Photos by Brian Addison.
Linda Palmer, writer and director of the popular Halloween Party and producer of the hilarious The Wedding Video talked about her ongoing project, Our Father, a moving film about a son whose dementia-stricken father reveals a life-changing moment of truth. She also tells us how she found Long Beach and filmmaking as a way of life.
Palmer was born in Lakewood, Washington, ran away from home at 15 and was partially raised in Yelm, WA by the family of a close friend she knew from 9th grade. Palmer graduated high school in 1983 and moved to Downey so she could study promotions at FIDM, only to find she was clearly in the wrong place. She switched to Long Beach City College and began studying journalism based on her love for writing, yet still had to figure out how she could use her literary talents.
Palmer laughed at the idea of herself reporting, “I thought I wanted to do some news stuff and then I saw myself on camera and I’m like, well I definitely don’t want that.”
Still at LBCC, Palmer tried out the television and radio production program and found something much more suitable than talking into the blank stare of a camera, “They had this TV set where they would do these shows so that you got to be in every position required for production.”
After completing the LBCC program she started writing more scripts, but felt as if she needed more production experience. Through UCLA Extension, Palmer gleaned the practical skills to produce her first aired PSA (Public Service Announcement) helping The Children of the Night, a privately funded nonprofit dedicated to helping runaway minors avoid prostitution and a life on the streets. Palmer said, "It was my first exposure to producing something that got aired."
Palmer talks about how this bathroom served as the single set for Our Father.
Palmer certainly scrambled through a few hoops before discovering the euphoria of completing a moving picture and, after the PSA, made her first film. Palmer said definitively, “literally the best experience I had was actually making a film from start to finish.” She then began Runaway Productions, a boutique production company named after her experience from leaving home as an adolescent.
In discussing Our Father, Palmer described her style as a filmmaker.
"One of the things that I focus on are niche audiences, I do little films for specific audiences, you know, I'm not making mainstream films... I'm inspired by an event, or some little instance about an event," she said. A life-changing experience with her estranged father inspired her to write the script for an audience affected by dementia, alzheimer’s, and other similar diseases.
Palmer hadn't seen or heard from her father in 20 years, when he Facebooked her and her younger brother. After a couple conversations, they both realized something was a little off. Her middle brother, David, called him and agreed he didn't sound right and ended up driving from Washington to Arizona to take him to the doctor.
Diagnosed with beginning to mid-stage dementia, Palmer's father needed to be taken care of. David, encouraged by his son to care for the past "racist, misogynist, wife-beating bully," took him in and dealt with the chaos, distress, and frustration of the disease for a year and a half before he passed away.
Our Father is about a moment of clarity Palmer's father had with David while they were in the bathroom. The talented cast led by Michael Gross (Family Ties, Tremors), Michael Worth (God’s Ears), Eileen Grubba (Bones, Five Year Engagement), David Topp (The Box), and more, bring to life Palmer’s real life-inspired story.
When asked about Palmer's emotional connection to her script she said, "I felt very disconnected from the story because he wasn't ever like a dad to us. I never sat there and thought, ‘Wow, this is my family.’” For Michael Gross, however, whose mother-in-law suffered from alzheimers for ten years, playing the part of the father was an homage to her experience.
Palmer spoke of the entire Our Father team and their belief that such a film is an eye-opener for those unaware of how dementia can affect an entire family and is a truly touching experience for anyone who has dealt with a loved one’s suffering.
“All of us kind of agreed that there was this opportunity for him to be truthful and to tell us why he was the way he was and dementia offered this little portal...if he hadn’t been with us it would have been lost and our mom wouldn’t have been able to heal the way she has," she said.
Palmer continued, “The transformation of our mom was phenomenal because she used to think it was her fault the relationship didn’t work out, she just blamed herself.” The message of Our Father is a continuance of Palmer’s recurring theme: getting rid of the society-approved mask. Revealing our true selves is a constant and sometimes painful reminder that not being honest about our character affects our mental health and the well being of our loved ones.
If you want to help the Our Father team, check out the IndieGoGo campaign to help cover the cost of entering 20 festivals to become Oscar qualified, giving them a chance at a sale for TV and boosting awareness of the several causes the story addresses.