|B R I E F S Y N O P S I S|
|A poignant and funny look at a day in the life of a family striving to create new memories while making peace with the old. April (Katie Holmes, The Wonder Boys) and Bobby (Derek Luke, Antwone Fisher) live in a tenement on New York City's Lower East Side. Despite a tenuous relationship with her mother (Patricia Clarkson), April plans to host her family for Thanksgiving. When her oven breaks, April is forced to appeal to an array of neighbors who, until now, have only been strangers in the hallway. Oliver Platt and Sean Hayes co-star. Directorial debut of Peter Hedges (screenwriter for About a Boy and What's Eating Gilbert Grape). Original music by Stephin Merritt (The Magnetic Fields).|
|Pieces of April •|
For a long time, I'd been looking for a story that would throw people of different races and ages together in a believable way. Perhaps it was a failure of my imagination but Jury Duty and Stuck in an Elevator were the best premises I managed to think up. Then I heard about some people in New York City who went to cook their Thanksgiving turkey only to learn the oven didn't work. So they were forced to go around the apartment building and ask strangers if they could use their ovens to cook the meal. I thought this could be a good jumping off point.
I told someone about the broken oven idea and she said, "Sketch." So I forgot about it, or so I thought.
In December of 1998, I received a phone call from my mother in Iowa. She had bad news. She'd been diagnosed with cancer. Over the next fifteen months, while she underwent radiation and chemotherapy, my sister, my brothers and I traveled back and forth to take care of her.
During this time, she urged me to keep writing, but it was difficult. One day in my office in Brooklyn, I started opening files on my computer and came across notes I'd written a year earlier for a story about a girl with a broken oven.
In my notes, I'd named the girl April after the moody, unpredictable month. She was cooking a Thanksgiving meal for her family. Most surprising to me was the reason why: She was attempting to bridge an estranged relationship with her mother who was sick with cancer.
That's when I knew I needed to write this story.
Early on, I decided to keep real life separate from the screenplay. When I was with my mother, I just wanted to be her son and not a writer. So I didn't keep a journal. I didn't study the experience in that half-detached way a writer (at least this one) often does.
But invariably my mother did impact the script in many ways. I was struck by her sense of humor, her ability to grace the worst moments with her exquisite wit. I was moved by her lack of self pity and the waves of rage. These qualities found their way into Pieces of April. So I think my mom, even after she was gone, kept me, and this project, honest.
* * * * *
We shot Pieces of April in sixteen insane days. No trailers, no perks, just the work. Who knew it could be so much fun? I'm still stunned that actors like Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson, Derek Luke, Oliver Platt and Sean Hayes would come work for next to nothing. The production team, the small but tireless crew—everyone put their hearts into this film, and I think it shows.
I'm often asked how much our movie cost to make. A simple answer is difficult because it doesn't fully represent the truth. In dollars, maybe not so much. But, you see, for every person who worked on Pieces of April, there's a story of sacrifice. So I don't know how to answer the question other than to say, ‘It cost a great deal.'
Was it worth it? Absolutely.
My best friend (and lawyer) worried that I wouldn't be a good film director. He said I was too nice, too amenable. A writer/director must be strong. To his surprise, and mine, I found I could be.
I once heard a story of a mother whose baby was trapped under an overturned car. Without thinking, she lifted up the car and pulled her baby to safety. I gave that story to a character in the script, and I think about it often. How possible it is. Pieces of April taught me that any strength I have comes not from within, but rather from whom and what I love. This may be helpful to all of you out there who want to do something which seems impossible. If you believe in it, you can be fearless on its behalf. You may even find yourself lifting up a car.
©2004 Landmark Theatres