Mission StatementReel Freedom Films is a woman-led company focused on featuring women in lead roles, both in front of and behind the camera. Reel Freedom Films brought one of the first transgender stories to the big screen, and with “Roots In My Garden”, we continue our commitment to showcasing LGBTQ themes.
About The Project
In just 2 weeks we met our funding goal! Thank you to all our generous supporters.
That leaves 2 more weeks to achieve our STRETCH GOAL: a Film festival run. The more people who see this film, the louder our message of ensuring equality under the law for LGBTQ families.
Seeking the woman she called “Mama,” a young woman returns to her childhood home to find she was the center of a nationally publicized custody battle between her two mothers.
Roots In My Garden is a short drama inspired by a landmark case in the fight for LGBTQ parental rights. The historic custody case occurred suprisingly recently, in the 1990’s. At that time, LGBTQ parents didn’t have the rights we have today. Families could be torn apart and children uprooted, never realizing their missing “Mama” or “Daddy” was not considered a parent under the law.
We must never take our rights for granted. The fight for equality is ongoing and there is constant and evolving push back. We have only to look at the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing religious organization to deny same sex married couples equal access to adoptions, to understand how quickly those rights can be taken away. If we, even for a moment, lose focus, those rights can be lost.
Roots In My Garden was adapted from a short story by Jo Lauer, who in 1992, witnessed a child being torn away from her non-biological mother when a well known lesbian couple in her community split up. One Mom left and took their child with her. The other Mother found herself with no recourse and no rights, despite a hard fought legal battle over LGBTQ parental rights. Roots In My Garden tells the story of Emily, who finds a stack of unopened letters addressed to her. They are from the woman she knew as “Mama”, who she hadn’t heard from in over 20 years. Emily travels to California to try to reconnect her and finds out she had been the center of a nationally publicized custody battle between her lesbian mothers. Jo wrote the story to offer a better ending, a glimmer of hope to hold onto until the law could change.
During the course of doing our background research for the film, we interviewed several of the parties involved as well as other community members. As we listened to the Mother’s story, it was clear how much pain she still felt over losing her child, even 20 years later. The daughter was also hurt by never knowing her Mother. Would she ever want to? The impact of that injury rippled through the local lesbian community, and though the laws have since changed, this battle is widely regarded as the beginning of the fight for equality of LGBTQ parental rights.
Parental rights are the foundation of the family and are fundamental to protecting it. If we don’t remember the pain of the old traditions they are likely to return. This project includes diverse voices; LGBTQ+ families that have suffered under the law, and some that have benefited from legal protections. Most people, even members of the LGBTQ community don’t realize a patchwork of state laws surrounds our parental rights, or how recently those protections were enacted. We all know the current political environment continues to threaten these fragile victories. That is why we are so passionate about Roots In My Garden.
Reel Freedom Films is a woman-led company focusing on the development and production of theatrical motion pictures featuring women in lead roles, with an additional focus on LGBTQ themes. Founded over fifteen years ago by Director Michelle Prevost to release her feature documentary “Trained In The Ways Of Men”, Reel Freedom Films brought one of the first transgender stories to the big screen. In 2010, she was joined by Ilena Ferrer, veteran producer and graphic designer; as a Producer/Director team, they have established a track record of award-winning short films at film festivals worldwide. Roots In My Garden continues our commitment to bringing LGBTQ stories to the big screen.
Imagine yourself, or remember yourself, as a young mother. The nine-months of pregnancy, the anticipation of the birth, your newborn in your arms, and all of the firsts that will follow: the first smile, the soft gurgles and laughter, sleepless nights, frequent feedings, teething, the first tooth. You watch your baby grow, filled to the brim with hopes and dreams for their future.
And then you and your partner split up and your child is wrenched away from you. You have no legal right to custody or even visitation because you are a lesbian, the non-biological parent, and your partner the biological mother, has forbidden you contact. Promises made on paper when you were young and in love have no weight in the court of law.
The ripple effect is lives are changed, unendurable pain is etched into your cells, life will never be the same for you, or for the child. In Roots, I offer a better ending. Not the ending that was available, but something to hold onto until the law became humane. - Jo Lauer
The traditional family of the 50’s, where the men earned the money and women cared for the kids and household, has evolved into less traditional families; women have careers, there are mixed race marriages and same sex marriages. I chose to direct this film because it’s imperative to sustain our rights and to remember the failure of the political, religious, and judicial institutions to recognize and protect non-traditional families. - Shelly Prevost
Our Roots team is already well into pre-production. We have begun to engage additional production crew, are scouting locations, breaking down the script, and planning our shooting schedule. We are serious about safety, and while we are a fully-vaccinated crew, coronavirus is still an important consideration in our preparations. Due to variations in ordinances, and evolving guidance, we plan for shooting to take place under whatever Covid guidelines and/or restrictions are in effect at that time.
