I am on LinkedIn and noticed that this very nice man John Caine was endorsing me for various talents…so in the end I asked him who he was and what did he have to do with show biz, as his
I started to create a website for this film in development. However – my technical skills wouldn’t stretch that far…my lovely web master Aaron Day, was too busy and a bit expensive, I had sorted of played around with Wix.com, a useful do it yourself web builder and then had the brainstorm at 4am, lying in bed….just add a page to janemerrow.com ! Like most people I find that our “Light bulb” moments come in the waking hours when we are alone, trying to sleep. So here goes, this is a sort of website/blog/diary of getting this story from script to screen.
Raymond has ALS (Motor Neuron Disease), Raymond, a strong man, a successful former criminal lawyer, is reduced to living his life in a wheelchair, slowly degenerating, tended by his loving wife Antonia. Antonia is a Roman Catholic, deeply religious. Raymond wants Antonia to help him to leave his miserable life behind. They argue, reminicse and eventually…well – this is a love story….
I met John Caine the Writer of REUNION courtesy of the social networking site Linkedin. Once we had exchanged messages, I asked what interest he had in show business, his background seemed largely financial? Turns out that he was not only a well known writer, having received an MBE for his services to the theatre, but also an experienced theatrical Producer, having started out with the great Albert Finney. I asked to read something of his….., always on the lookout for good screenplays. And goodness was I surprised and delighted to get and read John’s wonderful script for REUNION. Immediately I asked for an option to purchase the script and get the story made into a film. So here we are some months into the process. Part of the history of course includes the London Production of the play, which was really well received by critics and audience alike.
ACTOR/ PRODUCER: JANE MERROW
WRITER: JOHN CAINE
DIRECTOR: LINCOLN LEWIS
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: MARION ROSENBERG
CASTING DIRECTOR: FERNE CASSEL
After organising an option with John, thoughts turned to budget, location, a Director and an Actor to play Raymond. Which way to go? My preferred route was and is for some kind soul to give us a dollop of cash and say, just get on with it, with the best Actor and crew we can put together and just go do it. We have a wonderful script, the budget is low and I want to make it in Boise, Idaho with people I had already worked with, in a location I knew to be easy and uncomplicated and cost effective for film making. I had worked with Lincoln Lewis on three films and admired him, his ideas and work ethic. He suggested moving it from the UK to the US to open up the story…it is after all a huge, universal subject of great interest to many people in many countries. He would be Director of Photography, both agreeing that this needed to look like a proper film and not a photographed play. In the meantime my Manager and friend, Marion Rosenberg, whose experience in development and Production is vastly superior to mine had agreed to take an Executive Producer role and help with key introductions. I knew we were likely to need a ‘name’ to play Raymond, to help with sales and Marion introduced me to Casting Director Ferne Cassell in LA, a significant step in the right direction. Ferne has an impressive track record and could get the script to the agents and managers of Actors, whose good will and co-operation is critical in finding an Actor. I cannot tell you how important and difficult it is to get those doors open in Hollywood and Ferne has the experience and credibility to do it. So there we are – at present looking for the lead actor and the finance! In the meantime after a couple of stumbles with Directors, Lincoln offered to direct and I gladly accepted and believe us to be in a safe pair of hands with someone who loves and understands the story and who will make it look like a proper film. Furthermore I know we need someone younger, experienced at working with current technology and cinematic trends.
In the meantime during our ongoing search for Finance in Idaho, I organised a stage reading with Jon Kane of NexStage directing,in Sun Valley, to get a feel for the words, rhythm and audience response. Plus there’s some significantly wealthy people in Sun Valley, who might be interested in putting in a few dollars into a film made in Idaho, an attractive place in which to make movies! I found a wonderful actor (alas too young to play opposite me in a film) Aaron Moore and we did a reading which fulfilled all my expectations and beyond….the audience response was excellent and immediate. (The REUNION Reading is available for viewing…filmed on an iPhone!)
As the Western world faces the problems of an increasing number of an aging population, kept alive longer by the miracles of modern medicine, assisted suicide is becoming more and more of a very important and high profile subject. While our story is not about an old man wanting to die because his life has run its course, more about a “fallen giant” of a man, not so old, felled by a terrible, wasting disease, which will kill him horribly in due course. And tragically, there are many men and women just like Raymond, who because of some ugly disease want to die now and end a life which has become intolerable. Assisted suicide is still a crime in most countries and in most States in the US:
“Americans are engaged in an earnest and profound debate,” the majority wrote, quoting from a previous opinion, “about the morality, legality, and practicality of physician-assisted suicide.”
That debate is far from resolved today”
“As of June 2016 , human euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, and Luxembourg. Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Canada, and in the US states of Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Vermont, Montana, Washington DC, and California.” (Wikipedia)
In the UK Lord Falconer is attempting to get a Bill passed in Parliament to legalise assisted dying:
Introduced by the former Lord Chancellor and Labour Peer Lord Falconer, the Assisted Dying Bill was first brought to the House of Lords in June 2013. It proposed to allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults to have an assisted death after being approved by two doctors. It was based on the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which has allowed assisted dying in that State since 1997.
Given the importance of this issue…it is not a story that is going to go away. REUNION tells of just one story of a couple, joined in a long marriage, each partner, facing one horrendous situation from two completely different and conflicting points of view, each with their own needs, their own agenda – a love story, that will tear them and us the audience apart and one that is not so different from many real couples facing this tragic reality now.
THE ISSUE CONTINUES
Please read this and you will see that there is overwhelming support for a legal, compassionate way out of life, for those who want to take it.
THE ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE
From Wikipedia: “The Ice Bucket Challenge, sometimes called the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, is an activity involving the dumping of a bucket of ice and water over a person’s head, either by another person or self-administered, to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as motor neurone disease and in the US as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and encourage donations to research. It went viral on social media during July–August 2014. In the US, many people participated for the ALS Association, and in the UK, many people participated for the Motor Neurone Disease Association,although some individuals opted to donate their money from the Ice Bucket Challenge to other organizations.“
There is a new boom in older audiences. Although this film is not particularly about our aging population, it is about dying, facing death and therefore will have a particular resonance for many older people. And we believe there will be a younger audience responsive to the story. REUNION is a conversation about death and our right to choose it, if life has become unbearable, untenable for one reason or another and there is a massive interest in the subject. Above all REUNION is a love story, a story about two people who have lived with and loved each other for a long time, going through many ups and downs, arguments, disappointments and the joy of sharing a life together. Now they are facing a very final separation, a huge loss for one partner…loss, which is so much part of our lives.
As the film industry filled more and more of our theatres, cineplexes with huge budget movies, fantasy, comic book, action, blockbuster films designed to attract the popcorn crowd, movies known as the tentpole productions, another audience was being ignored completely. Some of the blockbusters succeed and make back their investment many times over, those original innovative productions and some simply fail..tired sequels to past hits, bad scripts, no story and poor performances. The Film Industry began to recognise another audience, largely overlooked and started to wake up to this ignored audience and the large potential of eager theatre goers. Many audiences look for films with a richer, deeper content, stories, with which they can identify, recognisable relationships and experiences relevant to their own lives. This has given rise to those smaller budget independent films largely seen in the art house cinemas. REUNION is one of those projects and we believe it will attract a large audience of people looking for a film to engage them and get them thinking and talking about their own lives and how this story relates to them.
There is more of an appetite to invest in this kind of filmmaking and the market is growing. Media, all media reaches a very large audience and anyone with a voice and a message to send, will use the media to get the story across. We want REUNION to be one of those films, reaching out to an audience, looking to be addressed, spoken to and engaged.