OUR FILM PROJECT
It was a nervous night as we rumbled through the streets leading to the Bryn Mawr theater. Residents of Inglis House had completed a film project, the actual brainstorming, the script, the filming and the editing of it, and this would be the first time showing it outside of Inglis House, at an actual movie theater! We were actually going to grace the screen where Cary Grant, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, and all of those other Hollywood stars had been.
As we entered the lobby outside the theater, I noticed the stares that we always get when we travel in groups of 3 or more wheelchairs. They weren’t hostile stares, just curious stares, and for once I didn’t get irritated, because I was excited about being seen on the big screen. When the theater opened up, we all filed in, we being Chris Ambolino of Dream Alliance Productions, the creator and producer, Mike Northen, our teacher and facilitator at Inglis House, and residents Dana Hirsch, Stuart Sanderson and me. This was the night when local people who wanted to show their films got a chance to. When our turn came, there we were! We had decided to do 3 short vignettes of different topics, two humorous and one drama. The first was a commercial about a beer that would make you a brainiac. The second was about accessorizing wheelchairs with jewelry through the Inglis Shopping Network. The last piece was based on a poem by Stu Sanderson titled ‘Who’s Lucky?’, about the war in Iraq.
As our images came up on the screen, the first thing I thought was that I shouldn’t have worn that shade of lipstick. I could’ve worn another blouse and my God, what kind of hair was that? But as I kept watching it with a critical eye, my ears were a lot more objective. They(my ears) heard the positive responses from the audience. As our film ended, I felt very much at ease, and proud of what we had done. On the way back to Inglis House, I kept thinking, WOW! We were on an actual movie screen! All that hard work and the long hours paid off. I learned so much about what it takes to produce a quality film; I found I have a penchant for working the camera.
When the idea of a film project was introduced to our poetry workshop, I was dubious. I wondered how, with our different limitations could we direct, edit and act in our own film. The idea was very exciting though, and I always wanted to operate a camera. So we all decided that we wanted the experience. We were introduced to Chris Ambolino, founder and director of The Dream Alliance, and his assistant Amanda Whittenberg.
We were asked to come up with some original ideas for filming. After a couple of brainstorming sessions, we decided to do three short skits instead of one long story line, because we wanted to do something different that was not associated or about our disabilities. We decided on a beer commercial touting “Stu’s Brew”, a beer that guaranteed academic success, an Inglis Shopping Network showing how to accessorize our wheelchairs for a night out on the town, and then a haunting poem about the war in Iraq, written by Stuart Sanderson, titled “Who’s Lucky?”
We all participated in each aspect of the filming process, switching from running the camera, acting in the scenes, checking the audio. The whole process took a lot of time. It was a lot of fun. We spent hours on end editing, redoing lines and scenes, changing locations, etc. Our final product was aired in Founder’s Hall. We were each given a certificate and became ‘Disciples of Art’.
Because of the success of the first films, a second film project followed. This was a drama called The Secret Campaign. There were a lot more residents participating this time. The story line centered on the dark and evil goings on behind the scenes of the resident council elections at Inglis House. This film took longer to complete because this would be the first time we did a film with a story line, and it involved a lot more actors. Chris wanted everyone to get a chance and experience the different aspects of making a film, so we changed places a lot. For example, one week I would work the camera, and the next week I would do the directing. We were all assigned different projects. Just as before, we got to act in the film, and also work behind the scenes. The main actors in this film were Stu Sanderson, who always seems to land a starring role in any picture he plays in, Ken Harris, his rival in this story of political intrigue and power, and Rita McGinley, the mystery woman who figures prominently in both their lives. The end product culminated in a premiere night where we rolled down the ‘red carpet’ in Founders Hall for the first showing. It was a fun night. We were presented with Disciple of Art certificates.
Afterwards, about a week later, Chris assisted us in finding film festivals to show the film. It was shown at the Roslyn Film Festival to appreciative audiences in Doylestown, PA and won an award. All in all, it was a fun and learning experience.