To Tell the Truth: Emma Was Here by ROW 211 Films
Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act may not sound the subject matter for a comedy, yet the screenplay—and planned production of—Emma Was Here is sprinkling funny moments throughout an otherwise tough topic.
The production is being undertaken by some of the usual suspects—and up-and-coming stars—in southern Oregon film’s film community; namely, Southern Oregon University graduates Mig Windows, Angelica Owens, Rory Owens, and Daniel Rester, all who founded the production company ROW 211 films to create original, inspiring films. Their debut feature film Emma Was Here will be directed by Daniel Rester, who also wrote the film, and stars Windows. And, already, the script found success through more than one contest and had a stage reading as well. “The script has won an Oregon Film Award, placed second in the Jefferson State Flixx Festival, and had a well-attended staged reading in November of 2016,” says Windows. “Daniel has a great ear for dialogue and is a very talented writer.” Windows continues, “Emma Was Here is the story of a terminally ill young woman who goes on a trip to the Oregon Coast with her sister and two best friends, shortly before making the decision of whether or not she will end her life via physician assisted death, legal through Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act.”
Over the past several years, Windows has starred in a number of locally produced and filmed films, including Redwood Highway and a smattering of horror films.
The screenplay is the latest from Rester, who fell in love with film at 12 years old. Films like Lawrence of Arabia and Pulp Fiction, and making short films with his friends, drove his interests until he majored in Film and Emerging Media at SOU. “I’ve worked on a number of short films in the past in the drama genre with topical subjects,” he says.
Rester’s first few films deal with hard but important topics, like abortion and heartbreak—and Emma Was Here is no exception. “I like my projects to make audiences think about what they would do in tough situations,” he says, “but I also like to incorporate honest bits of humor. Directors like Richard Linklater and Sam Mendes have influenced my style some in this way, though my works are my own original voice.”
Shooting is expected to wrap in a brisk three week take, with two weeks in Rogue Valley and one week on the coast. Rester hopes the film will be released next year after submitting it to festivals like Sundance.
“I began writing it in 2014 when I moved away from Oregon to Los Angeles,” Rester says. “I was feeling a bit homesick and wanted to write something related to Oregon since I grew up there. I’ve always been fascinated with the Death with Dignity laws in Oregon, and I’ve had a number of people affected by cancer in my life as well. I also wanted to challenge myself to write strong female lead characters for something. All of those things helped inspire my writing into what eventually became Emma Was Here.”
Windows hopes the film will convey the compassion and issues of the Dying Dignity Act justly. “If it gives comfort to the family members of someone who chose this route, as well, that would be highly rewarding to me as someone so heavily involved in the production.”
Rester hopes the audience will relate and sympathize with the film too. “I want them to laugh, cry, and relate to the situations. Cancer is a tough subject that affects many people in different ways, and physician-assisted dying is just one angle to it that happens to be quite unique to Oregon and a handful of other states.”
He also hopes the film gives justice to the four female lead characters. “I also hope that aspiring filmmakers see it and are inspired to write their own pieces with interesting female leads or something similar as I’d love to see the next wave of filmmakers show more diversity in sex and race in their projects.”
To stay up-to-date on the shooting and the film’s release date, visit Row211Films.com.