One of the great things about this website is the opportunity to be apart of some great original content. Our friends Dan and Michaela Long have a short film called INVENTION. They also have a kickstarter trying to raise some money for the basic costs of the film. This an exciting story of a little boy and his invention. I won’t tell you to much because you can read it below and watch their video here. So, enjoy this Q&A and check them out. Also, below is a quick video they put together for their media company A Long Winter Media.
Who are you?
We’re Dan and Michaela Long. Together, we have media company called LONG WINTER MEDIA, where we help individuals, businesses, and non-profits connect their stories with other people through video, web, and graphic design. Michaela is the “CEO,” client-relator, and strategist. Dan is the Chief Creative Officer. On this project, Michaela is a producer. Dan is the writer/director. We both have M.Divs from Fuller Theological Seminary, and Michaela is about to start a Ph.D in Practical Theology.
Tell us a little bit about the story.
After her father abandons her for work one Saturday, a forgetful girl creates an invention to help her remember her dead mother’s voice by feeding it memories of her. As the invention brings her mother to life, it’s the best day the girl could ever imagine as she relives her good memories. But when all she has left are the bad ones, tragedy strikes and the girl is left to come to terms with the loss of her mother. Ultimately, she forms a deeper connection with her father as the two of them recreate their stories and memories of the woman they lost.
Where did the idea for the story come from?
In his essay On Writing for Children, CS Lewis describes that he wrote “children” stories because it’s where he wrestled with truth. Most of my stories are about children for similar reasons. Our short-film INVENTION began as a chapter in a larger story in which I was wrestling with being an inventor of stories/words while having a father who is an inventor of artificial-heart-like devices. As I turned the chapter into a short script, the themes of grief, loss, and human connection took center stage, and with these themes came the idea of memories. I was a forgetful boy (let’s face it, I’m a forgetful adult, too), so it only made sense to make the protagonist a forgetful kid wrestling with what it means to remember beautiful and terrible things about his mother. My inner journey from isolation into community also influenced the eventual reconnecting of the father and child in Invention.
How important is narrative storytelling to both of you?
[Dan]: My wife tells me if she wants me to remember something, she puts it in the context of a story. My default lens for everything is narrative. It’s cliché to say, but I really think of every person as a story, and when our paths intersect, a bit of ink from your pages writes new sentences in my story. I’m also fascinated with how much the human brain makes sense of our reality through narrative constructs. [Michaela] When I watch a good story unfold, I cannot help but relate to the characters and make sense of their process in light of my own life. Narrative stories allow me the space to engage and shape my ideas, values, and emotions. In this project, I’ve enjoyed experiencing people weave their story with the story of INVENTION.
What kind of response have you received so far from your idea and kickstarter?
The other day, we had a complete stranger tell us that she was struggling with not being able to see her mother, who is on her deathbed in another part of the world. When she read the script for INVENTION, she said she welled up with tears and found a lot of comfort in the story of a child also wanting to see his late mother. That story is overwhelming to us by itself, but it’s not the only one like it. We had a friend share with us that just the Kickstarter video (which asks people what memories they would feed the invention to relive them) led her family to spend more time sharing their memories together. These seem like simple things, but it’s amazing (and humbling) to find something we created actually brings comfort or helps build community/family. BTW, you can check out and support the kickstarter at http://kck.st/Mq0U1V.
Any cool moments so far?
The response has been cool enough, but we’re also excited about how the film is growing beyond being simply a short-film for festivals. We have friends who are child psychologists and counselors, and they’re helping us develop grief resources that will accompany the final film. We’ve also made connections with a number of grief organizations around the nation who’ve responded enthusiastically to this aspect of the project. The movie is now becoming a tool to help families and children through times of grief, and these organizations are going to help us distribute it free of charge. That’s not anything we could have imagined two years ago when Dan first wrote the short story.
Dan, how did your Master’s of Divinity effect the writing of this story? Did it?
I took a class at Fuller Theological Seminary all about the theology of the Resurrection, and now I can’t help but see that resurrection is not just something we wait for after death. When we participate in beautiful and good things, we participate in resurrection and the present hope that Christ’s resurrection brings us now. So, I always think of a protagonist’s growth in terms of resurrection. In INVENTION, the kid’s relationship with the father is dead at the beginning, and finds new life by the end. The kid’s mother is dead, and yet there’s new life in memories of her and the community/child she helped invent with her husband (hence the title). Also, the film is bookended with a funeral scene that begins with a radio being turned on. Rather than ending with the radio being turned off, the radio is turned up as we roll the credits – a symbol of resurrection and the fullness of life to be had after death. And finally, the young girl is named Ana, short for Anastasia (which means Resurrection).
Michaela, Produce a Film?
I never imagined I would produce a film. But, I suppose that is what happens when you marry a right brain, creative type. It’s safe to say that I’m on a very steep learning curve. There is, however, something really thrilling about working with a group of talented people to make a story come alive. I have a feeling that this will not be the last film I’ll produce.
[Dan] Forrest Gump – It was the first time that I saw that a movie is more than just actors performing characters. The whole of the film (image, sound, etc) makes a movie, and it takes a lot of people working together to create that. That community is why I make movies. [Michaela] Toy Story 3– The layers of the story are incredible. Oh, and I cried. I like a good cry in the theater.
We might know a dinosaur who has an interesting reel, any interest in seeing it?
The script actually calls for a dinosaur, and we’ve been wondering where the heck we’re going to get one. So, yeah, tell said dinosaur to send that reel. While you’re at it, if you or anyone would like to share with us a memory of a lost loved one, we’re collecting them and posting them on the movie website (feedtheinvention.com). Fill in the blank, “If I could feed the invention a memory it would be…” and send it to Howdy@LongWinterMedia.com. Thanks.