Heavy Metal Hero
Producer Kate Spicer looks beyond the disability to reveal the passion of her brother, a man with Fragile X, who embarks on a US road trip to find his hero, Metallica’s Lars Ulrich.
Mission to Lars shares the biographical story of Tom Spicer (pictured), a man suffering from Fragile X Syndrome (FXS), taken by his two siblings, Kate and Will Spicer, on the biggest journey of his life yet, to meet his idol, Metallica drummer, Lars Ulrich. According to Kate, the documentary was made with an eye “to entertain, to portray Tom as a man and not a label, and to meet Lars Ulrich.”
The documentary was largely aided by research foundation, The Fragile X Association of Australia (FXAA), committed to the study of FXS, a leading cause of intellectual disability and the most common single gene cause of Autism. Those who are diagnosed with the disease are most likely to struggle with learning, experience sensory difficulties, speech delay and unexpected behaviour including seizures.
“Joan at FXAA, as have other passionate mums at other FXS organisations around the world, have helped us get our story out there and generate interest in getting this film distributed and seen,” Kate says. “For them it’s raising awareness of the single biggest cause of inherited learning disability and for us it’s all about taking our brother and Lars’ story to as many people as possible.”
Kate says she was always wary of ensuring her documentary didn’t wallow in sympathy for her brother. “We filmed Mission to Lars for many reasons,” Kate explains. “Some were professional, we had the skills and thought we could make a cool film that junked a lot of worthy documentaries about learning disabilities that always seemed to feel worthy or worse, made a victim of the individual. However, if I am being honest, we made the journey into a film because if we hadn’t, we could not have afforded the time to do it justice. We never wanted it to be about shuffling Tom along for what they call a ‘grip and grin.’”
For many, working with family members can be tough, but it was a risk Kate was willing to take. “It was challenging,” Kate acknowledges. “Will and I still haven’t quite made friends again after some of our biggest fights while filming. Tom and I are much tighter but working with him had its moments. He’s a stubborn bugger! I felt completely torn between caring for Tom and trying to be a solid, stable presence for him, and driving the action in the film forward and making things happen. But Kate adds, “Though in hindsight, if he hadn’t been, we mightn’t have had such a great story to tell.”
Having already signed with Universal in Japan and had “a small but brilliantly cool theatrical release” through Picturehouse Cinemas in the UK, Kate hopes that the documentary will find a mainstream audience via TV, cinema, DVD, video on demand and further festival screenings.
The Fragile X Association of Australia (FXAA) will present a special screening of Mission to Lars on August 29 at Sydney’s Orpheum Theatre. For more information or to purchase tickets, head here.
View the trailer.