April Update from Writer/Director Emilie McDonald

Hello all,

Back in NYC from the 4-day shoot in South Carolina… Still processing all that happened during the week and that we were there. Hard to believe what we were able to accomplish in that short time. Much of the thanks for that lies in the hands of Tammy Arnstein, producer extraordinaire; Matthew Woolf – amazing DP and so much more; and Megan Fleming, our angel-sent Production Manager who joined us in SC all the way from Georgia.

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I must say, there were many angels in our midst, from Martha, who not only chaperoned her grandsons Tyler and Landon who played leads in the film, but provided locations, babysat my 4 year old daughter Miranda, got access to her Daddy’s pick-up truck (which I’ve sent pictures of before!), and soooo much more. There was Martha’s friend Whit, who let 6 (count them, 6!) crew members sleep in his country house during the length of the shoot and kept a kind and gregarious attitude throughout. Debbie Nix and the Thomas Sumter Academy came through at the last minute for our school location. We had been reaching out to schools for WEEKS and as of 2 days before the shoot, we still didn’t have a location – they all said the subject matter was too controversial. But, two days before the shoot Debbie sent a very enthusiastic email excited about us filming at her wonderful school – we visited, and it couldn’t have been more perfect! When we first walked into the meeting, she informed us that they’d be providing the school for free, would provide extras, and would also provide lunch for the entire cast and crew on our shoot day!!!! There’s also Jane, who allowed a few of us to stay at her house as well. We had our own entrance and view of a lake. A welcome respite after very long days… a true blessing. Ashley provided 2 locations for our shoot and also brought along her brother and his friend as volunteer firefighters to oversee scenes involving fire.

The crew members were enthusiastic, hard-working, and go-getters. So grateful. And the cast members were also dedicated and threw themselves into the roles artistically. I couldn’t have asked for a better cast. Tyler and Landon, who played two lead roles, had never acted before. Without putting any pressure on them, I knew a lot was riding on their performances. They had been written into the film by pure instinct and intuition, but what if I was wrong after all the hard work, preparation, fundraising, and sacrifices that everyone made? We waited with baited breath. But guess what? They came through! Landon as Shawn was very natural on film, and Tyler as Grant has a natural talent that shown through in the scenes where he needed to be emotional or express something strong. I had tears in my eyes many times watching scenes play out on the monitor just as I had pictured them when I wrote the script (or containing something even more, all brought there through the collaborative efforts of Matthew’s cinematography, the producer’s and crew’s dedication, the actors’ contributions, and something extra special that we were lucky enough to capture).

At the moment, the footage is in the hands of our very capable editor Matt Sarno. He has a true feel for the tone and pacing of the project, and the darkness and light necessary to tell the story. He also has a deep enthusiasm for the script and footage, which is something I have looked for in all collaborators in this project.  Very lucky to have him.

I wanted to share some sad news that we found out halfway through the shoot. A cross burning occurred about 40 miles away from where we were shooting in Swansea, South Carolina. You can read more about it here. Even though the film is inspired by a true event that occurred in 2010, I was still shocked and startled by this news. When hearing about the film, many people thought it was set in another era. That is one of the reasons I wanted to make it, to not only spread the knowledge that these hate crimes still happen, but also to somehow through that awareness, create a change. Spread enlightenment, tolerance, and peace. This sad event is a reminder of that mission.

Thank you for your interest in and support of CROSSING THE RIVER. It has carried us and continues to carry us through this process!

Emilie McDonald



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