FIU professor’s life from a wheelchair featured at OUTshine Film Festival on Miami Beach

FIU medical school professor Susan Solman (left) and her co-star, Dreya Weber, in “Getting Started,” a 23-minute short film about a gay woman’s search for love — with complications.
FIU medical school professor Susan Solman (left) and her co-star, Dreya Weber, in “Getting Started,” a 23-minute short film about a gay woman’s search for love — with complications.

How does a professor of pharmacology at Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine find herself in Hollywood starring in a movie?

As an avid film lover, I have been involved with OUTshine Film Festival for many years.

During the festival last year I had the opportunity to have lunch with Andrea Meyerson, one of the guest filmmakers.

Little did I know that that lunch would forever change my life.

The server had just brought our entrees when I mentioned to Andrea that although I love watching and supporting LGBTQ films, I never actually see someone like myself depicted on screen.

Her response? “Well, we’ll have to change that.”

In the artistic setting of Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, I could see Andrea’s creative wheels turning inside her head as she asked me questions and I openly shared my story with her.

At the age of 39, I was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor. My surgery was not a success. I was left in a wheelchair.

I spent two months at Jackson Memorial Hospital recovering. I had to regain some semblance of who I was as I came back to a life that was drastically different.

I had to find my sense of self, purpose and standing in the world, even though I could no longer stand. It was a very long process, many years of rehabilitation, depression, insecurity and uncertainty.

As I got physically stronger, so too did my positive outlook.

I’ll always remember that during my darkest and most vulnerable times, it was the kindness of friends and strangers who gave me the strength to go on.

That experience as a patient has made me extremely passionate about teaching my students to be kind and compassionate to their patients. It is just as important as prescribing the right medicine.

After ending a long-term relationship, I eventually felt ready to date again.

But seriously…here does a single, professional gay woman in a wheelchair find love? A friend of mine insisted I create a dating profile online. I did.

Several months went by and I just chalked up my conversation of a short film about my dating experiences to a fun afternoon with a new friend. Until one summer day, I got a phone call: Andrea told me she had started writing the screenplay based on my search for love and had some questions for me.

It wasn’t long after that, I flew to Los Angeles, got into makeup and heard the call of: Action! We shot the 23-minute film over the course of five long days, starring me and my talented co-star Dreya Weber.

And now the movie, “Getting Started” will be screened at the OUTshine Film Festival on April 21 and April 22 on Miami Beach, the obvious choice for our world premiere.

This movie means so much to me because of the importance of portraying someone in a wheelchair living a happy life.

Unfortunately, many films show women in wheelchairs having a life not worth living.

They are often marginalized, victims or suicidal. My friends with disabilities and I all agree that this depiction of us is simply ridiculous and could not be further from the truth.

“Getting Started” offers the audience an opportunity to witness the life lessons I have acquired since being in a wheelchair. The joy that comes from the quality of our relationships, not the quantity of our assets.

It reinforces the fact that love stems from the capacity of our hearts, not the ability of our bodies.

I have never seen this message delivered in a movie featuring a woman with a disability and that is why I truly hope everyone sees this film


“Getting Started” will screen at OUTshine Film Festival Short Program on Saturday, April 21 at 4:45 p.m. at Regal Cinemas South Beach.

A second showing will be Sunday, April 22 at 5:15 p.m. For ticket information, call 1-877-766-8156. To purchase tickets online go to: www.mifofilm.com

For the link to purchase Saturday showing tickets, click here.

For the link to purchase Sunday tickets, click here.

For more information, call 877-766-8156. To purchase tickets online go to: www.mifofilm.com