- Friday, Aug. 26, 2016
- BURBANK, Calif.
Filmmaker Romina Schwedler, who broke into SHOOT’s 2014 New Directors Showcase on the strength of an Axe comedy spec spot titled “How a Man Gets Ready,” has wrapped her first dramatic short film, The Visit, which stars Academy Award nominee June Squibb (nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Kate Brant in Nebraska) and Sean Maher (Firefly). The Visit is set to make its world premiere at next month’s Burbank International Film Festival where it has been nominated for Best Short Film by a Woman. The screening is set for Saturday, Sept. 10.
In The Visit--which Schwedler also wrote, edited and co-produced--Squibb portrays Mrs. Perkins with Maher cast as Ben, her son. Ben joins his mom at the visiting area of a public hospital where she often claims to communicate with his departed wife (played by Sadie Katz) and son (Dominick Coniglio). Through his grief, Ben interrupts his mom time and again, finally reminding her of his family’s tragic death. Ben’s flashbacks reveal his last days with them. Now, as he struggles to redefine his relationship with his aging mother, Ben and the matriarch are faced with the unsettling outcome of his dubious past.
Schwedler shared that her 14-minute short film was born out of a phone conversation with her father about her late great aunt. “With great sadness, my father shared with me the curious ways in which she expressed herself and the stories she elaborated in her mind in order to cope with the loss of pretty much all friends and family members from her generation. I was fascinated by the mechanisms the human mind has access to in order to handle loss and grief. My great aunt could not have been more enthusiastic about this alleged party she needed to prepare for where she was going to see her sister and parents later that day. As the conversation with my father continued, an intriguing thought came to my mind, right after which I started writing The Visit.”
Landing Squibb for the short is a story unto itself. Moved by Squibb’s performance in director Alexander Payne's Nebraska, Schwedler tried to reach the actress via email but to no avail (later finding out that her talent agent was moving offices at the time with a new email address pending so the director’s emails were probably never received). But then a bit of serendipity intervened when the 2014 Burbank International Film Festival announced that Squibb would be an awards presenter. Schwedler would be at the fest for the screening of her aforementioned Axe spec piece. So Schwedler went to the event with business card and an attached flash drive (containing a cover letter, a script and a video in which she begs Squibb to read The Visit) in hand. She found Squibb’s table at the gala affair and approached her. Squibb graciously promised she would read the script.
About three weeks later, Schwedler received an email from Squibb who wrote that she loved the script and would commit to doing the film, schedule coordination permitting. Two weeks later, the two talked over the phone, leaving Schwedler “speechless when she told me that she would like to donate her time to the project. I was literally out of words for a proper response and overwhelmingly thankful since we all know short films are very difficult to fund, but mainly because this meant that she really believed in the story.”
Fast forward to today and Schwedler and Squibb are two years after their first meeting at the Burbank International Film Festival about to enjoy a return engagement there.
Producing The Visit were Schwedler, Alain J. Carmona and Ruben Rodas. Carmona also served as cinematographer and postproduction coordinator.