Onward!

RDHallJohnsonAndre

Welcome to my blog! This is certainly long overdue but I look forward to sharing here with you often about what’s going on in writing, film/theater, faith, culture and community – in my life and in the lives of those I admire!

We just finished screening a short film I adapted and directed, “Reflection Day,” at the Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival, as well as the Western New York Black Film Festival.

Reflection Day’s Trailer on IMDB

The film is about Ms. Johnson, an elderly African American woman in a senior home, suffering from Alzheimer’s, who compels her caregiver Andre to ‘take her to vote’ on what she thinks is Election Day, to have peace with her past.  It’s based on the stage play by Chuck Cummings.

ReflectionDayVertical_FINAL

We shot the film over two days last summer in Burbank at a senior home. It was a remarkable experience to be in such a real setting.  I wanted to shoot the film simply, in muted tones, to show how uneventful and lonely life can be for the elderly in these homes.  But it’s also a story about love – the love of Ms. Johnson’s life, and the love of her caregiver, who gives her a dignity in her final days that I wish every patient could have.

I’ve been writing all my life for theater and film, and for publication.  I’ve produced a few short documentary videos for arts and nonprofit organizations.  But in my first narrative directorial effort, I was struck by how my job was, ultimately, relational. Listening to the actors and crew, affirming their ideas and approaches, working through conflict, making my expectations and goals clear to the group  All the things I’ve learned in my years of leadership training, youth work, mentoring, serving on boards — it all came into play here, in ways I never expected.  All the non-artistic aspects of the job were just as important as the artistic vision!

I’ve never been one of those writers who insisted on directing their own work. Over the years I’ve worked with fantastic directors on my scripts, who helped me to improve my work and see things I would have never noticed on my own.  So I never pushed to direct – this opportunity came through actress/executive producer Edythe Davis, who had been in a play of mine several years ago at the Fountain Theater in LA.  When she called to ask me to adapt the script, I agreed.  Then the director she planned to hire had to bow out and I offered to direct, and Edythe agreed!

Just two weeks before, for my birthday, my father had given me a book about directing, which struck me as a little different.  In his inscription, he wrote “…for the next triumphant chapter in your career.”  That is my father, my first writing teacher — always encouraging me to think beyond my little box.  And sure enough, two weeks later, I got the call from Edythe.  It was an “Onward!” moment, for which I’ll always be grateful.

Looking forward to hearing about YOUR “Onward!” moments!

-Lisa

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7 thoughts on “Onward!

  1. Excellent! So interesting to read how you’ve noticed similarities in leadership training/community work and directing, and how one has prepared you for the other! Keep up the great work!

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