiding us through the labyrinth of treatment options to the unwavering support of friends and family, each participant enriches our story. Celebrities, renowned authors, esteemed neuropsychiatrists, and dedicated doctors offer valuable insights, elevating the discourse surrounding cancer caregiving.

While the film primarily focuses on our personal journey, it also explores broader themes related to cancer caregiving, including the emotional toll on caregivers and the urgent need for greater recognition and resources. Through intimate interviews and expert commentary, we shed light on the invisible labor performed by caregivers and advocate for systemic change.

As we navigate the complexities of cancer caregiving, fundamental questions emerge that guide the trajectory of our film. How do caregivers cope with the emotional and physical demands of their role? What resources and support systems are available, and how can they be enhanced? How can we raise awareness and advocate for greater recognition of caregivers' indispensable role in the cancer journey?

In addition to our personal narrative, the film amplifies the voices of other caregivers, fostering a sense of solidarity and empowerment within the caregiving community. By sharing our story alongside theirs, we hope to inspire meaningful dialogue and advocate for systemic change on a global scale.

Justin's journey with cancer has been a profound catalyst for personal growth and transformation. In the face of adversity, he embraced his diagnosis as an opportunity to spread a message of love and resilience. His solo show, "EMBRACE LOVE FREE," and motivational speaking engagements, including two TEDx talks and multiple appearances at UCLA hospital and medical school, have touched countless lives, inspiring others to overcome obstacles with courage and compassion. Now, as we embark on this cinematic journey, we aim to amplify Justin's message and shine a spotlight on the silent heroes of cancer caregiving.

Alongside his speaking engagements, Justin has recently completed writing his book, "Embrace Love Free... 3 Steps to Overcome Any Obstacle," inspired by the same themes as his show and TEDx talks. This book serves as a companion piece to the film, offering further insights and guidance for individuals facing similar challenges.

Through exploration, reflection, and advocacy, "Caregiving Cancer: The Silent Heroes" seeks to create a film that resonates deeply, fostering empathy, understanding, and meaningful change in the discourse surrounding cancer caregiving.
 

Confirmed

Interview List


 

WESPARK CANCER SUPPORT CENTER / LOS ANGELES, CA

weSPARK is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for cancer patients, their families, and friends. weSPARK provides, free of charge, multiple services designed to heal the mind, body and spirit of all those whose lives have been affected by cancer.
 

THE CAREGIVER SPACE / NEW YORK, NY

Severe time and financial constrictions make it nearly impossible for the caregiver to get away from support groups. It is critical for caregivers to have a free and easily accessible space to foster relationships and connections in order to care for themselves. That's us, The Caregiver Space. We're a community of caregivers who understand.

 
DR. DAVID DURHAM / ALBUQUERQUE, NM

Specializes in neuropsychiatric disorders including traumatic brain injury, movement disorders, cognitive disorders, as well as mood, anxiety and psychotic disorders. His education includes: Ross Medical College (Doctor of Medicine), The University of Kansas Medical Center (Master of Science), The University of Virginia (Internship in Internal Medicine), The University of Virginia (Residency in Psychiatric Medicine), and Duke University Medical Center (Fellowship in Cognitive Neurophysiology).


BEAUTY BUS FOUNDATION / LOS ANGELES, CA

Beauty Bus was founded in 2009 in memory of Melissa Marantz Nealy, whose life was cut short at 28 by a degenerative neuromuscular disease. As her mobility became compromised, preventing Melissa from leaving home, her family arranged for in-home haircuts, manicures and facials. Melissa said these treatments made her feel "human again." Inspired by the dramatic impact of these services on her emotional well-being, Melissa's family founded Beauty Bus Foundation to bring this same dignity, hope and respite to other families when they needed it most.
 

