BY SUZANNE KELMAN
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
May 16, 2014
As a storyteller, I have the privilege of telling stories, and as a filmmaker, I have the pleasure of telling stories in lots of unique and interesting ways. Over the last couple of months I have had the opportunity to create a story from a different perspective; instead of as a writer or director, I joined Linda Palmer’s team—Runaway Productions—as one of her Associate Producers and I really enjoyed the experience.
Always fascinated by a story’s journey from script to screen, I caught up with Palmer to talk about the project.
“Our Father” starring Michael Gross, is Linda’s production company’s eighth film and is one close to her heart—one she felt compelled to tell. Based on an experience with her own family, it is a poignant story of how, through a fleeting moment of clarity, dementia opened a portal to her father’s past and a love he was denied—a glimpse that provided understanding and began to heal her family.
The journey through pre-production was an interesting one, Palmer admitted. In the beginning, she found it challenging to get talent attached because it was a “short” and most agents don’t want actors to do shorts. But spurred on by the encouraging response from a script reading and from those around her, she continued to send it out to agents and entered it into competitions, where it did very well.
Eventually her persistence paid off; the script was seen by Michael Gross, who is known for his role in “Family Ties” and “Tremors,” and who wanted be involved. Having had a family member who had suffered with Alzheimer’s disease for many years, he was very understanding and sensitive to the subject matter. So much so, in fact, that he told Palmer, the writer on the project, that he didn’t want to change her script at all. He prepared for the role by spending time with dementia caregivers and sufferers so he could really understand the disease.
Other gifted actors also became attached to the project after Michael Gross signed on, including Eileen Grubba, “Sons of Anarchy; Michael Worth, “God’s Ear;” Ally Iseman, “Criminal Minds;” Julia Silverman, “Grey’s Anatomy;” Isaiah Lucas, “Waiting in the Wing;” Patrick Censoplano, “Fame;” Aaron Stall, “The Ruffian” and David Topp, who just won “Best Performance in a Short” at the 35th Young Artists Award ceremony.
Admitting she is a very collaborative filmmaker, she also surrounded herself with a remarkable team of creative individuals and a group of associate directors, introduced to her by Hal Croasman of Screenwriting U, which is how I connected with her.
Palmer worked with Hal on a previous movie when one of her soundtrack songs was an Oscar contender, and he suggested she approach the Screenwriting U Alum to champion her cause. We came together—most of us from all over the country—to support her vision. It was a fascinating experience for me and I enjoyed every aspect of it, from reading the script to seeing the storyboards and the footage of the final auditions. Palmer did a great job keeping all her producers connected on the project and through our own Facebook group.
“Having everyone share this story and be a part of its process is what is going to make this a successful movie,” Palmer said.
Now that the movie has wrapped, she has moved onto post-production and preparations for the film festival circuit at festivals such as Sundance, where I think it will do very well.
Adding one last story to the film’s journey, Palmer talked about a moment during the audition process when she was preparing the two young actors to play their scene. I said to them, “it is this moment, it is this moment in this man’s life—and because he can’t have this person, he is denied this person, it is going to make him the way he is. So everything the two of you bring to these characters comes from this one moment, the entire story is because of this moment.”
This is one of the many reasons I personally love to write—the treasure of being able to delve into and explore the core of human experience that is shaped by an invisible chain of such moments.
Thank you, Linda, for a great experience and for your passion to tell a story. You are a true inspiration.
(Photo at top: Four cast members: (l to r) Michael Worth, Michael Gross, Eileen Grubba and David Topp Photo by Malik Sooch)
Suzanne Kelman is an awarding-winning screenwriter of a screenplay that has recently been optioned.
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