Videographer Explores Multiple Facets of Multiple Sclerosis
Kate Milliken calls herself “a bit of a cliché,” and it’s true that except for the MS diagnosis, she could be a Sex and the City character. A spunky, single video producer with a strong work ethic and a winning smile, Kate is devoted to the art of the narrative. At her company, Milligrace Productions, that means creating “Videodes®” — life tributes for business leaders or loved ones. Outside the office it means trying to make sense of something as senseless as multiple sclerosis.
Many members of the MS community experienced Kate’s ability to envision a better future and capture that vision on tape at the 2008 National Conference in Chicago, where she shot and edited an extraordinarily powerful closing segment. We’ll bet the final shot — wheelchairs fading from view behind closing doors — is seared in many people’s memories.
Now this ex-sports reporter is turning the camera on herself. In Kate’s Counterpane, (katescounterpane.com) a multimedia project she recently launched on the Web, Kate explores the multiple facets of multiple sclerosis through a combination of videos, photos and text. Counterpane is an old word for quilt and the site resembles a quilt, with each patch leading to a different subject, from diagnosis to dating to diaita (Greek for “way of living” — the word that “diet” comes from). Along the way we meet lots of heroes, including Kate’s family, doctors, complementary-medicine practitioners, and a woman in her Manhattan apartment building who also lives with MS.
There’s even a villain to throw popcorn at: the potential boyfriend who dumped Kate nine days after her diagnosis.
“I want it to be an informative platform for people to get information as well as really personal perspectives,” she said.
While the counterpane format works in a point-and-click world, there’s another reason Kate created it. She felt she lacked a crucial scene she needed for a traditional documentary: an anxiety-fraught hospital visit just after her diagnosis.
“They were like, ‘You’re going to the hospital right now! There’s a bed waiting for you!’ I had a conscious thought: ‘You need to bring a camera.’ But I didn’t have it in me. I had it one foot away from my hand and I didn’t pick it up. If I had run tape for a straight year and gotten everything on camera while it was happening, I think I would have had a whole different film.”
Kate celebrates the fact that she’s healthy and active — but she doesn’t gloat because she knows many others with MS are losing physical strength.
“One thing that’s always been in my life is movement. For me not to move is hellacious,” she says in one scene.
No matter what new drugs the researchers concoct in years to come, Kate says one very old-fashioned treatment is always going to energize people: storytelling.
“That’s my fuel,” she said. “People work hard all their lives so they can reach the moment they can see their daughter walk down the aisle or hold their first grandchild. I think people work as hard as they do to have the moments that I get to capture in my work. For me, the most important part of life is witnessing other people’s triumphs and tragedies.
“Who would have thought MS would give me an opportunity to present mine?”
Videode is a registered trademark of Milligrace Productions.