Potential

Interview List

 

  • David Kessler - David Kessler is an author, public speaker, and death and grieving expert.
  • Keanu Reeves - Celebrity Actor and Caregiver
  • Dwayne Johnson - Celebrity Actor and Caregiver
  • Rob Lowe - Celebrity Actor and Caregiver
  • The Baldwin Brothers - Celebrity Actors and Caregivers
  • Christine Magnus Moore, R.N., B.S.N. - Caregiver, Cancer Survivor, and Author
  • Dr. K. Azlan - Physician, Cancer Caregiver, and Author of "Three Cancers in Ten Months"
  • Deborah J. Cornwall - Author of "Things I Wish I'd Known: Cancer Caregivers Speak Out"
  • John W. Anderson - Author of "Stand by Her: A Breast Cancer Guide for Men"
  • Gwendoline Smith - Author of "Couples Confronting Cancer"
  • Darryl Pendergrass - Author of "Suddenly a Caregiver"
  • Lorraine Kember - Author, Motivational Speaker, and Caregiver
  • Robert A. Duke - Author of "Waking Up Dying: Caregiving When There Is No Tomorrow"
  • Patrick Dempsey - Celebrity Actor, Caregiver, and Founder of The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing
  • Cappy Capossela - Author of "Share the Care: How to Organize a Group to Care for Someone Who Is Seriously Ill"
  • Marc Silver - Author of "Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond"
  • Elise Babcock - Author of "When Life Becomes Precious: The Essential Guide for Patients, Loved Ones, and Friends of Those Facing Serious Illness"

 

TOPIC SUMMARY

There will be over 20 million new worldwide cancer cases this year alone. Cancer cases are expected to surge 57% worldwide in the next 20 years.

For almost every cancer patient, there is a caregiver, making this topic very timely and relevant as those numbers continue to rise. Providing care to a loved one with cancer is an overwhelming and intense experience.


Compared to non-cancer caregivers, cancer caregivers tend to provide care on a relatively short-term basis, approximately two years on average – possibly due to the care recipient passing away or their cancer going into remission.

Despite the shorter duration of cancer caregiving, the burden of caring for someone with cancer is high: 62% of cancer caregivers are in a high-burden situation. Cancer caregivers spend an average of 33 hours a week caring for their loved one, with many providing 41 or more hours of care weekly, the equivalent of a full-time job.

More so than non-cancer caregivers, cancer caregivers often help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) like bathing, eating, and toileting; Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) like shopping, driving, and managing finances; and medical and nursing tasks. Alarmingly, 43% perform complex medical/nursing tasks without any prior preparation. Caring for a loved one with cancer carries substantial emotional and financial implications. Half of cancer caregivers feel high levels of emotional stress. 4 in 10 cancer caregivers want more help to manage their own emotional and physical stress.
In addition, 25% report high levels of financial strain from their caregiving responsibilities. Employed cancer caregivers report the need for work accommodations, like coming in late, leaving early, or taking time off to provide care (48%); going from full-time to part-time work or otherwise cutting back hours (24%); or taking a leave of absence to provide care (19%).

With my personal experience, I researched how to be a caregiver after Justin's diagnosis, as I had never cared for anyone with an illness before. I wanted to know how to deal with it emotionally, mentally, and physically. I wanted to know what to expect, how to deal with friends and family members, ward off unsolicited advice, and most of all, how to best care for my husband and myself, while living in the shock of it all.
During our cancer journey, Justin shared everything online. I didn't speak much, publicly or privately. In the beginning, I was searching for resources and felt lost and overwhelmed with papers and pamphlets. I simply couldn't find much out there covering what I was experiencing while I was experiencing it.
Then, when I was finally blessed with resources, I felt guilty for taking time for myself or even talking about my feelings because, in comparison, what I was experiencing was not "cancer." I also quickly learned that the caregiver is often overlooked.
But... I stuffed those feelings and kept riding the wave of adrenaline to ensure everything was okay for my love. We have learned so much from cancer, as our teacher and mentor, and have stayed positive throughout our journey. If I were to face this challenge again, I would make wiser and more informed choices.


While the role of caregiver was demanding and often required selflessness, it was also extremely rewarding. I learned how to be a better friend and family member; how to be more forgiving of others and myself; and that we are all only human, trying to survive and be loved.
This journey strengthened my beliefs in the magic of life and the blessings that surround us every day.
In the film, I am going to provide resources that I acquired along the way, as well as go on a fact-finding mission to discover new ways to help improve the lives of patients and caregivers. We have been working very closely with a remarkable cancer charity called weSPARK. In addition to using their healing services and support groups, we have also spoken before their board. We also utilized the services of Simms-Mann at UCLA.
 
