What a fun day in the life of Saying Goodbye! Today we had a screening and party for the residents and staff at Agapé Senior, the assisted living facility where we shot the movie. We worked with Cynthia Scherbaty and Amy McCormack to make sure it was a big event for everyone involved, but even we were surprised when we walked in and saw the amazing result of the hours the two ladies had put into transforming the cafeteria.
As the residents started to arrive, we got them seated, while those who were extras were sequestered in the back room. We had the charming Joe Pinner (Mr. Knozit for those of you who grew up watching his kids’ show in Columbia) as our MC, and he kicked things off by introducing each resident and staff member who had appeared in the movie. Joe did a great job making them feel like stars as they walked the red carpet to their reserved seats up front. Joe Nester, an Agapé staff member, recorded the action, and you can watch his video here.
Then it was time for the main event, and there were so many great moments as the Agapé folks watched Saying Goodbye. The first scene has people singing “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder,” and as it played, all the residents started singing along – it was spectacular. Then every time the cat came on screen they 'awww'ed not caring that he’s the death cat. They also laughed a lot more than our typical audiences - especially at scenes we never realized were funny - but obviously their years of experience give them a different perspective.
Once it was over, we thanked them for all their help – the movie never would have been so authentic if it hadn’t been for everyone at Agapé. We presented them with a framed version of the Saying Goodbye poster where we added pictures of the residents along the top and bottom borders, and they had already put it on display in the lobby before we left.
Then it was time to party! We had popcorn and movie candy and ginger ale served in champagne glasses. We also had a special treat playing in the background. There was a lot of footage of residents and staff that didn’t make it into the movie, and since we wanted to make sure everyone who participated got to see themselves on screen, we put together a video of that footage. We think it was more popular than the movie itself, since it played six or seven times while the residents laughed and pointed at themselves. If you’re interested, you can see the video here.
During the party, we got to catch up with many of our extras, and they were all so excited. We also got to meet other residents who told us how much they loved the movie. Making the day even more special, members of the cast and crew showed up to help celebrate. Rebecca Koon, who did a phenomenal job as our star Alma, made the drive from Charlotte, and Dick White, who was one of the poker players, was there with his daughter. We also had Cliff Springs (director), Sherard Duvall (first AD), Will Bryan (production designer), John Collins (video assist), Laurie Nicholson (production coordinator), and of course Stuffy the Stand-in, as well as our two executive producers Susan Hogue and Tom Clark. It was a fun reunion with many of the people involved in making the film. We even made the news – WLTX was there to capture the event and we were part of the top 7 at 7, which was a nice surprise.
There have been a lot of ups and downs in this movie-making experience, but celebrating the film with the Agapé residents and staff was truly a special moment. We hope they had has much fun as we did, and we thank them again for everything they did to help us.