Classmates make documentary on remarkable recovery of Tessa Venell '08

Joshua Louis Simon ‘07 and Jeff Arak ‘07 have made a short film on Venell's recovery after a traumatic brain injury

Tessa Venell ’08 has come a long way since a car wreck on a rural Maine road in 2006 nearly took her life.

A traumatic brain injury left her unable to speak, walk, or breathe on her own, and she had to re-learn how to use her brain through intense rehabilitation. The progress sometimes seemed slow, but a year after the accident, she became well enough to return to Brandeis and complete her degree.

Venell's classmates and friends Joshua Louis Simon ‘07 and Jeff Arak ‘07, both based in New York City and regular contributors to film projects, have created "Then and Now," a short documentary chronicling her recovery and have plans for something bigger: To turn Venell’s story into a full-length documentary. Simon produced the short film and Arak directed.

“Her recovery was incredibly miraculous," Simon said. "She went through this, literally, traumatic injury, and became well enough to go back to her normal life a year later."

Venell also has her own plans for telling her story. She is working on a book, and she has shared her experience and mentored people going through similar challenges and their families.

“I'm really happy with the gift that I've been given, to have gone through this experience,” she said. “It was terrible, but I have recovered to the point where I can share it and maybe help other people go through it.”

Venell’s commitment to spreading her story is a key element for the film, Arak said.

“It's a big part of why we've hung on to the story, we knew Tessa was interested in telling it, she has been a super-active collaborator,” he said. “We’re excited to have the book and film work together.”

Venell still experiences improvements in her day-to-day life, and she celebrates the small steps forward.

“I have been able to remember some things without writing them down. To me, that is earth shattering,” she said. “When you can remember to get something at CVS without a note, that's a pretty cool thing.”

Read more about Venell's recovery in this previously published story in Brandeis Magazine.

Categories: Alumni, Arts

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