PHOTO: A screen grab from the “Why We Breathe” film shows Nolensville residents Rebekah Smidt and her son shopping at the Amish Country Market in Nolensville, Tennessee. / Photos submitted by Charity Spencer
By RACHAEL LONG
Nolensville may be considered small-town Tennessee, but that didn’t stop it from being chosen as the primary location for a film featuring several locals as extras.
Though an official release date has yet to be set for the film, producer and cast member Charity Spencer said post-production of “Why We Breathe” is nearing completion.
The story follows a young, single mother who lives with her boyfriend in the Nashville area, Spencer said. Along with being a mother, the main character is a waitress trying to make it as a singer/songwriter in Nashville.
“You can just tell she’s exhausted,” Spencer said.
During a confrontation with her violent boyfriend, the protagonist’s daughter gets hurt and is confined to a wheelchair. The film’s plot then takes the mom and daughter to Nolensville where the two go seeking protection and shelter from a family member.
“She doesn’t quite get everything together at the end of the story, but I love that because it’s real life,” Spencer said. “You see that she’s on the path towards getting things figured out, and it just feels very raw and very real to me.”
Spencer said Director Erik Parks wrote the script for the film about six or seven years ago.
“At the time, Nolensville was a teeny, tiny town,” Spencer said. “[Erik] and his family lived not far from there, and so they often take their kids there on the weekends…it just got his creative juices flowing.”
Spencer laughed as she noted the little town had grown by “leaps and bounds” since then.
Despite its growth, Spencer said Nolensville still had its “awesome little main strip” which still gave off the small-town atmosphere the filmmaker wanted.
Filming took place over about three and a half weeks last fall, Spencer said, and several Nolensville locals can be spotted in the film.
While Spencer said some of the scenes filmed in the Mill Creek Church of Christ required a room full of extras, a few residents were cast with speaking roles. Nolensville resident Ang Madaline-Johnson plays a physician, Dr. Braxton, while Franklin resident Susan Vernon plays Nana at Southern Hospitality Diner, a staple in Historic Nolensville.
Other notable extras were Wendy Snipes who plays herself as a waitress and Mellie Brackett who plays “mean woman.” Spencer mentioned another resident, Rebekah Smidt, who she said appeared in several scenes with her family.
“They were wonderful,” Spencer said. “We had so much fun working with the Nolensville people.”
Though “A Walk in the Parks” is a small, independent film crew, Spencer said it can be intimidating to bring a film crew into people’s homes and businesses. That’s a big reason why they wanted to get the community involved in the project.
“I’ve just fallen in love with Nolensville and the community out there as well,” Spencer said. “Everyone just rallied around us.”
Several businesses allowed the crew to use their space to film. Spencer said those businesses include Mill Creek Church of Christ, Southern Hospitality Diner, the Amish Country Market at the Feed Mill, Phillips 66 Gas Station, and the First Baptist Church of Nolensville.
But besides filming, other businesses stepped up to help the project with its crowdfunding campaign. Businesses like The Town Barre, Hwy 55 and The Nesting Project all donated gift cards, Spencer said. She also mentioned LJ and Steve Tufo, who provided catering from several restaurants and helped acquire all the vehicles needed for the film.
Spencer said she has been categorizing the film as “subtly faith-based.” There is a faith-based message underlying the plot, Spencer said, but noted it’s not “in your face.”
“Erik and I are both believers,” Spencer said. “But our heart is to create a story that people — whether they are Christians or non-Christians — can see and enjoy and relate to.
“It is a story of hope and of redemption.”
Spencer said no official release date has been set, as the crew is in the final stages of post-production. The film does not yet have a distribution deal, but Spencer said they will begin shopping it around soon.
In the meantime, more information about Why We Breathe can be found on the film’s website here. Spencer said the crew has stretched its crowdfunding campaign money as far as it will go, and invites those interested in making a donation to visit the website and click the button labeled “Make A Donation.”