Roots In My Garden production budget is $44,500 which covers all phases of production: prep, principal photography and editorial. We already have very strong core team, talented filmmakers we have worked with over our years in production, who are inspired by this story and will join us in volunteering their time to make Roots In My Garden a reality. Additionally, we have several in-kind donations that reduce the funds we need to raise to only $10,500. Please join us in bringing Roots In My Garden to fruition!
We are counting on your support to get us through production, but what happens after the film is complete? We need to get it out and in front of audiences! That means film festival submissions and screenings, promotional appearances and materials. Once again, our committed Roots team will donate our time, but a festival run is expensive. Our Stretch Goal is $6,500 to allow us to show Roots In My Garden to as many people as possible, to ensure our history is not forgotten, to ensure we move forward and not backwards. Equal LGBTQ parental rights are not yet guaranteed on a federal level. Roots In My Garden is a reminder: even in 2021, the fight for our families and children is not over.
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About This Team
Our Roots In My Garden team is made up of a diverse group of talented and experienced filmmakers who have worked together for years. We are LGBT and allies who are inspired by this story and are joining together in volunteering our time to make Roots In My Garden a reality because we believe in protecting the rights of all families. We hope that Roots in My Garden will help shed light on the precarious nature of LGBT parental rights.
Roots In My Garden is adapted from a short story by Jo Lauer, best known for her cozy-mystery series with LGBT themes, which can be found on Amazon. We are inspired by her work and are looking forward to working with her to bring this important and heartwarming story to the big screen.
Director Michelle (Shelly) Prevost: Michelle Prevost began her film career in the documentary genre, Directing and Producing the short “Isn’t It Obvious?” (2004) followed by the feature length “Trained in the Ways of Men”, premiering in 2007 at the Cinequest Film Festival. The films were an expression of her sorrow and anger about the brutal murder of a local teenage trans woman named Gwen Arrajo.“Trained in the Ways of Men” is distributed by Cinequest and was also available on Netflix. Both have been shown at numerous film festivals internationally, and Ms. Prevost still receives requests to show her films at LGBT events worldwide.
Early in her career as a computer science researcher, Ms Prevost worked for NASA and Silicon Graphics. She then moved to Electronic Arts where she designed new interfaces and AI heuristics for computer games. She followed that work with large scale data visualization at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Continuing to advance her technical skills for creative applications, Ms. Prevost joined Industrial Light and Magic as a software engineer. Her experience there sparked her interest in special effects and she has since written, directed, and created effects for several short films.
Ms. Prevost strives to bring attention to issues that are important to her, carefully interweaving the underlying social themes into her storytelling. https://pro-labs.imdb.com/name/nm2396887
Producer Ilena Ferrer: Ms Ferrer began her career in production at Post-Newsweek Cable (PNC) as a commercial Producer and Computer Graphics Specialist. From PNC, she then moved to Producer/Director for Sonora Gold Productions, responsible for three weekly shows as well as broadcast specials of events throughout Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties. Notable credits include Smithsonian award-winning music video: “Into the Fire” (Black Irish Band), Resource Advisory Committee’s video presentation to Congress for extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, and five years continuous broadcast of the Mother Lode Round Up Parade, the second largest parade in California.
Since returning to the Bay Area in 2010, Ms Ferrer has been an active Producer/AD, working on short films, projection installations, live event coverage, VR/360 projects, and music videos. She currently works for Contra Costa Television, creating content for broadcast and live stream of six local Government, Education, and Community Access channels. https://pro.imdb.com/name/nm4477228
Author Jo Lauer: Jo Lauer is a published writer (affiliated with the Redwood Writers branch of California Writers Club), and songwriter; and a founding member of Lavender Roses Reader’s Theater. Her articles and essays have appeared in regional and national periodicals. She has published a novella, two cozy-mystery series with LGBT themes, and a collection of stories, which can be found on Amazon.
Additional Core Team Members are Doug Kreitz, an award-winning video producer for small non-profits, municipalities, major educational institutions, and independent film projects. He also works as an instructor in field video production and photography. Stan Ng has won several awards for sound in independent film. He also freelances as videographer and editor, doing industrial, commercial and community videos, winning regional and national awards. Courney Gardener reviews films and TV shows for The Independent, using that platform to showcase LGBTQ+ creatives as well as connecting with actors, directors, writers, and producers. Kip Pearson is a San Francisco Bay Area writer/filmmaker. She has written several award winning short and feature scripts. Her stories focus on the empowerment of women in general, but also in showcasing LGBT themes and histories.
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