News Column

Montgomery native brings latest work to Capri

May 1, 2014

By Allison Griffin, Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.



May 01--For actress and filmmaker Grace McPhillips, the idea of making a film based on one of Montgomery's most famous icons isn't a surprise. After all, McPhillips is the daughter of one of the founders of the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum.

"I realized that I had this amazing gift of all the knowledge that I'd grown up with," McPhillips said during a telephone interview from Chicago, which has been her home for the past 10 years.

The film she wants to make about Zelda Fitzgerald is called "Beautiful Little Fools," and is still in development. She's worked with a screenwriter based in Los Angeles (but who was raised in the South), and the two have scouted locations for shooting in Alabama. The script is put together, and McPhillips is in the fundraising stage for that now.

"Fools" will be a "Fried Green Tomatoes" kind of story, McPhillips said, in that it will follow a modern woman in Montgomery and Zelda in the past. It fits well with McPhillips' desire to create strong female characters and roles, noting that filmmakers today "don't give us a lot of credibility."

She will be in Montgomery this weekend for the annual Fitzgerald Gala. But she's also here to highlight another project that she's just finished, one that centers on a much more modern, and more somber, theme.

"The Other One" tells the story of a woman named Amber, who returns to her childhood home to care for her mother, Vera, who has been diagnosed with dementia. Just three years earlier, Amber lost her husband in a shooting at a high school where they were both teachers. Amber survived but still struggles with the loss of her husband and is traumatized by the act of violence. Her strained relationship with her mother only amplifies her stress and depression. McPhillips plays the lead role.

As her mother's dementia deepens, family secrets are revealed, which Amber must come to terms with. The film is ultimately about redemption and forgiveness, McPhillips said.

Her company, Sterling Rock Productions, completed the film in just 10 months in 2013. It's won four awards already, and has been screened at the Peace on Earth Film Festival and the Palm Beach International Film Festival.

Sterling Rock created a social action campaign, Declare Non-Violence Videos (DNV), to engage schools and students in deeper discussions about solutions to the growing epidemic of school violence.

As an accompaniment to DNV, Sterling Rock made a prequel to "The Other One," called "Eclipse," which is about six minutes long. "Eclipse" focuses on the school shooting that Amber witnessed, but does not show violence.

"We're not glorifying violence," McPhillips said. "There's no need to show the violence, because it happens every two weeks in this nation."

McPhillips is eager for local students to see "Eclipse" so she can gauge their reaction. ("Eclipse" has also been accepted into the Cannes Film Festival Short Corner.)

She'll be in Montgomery this weekend with her husband, Corbett Lunsford, who worked for several years as a professional musician (he and his partner created the music for "The Other One"). They will be the guests at two special screenings at the Capri of "The Other One" on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. They'll be available for a Q&A session after each screening.

Besides "Beautiful Little Fools," McPhillips is also working on a project with director/producer Montana Mann, one of the youngest women accepted into the Director's Guild of America. McPhillips is eager to work on projects in Alabama; she and Mann have identified an area near Lowndesboro that will be perfect for that project, tentatively titled "Wilderland Road."

WANT TO GO?

WHAT: Screenings of "The Other One," a new film by Montgomery native Grace McPhillips

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday May 2 and 3 p.m. Saturday May 3

WHERE: The Capri Theatre, 1045 E. Fairview Ave.

ADMISSION: $10; includes Q&A with McPhillips and her husband and co-collaborator, Corbett Lunsford, afterward

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Source: Montgomery Advertiser (AL)