Sunday, April 22, 2018
Movies

Ron Howard chooses Wesley Chapel photographer's snapshot for film project

The black and white photograph seems to capture a moment of severe duress. A grimacing woman clutches a man's shoulders, with a concerned onlooker and an IV drip close by.

Is she dying? Has someone else died? Is this an emotional outpouring of relief after discovering everything's fine? Or is it something else?

Lexia Frank, 27, of Wesley Chapel, appreciates the ambiguity she captured with the click of a camera shutter. So does Oscar-winning filmmaker Ron Howard, who chose the photograph to help inspire a short film as part of Canon's Project Imagin8ion.

Howard and Canon selected photos in eight categories — Frank's won the "relationship" group — from nearly 97,000 entries. The feelings evoked by these dissimilar images led to Dane Charbeneau's screenplay that Howard passed along to his daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, to direct.

Their finished product, the 24-minute family drama when you find me, will be shown Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Citrus Park 20 in Tampa.

Viewers will recognize the moment when the movie invokes Frank's photograph — it's there in the preview trailer — with a different meaning than the moment's reality.

"The photo is actually a birth taking place," Frank said in a telephone interview. "The mother is bearing down with a contraction and she's being supported by her husband in the hospital. I knew it was a very emotionally charged photograph.

"We were asked to title the piece (for the competition). I wanted to let them have free creative run... so, instead of titling it something like And Then the Baby was Born, I titled it Too Much, just so they could interpret it any way they wanted to, like a death or a cancer patient maybe going through a hard round of chemotherapy. Or maybe a birth, as it was. And they did end up interpreting it as a death."

Frank attended the New York premiere of when you find me, where she met the Howards and the other winning photographers. It didn't seem likely when Frank's 11-year-old nephew suggested entering the contest. "Being the good auntie that I am, I submitted a photograph, never thinking anything would come of it," she said.

Weeks later, a phone call from Canon turned around that pessimism.

"I had to pull over my car and just laugh for about five minutes," Frank said. "I don't remember anything they said other than 'You've been selected as a grand prize winner' and it was too much for my brain to process. To think that Ron Howard had actually seen my photograph then picked it for his next film, it was too much to comprehend."

In comments posted on YouTube, Ron Howard explained what he saw in Too Much.

"It's dramatic, it's utterly human, powerfully relatable and, I felt, suggested a range of feelings that would give the film some real weight," Howard said. "I felt it was ... something that would stimulate all kinds of possible scenes, moments and turning points."

Thursday night, Frank will share her brush with Hollywood with folks back home.

"As a creative artist, it was one of the most impactful moments of my life," she said. "It's really incredible how they were able to weave those into a cohesive story ... There will be a couple of tears shed; it's a very emotionally charged film."

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