I’m still not sure what to make of this film business. “Living the Dream” was a fun short story to write. It was published in 2010—my first short story in print. I was thrilled. But I moved on, got back to the business of writing poetry, and tried my hand at another couple of short stories. I thought “Living the Dream” was history.
When I heard the call for submissions for the Expecting Goodness Film Festival, I was intrigued. I had a story—a strange little story that might be just right. So I sent it in. Next thing I knew, it was in the pot for potential selection by a filmmaker. That was exciting! On the night of the filmmaker drawing, I was astounded to hear that Ron Hagell and Shirley Smith, experienced filmmakers, had chosen my story! Are you kidding me?!
I met Shirley at the Festival launch. She introduced me to Ron via her iPhone. He was up north, teaching film classes. Rhode Island, I think. That was probably a perfect meeting. After all, my story’s characters lived only in the mind’s eye…here was one of my filmmakers on a tiny screen, almost a figment of my imagination, too. Shirley, however, appeared real and warm and in the flesh!
I have to admit I was feeling some anxiety over my role in the film. I fretted that I would have to DO something…be involved…have to add this to my already full agenda. What did I know about filmmaking? Was I supposed to be there, to guide the process? What would this do to my already limited writing time? I work full-time with a paying job; I have after-hours commitments!
Ron Hagell was good to me. He eased me into what he needed. He gently probed for information. Does it hurt here? Or here? He was like the doctor who had come to save Rachel, my main character. What inspired me to write this story? What type of house did I picture for my character? Her house was important, and there was not much description in the story, except for talk of steps, and a door and a house number. And the bike. There’s always the bike. But Ron knew that what I had pictured while writing the story was important. He wanted it to be just right. He asked me about the time frame, when was the story set? 1960’s? 70’s? We were states apart, but we maintained a steady dialogue until he was satisfied.
He shared script with me, asked my opinion. He listened. He made it easy for me to say what I thought and how I felt about the direction he was taking. He made changes based on some of my comments. I didn’t have to rewrite anything. He and Shirley are the professionals. They know how to make it happen.
There was a “casting call” in December down in Columbia, which I could not attend. I like that….a casting call. Ha ha! For Rachel and Sam and Mama and Carl. Mr. G. Dad. It was starting to get real. Then I saw still shots of a couple of the actors–Rachel, and the actor to play Rachel’s Dad. On bicycles. Of course they were on bicycles! The story would go nowhere without the bikes! I was dumbstruck! There was my Rachel, the girl I had imagined. The girl I had created, the girl on which I had painted beautiful hair and hands, infusing her with a strong determination, and finally, like a glass-blower, filling her with my own breath. I had whispered to her to dream big. And she did. That’s my Rachel! When I saw the girl who would portray her in the film, I felt like her mother!
As I write this tonight in Greenville, the “Living the Dream” cast and crew are hard at work in Columbia, filming in the cold and the dark. My husband and I will drive to Columbia tomorrow to see certain segments of filming. I can’t miss out on this experience, but part of me doesn’t want to see this at all. Part of me wants to wait for the film to bloom on the big screen like a dream come true. I want Ron and Shirley to work their magic, and make me believe I am the one who’s living the dream.