Violet is the lead character in the movie Viable, which is loosely based on director and co-writer Mary Gyulay and her personal experiences living with multiple sclerosis. Photo courtesy of Mary Gyulay

Young filmmaker shares viability of living with MS

By  Maria Montemayor, Youth Speak News
  • February 19, 2016

Mary Gyulay was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a year and a half ago, at the age of 22. At the time of her crisis, she turned to God.

“It was a really difficult situation to be in, hearing that you have a disease that you’ll have to live with and adjust your life to,” said Gyulay.

“Leading up to my diagnosis, I was terrified and was begging God, ‘Please take this away. Please don’t let me have this…’ As soon as I was diagnosed there was this peace that I came to and I think that that was a lot of where my faith came into it.”

Although she found it initially difficult to deal her diagnosis, Gyulay said her faith in God instilled in her the higher purpose of being a voice for persons with MS. She turned to a passion that she knew and made a film inspired by her own story.

Viable is a film about an 18- year-old aspiring pianist named Violet whose perseverance through her struggle with MS, a disease which attacks the immune system and affects dexterity and vision, mirrors that of Gyulay’s, the film’s director.

“Violet is stubborn, she is determined to do what she wants to do, which is a lot like me,” she said. “I am a very proud person. With MS I need to slow down. A lot of the time instead of slowing down, I’ll push forward and try to prove people wrong.”

In the film, Violet suffers a relapse, faces an upcoming audition for a post-secondary arts school and has to deal with naysayers who believe that she no longer has the ability to pursue her dreams.

When coming up with the title of the film, the team considered calling it Nerves because of the nervousness of going into an audition and also because MS is a disease that affects the nervous system.

But they settled on Viable because of its textbook definition — capable of living, developing and growing — which applied to Violet and also because of the play on her nickname Vi-able. Violet is able.

Gyulay co-wrote the story last April with her best friend Melissa Scicluna, who has supported her throughout her diagnosis. Scicluna, who is the executive producer of the film, put together a team of their peers and began production in late November.

“I really want young people who are now living with MS to see this because I know that when I was diagnosed with MS I felt really alone,” said Gyulay. “I also felt like there wasn’t enough awareness for people to feel that community. We just want to give more hope and motivation for people to keep doing what they love despite the fact that they have to suffer through these symptoms.”

Viable will be screened on March 3 at Carlton Cinema in Toronto. Gyulay said she is excited to finally be screening their work in front of an audience. However, this is just the beginning.

“We’re hoping to get into (the Toronto International Film Festival),” she said. “We’re going to apply for it and see what happens.”

Tickets can be purchased online at viablefilm.com/tickets. All of the proceeds will be donated to MS research and development.

(Montemayor, 23, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science at the University of Toronto.)

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