Most recently, Justin and I have become members of the Patient Family Advisory Council (PFAC) at ULCA Hospital Santa Monica. 
My heart and soul is in this film. I plan to give caregivers resources and information, a sense of community in knowing they are not alone, and most of all, inspiration to continue thriving before, during, and after cancer caregiving.
 

ARTISTIC APPROACH

In "Caregiving Cancer: The Silent Heroes," our creative vision is to craft a deeply immersive and emotionally resonant documentary that captures the raw essence of the caregiver experience. Led by Mary Lou Sandler as both host and storyteller, the film will delve into the intimate details of her own journey alongside the diverse experiences of others in similar roles. 

To bring our vision to life, we will employ a multi-faceted approach that incorporates various visual and audio elements to enhance the storytelling process. Our cinematography will utilize a multi-camera setup, allowing us to capture intimate moments from multiple angles while emphasizing depth and texture. Each story will be set against visually striking backdrops, creating a rich visual tapestry that underscores the emotional gravity of the narratives.

In addition to captivating visuals, our film will feature an impactful soundtrack that complements the storytelling and evokes a range of emotions. Thoughtful animations will be interspersed throughout the film, serving to visually illustrate key concepts and enhance engagement with the audience. 

Central to our artistic approach is the use of carefully selected footage, including personal video diaries captured by Mary Lou and Justin throughout their cancer journey. These authentic moments will provide viewers with a unique window into the daily realities of caregiving, allowing them to connect on a deeply personal level.

Furthermore, the film will incorporate insightful interviews with a diverse array of voices, including notable figures from the entertainment and literary worlds, leading medical professionals, and advocates within the caregiving community. These interviews will offer valuable perspectives and shed light on the broader issues surrounding cancer caregiving, enriching the narrative and fostering a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

Ultimately, our goal is to create more than just a film; we aim to craft an immersive and visually stimulating experience that educates, empowers, and uplifts caregivers worldwide. Through our artistic approach, we seek to shine a spotlight on the silent heroes of cancer caregiving and inspire meaningful dialogue and change.
 

PROJECT STAGE

We are currently in the development / pre-production stage: raising funds, applying for grants, seeking sponsors, and contacting potential subjects. We will be shooting in Los Angeles beginning in the fall of 2024.
 
We will also travel to select cities in order to interview additional experts, caregivers and cancer support centers. Our goal is to have the film completed by late 2025.



 

AUDIENCE AND DISTRIBUTION STRATEGIES

DISTRIBUTION AND MARKETING STRATEGY

We feel very strongly about the subject matter of this film, and plan on distributing and marketing it to a worldwide audience. We recently finished a successful festival tour with our first film "Welcome to Where You've Always Been" and received a distribution deal from the international cable network Shorts TV. We also released the film on Amazon Prime.
We made incredible contacts from our experiences both in the festival circuit and with distribution whom we believe will be instrumental in helping us get our new films worldwide distribution.
We will be entering "Caregiving Cancer: The Silent Heroes" into targeted film festivals that include the more prestigious festivals as well as smaller festivals that promote social change and awareness.
We will pitch the film to streaming and cable platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, and IFC/Sundance. We also have our own Amazon Prime studio account and can distribute there as well. We have already secured the website and social media handles for the film and plan to build a strong social media following on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
We will be using our established internet presence, in combination with outreach marketing and press releases, to acquire media coverage and grow our social media following. We will also launch an interactive website with important information and resources for caregivers.

INTENDED AUDIENCE

The film appeals to a broad audience including caregivers, cancer patients, medical staff, social workers, students, and educators. It is a film for anyone who has been touched by cancer.

 

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT AND SOCIAL IMPACT

This film will benefit society by helping both cancer patients and their caregivers to cope with their illness and better understand each other. It will help their family and friends understand the best way to offer help, as well as know what not to say or do.
It will provide much needed resources for those going through the caregiver experience, many of which doctors never tell you about. It will be a source of comfort, inspiration, and hope for all those touched by cancer.
After seeing this film, it is our wish that the audience feels a sense of lightness, understanding, and a deeper compassion. We aim to explore all of the sides of cancer and caregiving -- even the sides no one talks about. We intend to uncover truths to educate the public about the reality of cancer and caregiving. Through all of this, we hope to spark deeper levels of communication between caregivers, their patients, and their community.
We are planning on a multi-platform approach through both social media as well as our relationships with select organizations, to spread this message far and wide.
We hope to create valuable partnerships with those individuals and organizations who can help take what we are doing here and continue to develop social change campaigns that will improve the lives of caregivers and patients alike.

