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Abby French: My new title -- Mother of the Director

Abby French

By Abby French

Summer is over. There's no more sleeping in late, pool or river fun, or family games of kickball in the evenings. Wait ... whose summer was that?

Not ours. Instead, script readings, batteries charging, making props, filming at various locations around Woodstock, frantic calls to Apple for tech help, and my son glued to his computer editing film footage until the wee hours of the morning. That was the summer of 2013 for us. But what do you expect when you have found yourself with a new title like I did? MOD -- Mother of the Director.

My 14-year-old son Stephen gave me this title when he decided he was going to direct, film, and produce his first feature-length movie, "Detached." I never could have imagined how one hour and 42 seconds would impact our family. From the story's conception to the 62-page screen play, to collaborating with a gifted composer from James Madison University, to burning the final cut on DVD, it has been quite a journey. Often, as challenges arose, I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. Many times as I watched Stephen struggle, I worried that the pressure was too much. But Stephen would not be dissuaded. He had a goal. Period.

Life with a creative child is ... interesting. Stephen's motivation for expressing himself comes deep from within. When he's locked on an idea, he becomes super focused; all else falls away until gets the "story" out. It certainly isn't anything that we push, we just try to keep up!

Times weren't always like this. With three boys born so closely together, we needed a "pack" mentality for survival. There wasn't much time for individuality. But soon they each began to develop into their own unique selves. That's when things got really fun, and challenging! It was just so much more manageable when they were all strapped in car seats going in the same direction!

Growing up in rural Virginia has been ideal for our middle two sons with their love for hunting, fishing, farming and baseball. They have many outlets for their energy, interests, and strengths. Many of their friendships have begun on sports teams. But, for our oldest son, it hasn't been as effortless and we have had to look a little harder.

Stephen's love has always been story-telling ... whether through art, written stories, or his favorite medium, film. Over a couple years of birthdays and Christmases, he acquired a video camera, laptop and editing software. When he wasn't filming, he was busy writing stories for new movie ideas. It started when Stephen's father (the FOD) introduced him to some of his favorite classic movies. Quickly, was Stephen was drawn to Alfred Hitchcock's style, and a love of writing and developing suspenseful thrillers was born.

As his desire to learn about film grew, it became critical to find some resource for Stephen. He felt so different and isolated. Fortunately, last September, we found Lighthouse Studio in Charlottesville, an organization focused on mentoring youth film makers through workshops. Stephen took several classes on cinematography, screenwriting, lighting and sound. Most importantly, he formed friendships with kids sharing similar interests and talents. Here was the big moment, the realization that you are not alone. There's more of your kind out there in the big world! What MOD wouldn't feel eternal gratitude for this for her young Spielberg. In fact, I am sure his MOD also felt something similar years ago.

His experiences at Lighthouse inspired his decision to make his film "Detached" this summer. As MOD, I know he couldn't have done it without the support and encouragement given to him by so many friends and strangers alike. Perhaps the most astounding gifts of time and energy to bring this story to visual life have come from the cast, crew and composer. They came on board to make it a reality with no expectation of financial compensation for their talent. It is humbling that so much has been given by others so that my child might achieve his dream.

So, our summer wasn't a "normal" summer, and the days leading up to the first day of school weren't how I envisioned them. Parenthood is a lot like that. But, wow, I am a MOD! Stephen is premiering "Detached" at 7 p.m. on Friday the 13th at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Winchester. I can hardly wait for that night, even if my heart will be in my throat the entire time! I wonder if Spielberg's mom felt that way.

Abby French of Woodstock is the mother of four children. Her oldest son's movie, "Detached," will be shown at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema at 7 p.m. Friday, at the Community Theater in Woodstock at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 15, and at 7 p.m. Oct. 3 at the Family Drive-In in Stephen's City. His movie's website is www.detachedthemovie.com


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