Written and Directed by Mark Pricskett
Finding Father is a film that approaches the subject of grieving from a child's perspective and how the coming of age character of Dan struggles with her solution to deal with an adult family problem. Dan’s short introspective journey helps her break through to her father in a way very personal and in the end, becomes more herself.
Finding Father is told through the perspective of Danielle. Dan, on the cusp of adulthood had to endure not only the trauma of the passing of her mother from breast cancer but also the grief and guilt of her father. As a result Dan's father withdrew from Dan, avoiding her as the young woman she was becoming.Dan through her art and her introspective journey with Nelle, finds her voice to confront her distant, grieving father.
Dan is a normal 13 year old who is beginning to explore teen rebellion. She recently has been taking care of her father who has been suffering the loss of his job and his wife. Dan copes with her situation in the best way she can by her creative outlets and by pushing and by testing the boundaries of her father.
Dan is usually quiet and introspective. She is learning how to express herself and wants her father to know her as the woman she is becoming. "Nelle" allows her to communicate with her "father" more openly.
Nelle is a character in Dan's head. She is not an imaginary friend but a representation of herself and her father in a conversation being played out before Dan's father discovers a scrapbook she made for him and left in his view. Nelle has a certain child-like naivety. She seems somewhat confused about her relationship with Dan. Forgetful. Nelle wants to make Dan like her and has this desperate energy to try. Nelle comes off a bit quirky but endearing.
Father is in his mid-thirties and had lost his job at about the same time his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. The family lived in a trailer as a temporary arrangement. He felt disappointed in himself that his wife had to spend her final days in such a deplorable lifestyle. He wanted to prove himself as a success before she passed but it never happened. Their financial and emotional struggle pushed him into a severe state of depression. Father deeply loves Dan and the family was one of caring and understanding until the tragedies.
The story of overcoming grief will be told visually by it's use of it's isolated location and muted color hues. The moments of emotional breakthrough will be shown with more colorful objects that represent their growth. The musical score will be original compositions that will reflex Dan’s experience.
This story has an audience with adolescents who can relate to the young girl, Dan, as someone in the transition of becoming an adult. The film can also find an audience with adults who have dealt with the death of a family member and have lived with that impact on the rest of the family.
The story in Finding Father itself is fictitious but much factual research has been done into the dynamics of a father and daughter relationship after the passing of the mother for this film. The story is culled from various true stories and in-person interviews with people who have gone through similar grieving experiences as well as books about grieving from a husband and father’s perspective.
Drexel University’s Dr. Maureen Davey whose specialty is research into the effects of mental or physical disorders such as depression due to coping with a mother diagnosed with breast cancer, was of significant help in shaping the character’s relationships. Dr. Davey’s research described factors that complicate children’s lives after a mother’s breast cancer diagnosis from doing interviews with children who lost a mother. Her studies described the “normal” struggle for independence and the formation of a separate identity is exacerbated by conflict between the desire to break away from the family and the knowledge that their emotional and physical support is needed. Dr. Davey also did her own analysis of the characters in Finding Father which helped strengthen the story.
Facts About the Issues
It has been estimated that 30% of women diagnosed with breast cancer will have one or more school age or adolescent child still living at home (Lewis & Hammond, 1996).
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 4% of single parents had been widowed: 13.9% of these households included children under the age of 12 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001)
Mortality rates for adults in their 40s and 50s in the past two decades have risen dramatically making it more likely that younger children will experience the death of a parent, or a classmate's parent. "Kids are encountering death more often and at a younger age - it's just inevitable" says Gerald Koocher, chief of psychology at Boston's Children's Hospital. (Wall Street Journal, Early Grief Article, February 18, 1999)
1.2 million children will lose a parent before the age of 15.(Ohio State University)
In a child bereavement study conducted by Harvard, it found that bereaved children were anxious over the safety of loved ones. (J. W. Worden,
Harvard University, 1996)
About 40,170 women in the U.S. were expected to die in 2009 from breast cancer. ( Breastcancer.org)
Research has demonstrated that parental illnesses, like breast
cancer, can affect family dynamics, resulting in increased conflict and a disruption to daily routine and
availability of parents to their children (Armistead, Klein, & Forehand, 1995; Beardslee, Versage,& Gladstone, 1998; Birenbaum, Yancey, Phillips, Change, & Huster, 1999; Hilton & Elfert, 1996; Hilton& Gustavson, 2002; Hoke, 2001; Welch, Wadsworth, & Compas, 1996; Zahlis & Lewis, 1998).
Finding Father is looking to have success in worldwide film festivals and in short film distributor catalogues including IndieFlix. It will also look to have an audience with those who are facing issues presented in the film through more selected distribution.
Although the film touches on the timely issues such as Breast Cancer, unemployment and grief, the story is about a girl’s coming of age. It’s about having a voice and confronting a very serious family problems. There are many adult challenges that children are sometimes faced with and this film deals with some of those challenges.
According to the Internet Movie Database, only 6 out of 1.7 million films from 1888 to the present have a theme of a child living with a widower father from the child’s perspective.
Finding Father is a film that although is dramatic and artistic, it is approachable and relatable. This film hopes to touch it’s audience by showing a story honest in its emotion and in its ability to creatively express the confusion of a young girl, dealing with big issues.
The casting process lasted several months and many actors from a five state region were considered through several in-person auditions and video auditions as well. The three principal actors that were chosen were a perfect matches for the characters.