 

FINANCIAL INFO

FUNDRAISING STRATEGY

As we progress through the development and pre-production phases of "Caregiving Cancer: The Silent Heroes," our fundraising initiatives are gaining momentum. We are committed to seeking out and applying for every grant that resonates with our mission to support filmmakers in bringing vital, uplifting stories to the world.
We're actively engaging with businesses for sponsorship opportunities, whether through financial backing or in-kind product donations. We're proud to announce our partnership with our first sponsors—Tofurky, Mighty-O Donuts, and Authenticity 50.

Building on successful collaborations with VitaCoco, Perfect Bar, and Veggie Grill, we aim to connect with more companies that share our vegan ethos and dedication to positive change. Additionally, our crowdfunding efforts are in full swing via Network for Good, in association with our fiscal sponsor, From the Heart Productions. Our previous film's crowdfunding success—$10,000 raised in just 30 days, plus over $10,000 for post-production—speaks to the enthusiastic support we anticipate for our current project from previous backers and new supporters alike.

 GRANT IMPACT

We are running a crowdfunding campaign through our fiscal sponsor, From the Heart Productions, as well as submitting to every grant that aligns with our philosophy. After the success of our first short film, we realized just how much community support we had and what we could do with those resources.
However, stepping up to a feature-length documentary requires some very important additional elements. A grant or donation would be greatly appreciated to help with our production and travel as well as post-production needs, including animation, soundtrack, deliverables, marketing, film festivals, and distribution.
While we have a desired budget for expenses and crew, we do own a small production studio and equipment and are dedicated to making this film with whatever resources we have, if need be.
The funds we raise will help improve the overall production value in many areas, as well as allow us to successfully bring this film to the largest audience possible.

 

VISUAL SAMPLES

Prior to our cancer diagnosis, our first short film, "Welcome to Where You've Always Been" toured 21 festivals, won 5 awards, and received distribution on the international cable network Shorts TV.
The film is also available on Amazon - click here to watch.
 
 
 

Trailer for “Welcome to Where You’ve Always Been”

Justin Sandler - Director/Writer/Lead Actor/Editor/Producer
Mary Lou Sandler - DP/Co-Director/Producer

 



Justin Sandler - TEDx Talk

Justin Sandler - Writer/Speaker/Editor
Mary Lou Sandler - Cinematographer
 
 
 
 

“Overcoming Self Hatred” - Ron Kochevar - Indie Inspirational Interviews ~ ep.05

Mary Lou Sandler - Director/DP/Producer
Justin Sandler - Editor/Audio Engineer
 

 

 

"The Tongue is The Strongest Muscle" - Liza Boubari - Indie Inspirational Interviews ~ ep.01

Mary Lou Sandler - Director/DP/Producer
Justin Sandler - Editor/Audio Engineer
 

 

Mary Lou & Justin Sandler accepting the weSPARK Inspirational Filmmaker Award

at the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema 2018

 

 

 

ABOUT US

Mary Lou Sandler

Mary Lou Sandler, a Biracial African American Female Filmmaker, brings a wealth of experience and versatility to "Caregiving Cancer: The Silent Heroes" as a director, producer, cinematographer, writer, photographer, and graphic designer. Her dedication to storytelling excellence and commitment to elevating underrepresented voices in cinema are evident in her work.

With a background in visual storytelling, Mary Lou is passionate about amplifying marginalized voices and shedding light on important social issues. She is also the creator and founder of femalefilmmakers.org, established in 2016, further demonstrating her commitment to empowering and amplifying the voices of women in the film industry. Her personal journey as a cancer caregiver fuels her dedication to this project, infusing it with authenticity and empathy.

Mary Lou's multifaceted skill set allows her to contribute to various aspects of the film's production, from capturing compelling visuals to crafting engaging narratives. As a caregiver herself, Mary Lou brings a unique perspective and profound insight into the challenges faced by caregivers, enriching the narrative of "Caregiving Cancer: The Silent Heroes" and enhancing its message of empathy, understanding, and support for those impacted by cancer.

