Here is one of my first features for Broadside as the Lifestyle Editor! The entire issue can be viewed here.
The Mason students and faculty working on the movie make up a good percentage of the cast and production crew, with ten alumni, one current student, one professor and one staff member. This is fitting because Dannie Snyder – the producer, director, writer, music composer, and one of the cinematographers and audio mixers for the film – is a Mason graduate of 2010, and many of the cast were previously considered as classmates, not colleagues.
“During my senior year, I directed a studio theatre production with the Mason Players called ‘Fuddy Meers,’” begins Snyder, who studied Theatre Studies, Film and Video Studies and music at Mason, “where I met Kathleen Mason who was playing the lead role. I promised to one day write a film for her, which resulted in “The Long-Term Side Effect”, her debut for the screen.”
And so the indie film was born. “The Long-Term Side Effect” was originally going to be a series of five different short films, filmed within four years. Each short film was going to focus on a different protagonist who would also make appearances in the other films as extras.
“However, as I developed storylines, I was more and more drawn to [character] Lei Kelly’s ache and struggle,” Snyder said. “In Jan. 2011, I asked Kathleen to meet with me urgently because, not only had I decided to do a feature film about Lei Kelly in five different relationships, but I realized that the summer would be the best time to shoot it. Panic!”
So now “The Long-Term Side Effect” is one film, based upon character Lei Kelly, who is portrayed by Mason alumna Kathleen Mason. The character is a survivor of pancreatic cancer – but for a price. The treatment for Lei’s cancer is experimental and causes a side effect that stops her from aging, making her stay 22 years old when she is actually in her forties.
“What if someone could live forever? What if it was because of a drug experiment gone wrong? What if the government admits that they have been lying about something? What if there was a huge news report about finding the cure to cancer? These questions lead me to Lei Kelly,” Snyder said.
Though the film may seem dramatic and emotionally intense, a LIV Creations, LLC, press release states otherwise, saying it is actually a “quirky, awkward comedy re-imagined.” The film delves into Lei’s relationship with a new client, who is performed by Mason professor Mary Lechter, SAG; a young man played by Mason alumnus Chris Aldrich; a Feng Shui Consultant (Ian Abadilla); a stranger with pancreatic cancer performed by Mason student Joshua Paul McCreary; and her daughter (Gabriella Lacombe) – five people who each fear the element of time under different situations.
“Lei Kelly is ‘living the dream’ of not aging, of being twenty-two years old forever,” Snyder said. “I think most people, but young people in particular, will immediately connect to this conflict. However, audiences will immediately recognize the flaws of such a dream, such as all of your friends and family outliving you.”Snyder believes we are all affected by time differently, so we deal with the pressure of time differently – a belief emphasized in the film.
“Yes, we can ‘restart’ our life whenever we want,” Snyder said. “[It] could be as big as getting a new job or as small as rearranging all of the furniture in our house. Making the decision to change is easy; many saying the hard part is sticking to it. Kathleen and I believe that the thing that makes ‘sticking to it’ truly hard is our desire for everyone in our life to change with us.”
Mason theatre professor and founder of Acting For Young People, Mary Lechter, was drawn to the theme, plot and connection between characters in “The Long-Term Side Effect,” and was touched when Snyder reached out to her to be a part of the film.
“Over the years I’ve been looking to work with former students,” said Lechter, who has been a professional actor since graduating college. “[Dannie] was able to take what [Kathleen] Mason and I did and work with it to create an interesting dynamic between the characters. It’s interesting how out of all of the characters, Dana is the only character that wasn’t so strongly influenced by Lei.”
But creating this interesting dynamic between characters with a small budget and limited people — a problem many independent films have to face — is why Snyder took on so many roles in producing the film. Not only is she responsible for piecing the film together, she is responsible for her own theatre production company, LIV Creations, LLC.
“All of the food for the shoots was paid and cooked by yours truly,” Snyder laughed. “While being the producer, director, writer, music producer, and one of the cinematographers and audio mixers, I thought it would be too much to also include ‘craft services!’”
“I’ll never forget the day Seth Blaustein, another cinematographer, showed up to his first shoot,” Snyder continued. “[He found] just me, ready to set up all of our equipment. The first thing he said was, ‘Where is everyone?’ I embarrassed-ly replied, ‘Uh… This is it.’”
Snyder and her cast and crew of Mason students, alumni and faculty, are awaiting responses from independent film festivals in the United States.
“Stay tuned!” Snyder proclaims. “We’ve submitted to a handful of festivals and, hopefully, will soon be announcing our festival premiere. After we have decided what festival we will be premiering at, we will be able to nail down a touring schedule. Our hope is to, after our private screening in March, to come back to the D.C. area in the fall for a public screening.”