A Dream Come True in New York City

On Sunday, August 28, “A Dream Come True in New York City,” a short film produced by WKU English’s own Dr. Jerod Hollyfield premiered at the Franklin Theater in Franklin, TN.

The film stars nineteen actors from Backlight Productions, a Franklin-based theater company that features adults with disabilities. The plot follows two sisters who travel to New York City to pursue their dreams of performing on Broadway. We spoke with Dr. Hollyfield and WKU sophomore, Tori Mills, about their involvement with the film.

 

A collaboration between Backlight Productions and WKU, about a dozen students and alumni participated in the creation of the film. Students like Adairville sophomore Tori Mills who helped with the film will take a disabilities studies course to receive credit for their work. Mills acted as the film’s assistant director.

I was the Assistant Director, which mostly included keeping everyone on schedule,” Mills said, via email. “I was also a sort of go-between for the acting troupe’s director, Melissa Smith, and our film crew.”

Hollyfield has worked with actors with special needs in the past on his own short film, Goodfriends. He said he was initially motivated by frustration with the media and theater world for patronizing actors with disabilities without allowing them to truly exhibit their talent in starring roles. Backlight Productions has a similar mission to resist this treatment.

The whole idea of the group is people that are usually ‘in the backlight’ are in the spotlight in this crew,” Hollyfield said. “Which really appealed to me because the actor that I cast in my previous short film has a disability. I went to high school with him and he would always get put in every play as the tree, or the guy who comes on in the background. Then, every single newspaper article would be about how great he was. He’s a tree. I mean, he’s awesome, but he’s a tree. Let’s let him have a part that demonstrates what he does.”

In addition to having a cast that featured 19 actors with disabilities, the film was also co-written and co-directed by members of Backlight Productions.

 

Filming took place from May 16-25. Hollyfield said that this time crunch was the most difficult aspect of filming. A typical film shoot goes through two pages of a script a day. The “Dream Come True” crew made it through eight pages on some days — a testament to their talent and devotion to this project.

It was a hard shoot,” Hollyfield said. “I would say it’s probably the hardest shoot that I will ever work on, just because of the amount we had to get done and the time constraints. Not necessarily because of the actors, because they were great, but logistically it was kind of a nightmare … to get all of this done so quickly.”

5 days to the premiere of "A Dream Come True in New York City"! #backlightdream

A post shared by Backlight Productions (@backlightproductions) on

 

The long days and short nights were worth it, Hollyfield and Mills both said. Mills described one particular day of shooting in which the crew shot a particularly emotional scene in one take. She said that scene changed the whole experience for her:

About halfway through the shoot, we filmed this scene in which the main characters, an inseparable pair of sisters, fight for the first time. Jackie Thompson, who plays one of the sisters, delivered this performance that had everyone in tears. After the first take, none of us really knew what to say for a moment. It really helped me to slow down and realize why we were there. These incredibly talented actors deserved a place in the spotlight, and they were giving us the privilege of helping them towards it.

Hollyfield and Mills said they are both optimistic about the film’s performance on this film festival circuit this coming year, as well as its positive impact on the theater world.

I would just like to reiterate how talented all of these actors are,” Mills said. “I hope this film goes somewhere, and I hope it helps to provides more opportunities for actors with disabilities.”

 


Missed the premiere? There will be a second showing of the film this Saturday, Oct. 1 at Grace Chapel in Leiper’s Fork in Franklin. Showing begins at 4:30pm with doors at 3:30pm. Tickets are $12.50 and will be sold at the door.

Hollyfield said he also hopes to have an on-campus showing in late Spring 2017 for WKU students to see after the film has hit the festival circuit. Watch this space for updates!

Special thanks to Dr. Hollyfield and Tori Mills for providing interviews for this piece. All photos from Backlight Productions on Instagram.
Cover Photo by Joshua Mellin, “State of Liberty, Governor’s Ball 2016” for Noisey

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