With the help of the English and Theater Departments, IT, local businesses, Roanoke’s faculty, staff, and students, and a little bit of honest advice from her grandmother, Senior Stephanie Spector is set to start the production of her short film Daylily Day within the next few weeks.
After winning the English Department’s short script competition last spring, where Simpson’s Producer and Roanoke alum, Joe Boucher, mentored the winning scriptwriters and held workshops for other students, Stephanie was approached by the department head about an opportunity to make her script into a movie, she could not turn it down.
As production becomes closer, we have a couple questions for the budding filmmaker.
Where did you get the inspiration for this script?
One summer, my dad and I hiked a trail at a park called Deep Cut Gardens in Middletown, NJ. As we circled back to the parking lot, we noticed some commotion outside of the horticultural center.
Turns out that once a year, daylily growers from all over the state come to this park and showcase the flowers they’ve bred. Daylilies bloom for a day and then they die. So growers really look forward to and are proud of seeing their flowers on display at this event.
I was floored by these people who spent entire years breeding flowers only to enjoy the physical results for such a short period of time. So, it was the first scene that I wrote—I even scripted in one of the horticulturists that I met that day. The main characters, the storyline, the setting, everything else blossomed out of this one very specific memory.
What was the most challenging thing for you while you were writing it and what do you anticipate being the hardest thing moving forward?
Writing dialogue is horrible. I think my characters said some dopey nonsense in the first few drafts, but with each subsequent draft, I learned that silence could be just as effective, if not more, than speech.
Also, you don’t want your dialogue to be so on-the-nose that your reader sees right through it.
I’m not confident that I’ve mastered all this yet, so the most challenging thing, I think, will fall somewhat on the actor’s shoulders in making the dialogue sound natural.
Is there a particular character that you are most excited about seeing come to life?
The Roanoke Valley SPCA agreed to let us “borrow” one of their canines for the film shoot. The idea is, we put the RVSPCA in the film credits to raise awareness for their shelter. Hopefully, this will lead to more animals getting adopted.
I don’t know which dog we’re getting yet, but I’m so stoked to see them on set!
During filming is there a scene that you think will be challenging due to any limited tools that Roanoke has available at the moment?
“Playing filmmaker” for the past few months has taught me that even a low-budget film has its challenges. But you make it work. A creative, can-do attitude is sometimes more valuable than access to resources.
That said, I’m very lucky to have support from everyone here and various businesses in Roanoke who have agreed to let me film in their space. I’m especially grateful to the folks at Red Velocity studio. They agreed to lend us their film equipment and help make this movie look beautiful.
Everything’s challenging. Random stuff comes up all the time. Like, okay, I need to find lederhosen for this character, tomorrow. Or, oh, I need to contact T-Pain’s agent to get permission to play one of his songs. Um, what? Then I need to acquire hundreds of daylilies and make sure they don’t die on me!
It’s insane, but fun. You have to love it. Otherwise, why go through all of this in the first place?
Where do you see the film going? Do you think Roanoke will support you, or are they already encouraging you, to enter it in competitions?
If Daylily Day encourages more writers and artists at the college to start up their own projects, I will feel like a million dollars. That’s why I’m so bent on making this thing student-run. We have about forty potential student volunteers and counting, many of whom don’t have experience like me. At the end of the day, if everyone has fun, the story is executed well, and somebody learns something, the project will have succeeded.
My advisors rock. They encouraged me to submit to film festivals, and I’m definitely going to. Granted, I’m less concerned about receiving merits and gold stars and more about the chance to network with other indie filmmakers and see what’s out there.
Good luck to Stephanie during production, Roanoke can’t wait to see what you create!