Father: Bart Shatto
Bart is an accomplished Broadway actor and veteran member of the Gold/Platinum selling symphonic rock band The Trans-Siberian Orchestra. He has not only originated two roles on Broadway in the Tony-nominated "Civil War: Our Story in Song " and "Dracula," but played the pivotal and beloved role of Jean Valjean in both National Tour and Broadway casts of "Les Miserables". Regional theatre include: Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alley Theatre (Houston), Ford's Theatre and Papermill Playhouse. Bart's vocals can be heard on multiple recordings including the "Children of Eden" original soundtrack and TSO's night castle, and he has had the distinguished privilege of performing at Carnegie Hall and at the National Theatre in Washington D.C. for former President George Bush. Recently, Bart starred in a comedy/ horror short film, "Opening Fright" and a supporting role in a new feature film entitled "Powerplegic". Also, He was invited to join the cast of Frank Wildhorn's new musical "Bonnie and Clyde" slated for Broadway in 2011.
Nelle: Gianna Lepera
Gianna, who will be playing the character of Nelle is 11 years old and a NYC native. She made her professional debut off-off Broadway in Turtle Shell Productions, “Summer Shorties-Sum-ar Not” in August 2009. She went on to star as Susan Walker in the musical version of “Miracle on 34th Street” at the John Engeman Theater in NY, for which she received critical acclaim from the New York Times in November of 2009: “Gianna LePera, the 10-year old who plays Susan, is equally beguiling, displaying a delicate somberness similar to the haunting performance the young Natalie wood gave in the film.” Other TV and film credits include “Becca” in Law and Order SVU- “Shattered” and “Young Tracy” in the Indie Film Vamperifica. Gianna has performed live with the Grammy Award winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus as well as at Joe’s Pub in NYC with Trapper’s Greatest Hits 2010.
Dan: Sabina Demidovich
Sabina has been acting since she was nine years old. Her first chance came when she booked the lead in “Talk w/ an Angel,” an independent short film by Pittsburgh-based director Lakeeba Coleman. In this movie, she acts as an arbiter for two troubled men, who are struggling to make peace with their life on earth. After this, she was the narrator for a Point Park College student film, “Story of An Astronaut.
Sabina has furthered her training by taking on-camera acting intensives with Joe Coyle, owner and director of Fern Rock Films. She is also taking ongoing acting classes with Pittsburgh’s finest acting teacher, Jill Wadsworth. Besides acting, she is also a singer and has taken musical theater training at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Theatre Academy.
Recently, Sabina spent time in NYC attending an acting camp at the Performing Option directed by Madelyn Burns. She is presently in rehearsals for the lead in a summer theatre production of “Twinderella: The Musical.”
Writer/Director: Mark Pricskett
Besides a filmmaker, Mark is an award winning magazine photographer.For the past 13 years he has been the editorial photographer for several Neil Award-winning magazines, and he himself has won several Apex and ASBPE awards. Mark's photographic visual style of crisp, saturated, and well-composed images are reflected in his first film Kevin's Friend. Kevin's Friend, a short drama that explores the friendship of a young boy and his mysterious new friend. Kevin's Friend was an official selection at FirstGlance Film Festival Philadelphia 2009, Utopia Film Festival 2010, and Alexandria Film Festival 2009. In 2009, the film was picked up by Indieflix,a partner of Netflix and Microsoft, for distribution.
Mark is also a professional actor and has worked with esteemed directors such as Brian
De Palma, Julie Taymor, and Peter Jackson.
Mark's approach to becoming a director was to take his education and experience of being both a photographer and an actor and bring his stories to the screen. Although, both Kevin's Friend and Finding Father explore dramatic complex relationships, the stories are told with Mark's unique storybook approach.
Cinematographer: Bunker Seyfert
New York cinematographer Bunker Seyfert has filmed for TV shows on Comedy Central, A&E international, Speed, and truTV. He has had his work shown on the National Geographic Channel, MTV, BET, The Onion and Fuse. His documentary work has taken him to the Amazon Jungle, Germany, Jamaica, Mexico and across the US. The feature film “No Boundaries” he worked on received awards from The Indie Fest, Mexico International Film Festival and White Sands International Film Festival. The Short film “Four Thorns for Aiden” received awards from the West Chester Intentional Film Festival, Mainline Film Fest, Redemptive Film Fest and the MAD Dragon Fest. His documentaries have received awards from New Hampshire Film Expo and Montezuma film festival.
Composer: Michael Whalen
A two-time Emmy® Award winner and 8-time Emmy® Award nominee, New York composer Michael has composed over 550 television scores, show themes, and network IDs for nearly every network in the world. In addition to dozens of feature and short film credits, he has created thousands of commercials tracks for clients such as Coca-Cola, Apple, Disney and Nike. In the USA, he is best-known for the opening theme to ABC's "Good Morning America", music for "The Oprah Winfrey Show", the daytime drama "As The World Turns", the news magazine "Inside Edition" and countless PBS series such as "America at a Crossroads", The American Experience and "Slavery and the Making of America". His solo work is prolific as well, having produced his own 24 albums, including this year's best of collection "Dancing in Black and White", the classical compilation "Lights Along the Highway" and the forthcoming ambient music milestone "The Sea of Tranquility".
Script Analyst: Pilar Alessandra
Pilar is a sought after teacher and lecturer, she’s traveled the world teaching screenwriting and is in high demand at major writing conferences and film festivals.
Pilar jump-started her career in film as a script reader for Amblin Entertainment. With the formation of DreamWorks, she became Senior Story Analyst and a reader liaison between the studio and Robert Zemeckis's company, ImageMovers. Her expert script analysis was also sought out by The Robert Evans Company, Cineville Entertainment, Handprint Entertainment and Saturday Night Live Studios, and work at Interscope Communications led her to a position as Senior Story Analyst for Scott Kroopf's production company Radar Pictures.
In 2001 she started her own company, "On the Page," and in 2004 opened the On the Page Writers Studio in Sherman Oaks, California.