 

Justin Sandler

Justin Sandler is a director, actor, drummer, writer, speaker, and cancer survivor. He and wife Mary Lou Sandler own 3 cubed studios, LLC and have 8 adopted rescue cats and one puppy.
A graduate of Indiana University, he has directed and produced cable TV in Chicago; wrote, directed, and produced commercials for ABC & FOX in Palm Springs; and has been long established in Los Angeles working as a professional TV, film, and commercial actor, as well as a recording and touring musician.

His film, "Welcome to Where You've Always Been" (writer, director, actor, editor, producer) appeared in 22 festivals, won 5 awards (including his award for Best Actor in a Leading Role), and is now available on Shorts TV and Amazon. Justin and Mary Lou are currently developing 2 new documentary films, "Caregiving Cancer: The Silent Heroes" and "MANtimacy." 
Justin debuted his solo show "EMBRACE LOVE FREE" at the Whitefire Theatre’s SoloFest 2019 with other notable performances including: the 2019 Santa Monica Binge Fringe Festival, StreamFest 2020, and Whitefire Theatre’s SoloFest 2021.

Since 2018, Justin has been inspirational speaking about his cancer journey, including 2 appearances at TEDxNormal. He recently completed and is now editing his book inspired by the same theme of his show and TEDx talks, “Embrace Love Free… 3 Steps to Overcome Any Obstacle.”

 

ABOUT 3 CUBED STUDIOS LLC

3 cubed studios llc

 

Established in 2011 by award-winning filmmakers Mary Lou Sandler and Justin Sandler, 3 cubed studios, LLC is a full-service film and photography studio. Their films have toured several festivals around the world and can be seen on cable and Amazon Prime. Their photography has appeared in magazines, books, on television, and in Times Square.
3 cubed studios create original, heart-felt, and inspiring content while delivering passionate and powerful results for their clients. Their philanthropic mission is to develop, advocate and give to charity projects that activate, elevate, and heal through the arts.

 

 

Our Clients

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TESTIMONIALS

LAURA FUDULI / MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST, ANSWER FINANCIAL

We can always count on Justin and Mary Lou Sandler for our corporate headshots, whether in their studio or here in our Encino office. 3 cubed studios is flexible, easy to work with and are able to make any subject feel comfortable and relaxed during a photoshoot. We will continue to use 3 cubed studios for all of our corporate headshots and any other photoshoots that come up along the way.

 

DIANA DUENAS / CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, ENCINO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Mary Lou and Justin have been the official photographers of the Encino Chamber of Commerce for the past few years now. Their professionalism, easy going spirit and beautiful photographs have made them a favorite among our members. From headshots to event photography, we have no hesitation recommending 3 cubed studios – Mary Lou and Justin for any photography needs.

 

DIANA SANCHEZ / PUBLIC & COMMUNITY RELATIONS DIRECTOR VAN NUYS AIRPORT 

Mary Lou and Justin Sandler at 3 cubed studios have worked with Van Nuys Airport on a number of community events and have always provided exceptional service. 3 cubed studios combine technical expertise and skill with an enthusiasm for their craft that has made them a pleasure to work with. They approached our photography needs with positive energy and attention to detail that is reflected in the quality of their product. 3 cubed studios were able and prepared to photograph in an array of our environments, whether indoors at a ceremony or out near our busy airfield. We would happily recommend 3 cubed studios, and would hire them again for our future photography needs!

 

JENNIFER GAYNOR-YAKER / CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, CONSCIOUS LIFE COACHING 

I have done a few different projects with 3 cubed studios - videos, head shots, etc. Not only are they super professional, they are very fun to work with. I immediately felt I could be myself around them. Mary Lou is very skilled at bringing out the best in you and capturing it on film; she also has a true artist's eye. I felt very comfortable from the get go working with them, and the results were also excellent; I've gotten a great response from my potential clients and on social media etc.; in fact, I got new consultations coming in the very same day my husband and I posted some new pics on Facebook! Overall, the experience has been very positive, from the "who" to the "what". I would not hesitate to recommend 3 cubed studios for your next project.

 

 

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