SPRING HILL — For families of people living with Alzheimer's disease, the process of dealing with a loved one's steady decline can be a heart-wrenching experience.
The fact that so many people have shared that experience is what interested former Spring Hill resident and film producer Kimberly Dilts and her husband, actor J.T. Arbogast, in making a film they hope will raise awareness of the disease and inspire community dialogue across the country.
Angel's Perch, which was produced by Dilts and Arbogast, who also wrote the screenplay and stars in the film, will be presented at a special viewing at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Beacon Stadium Theatre in Spring Hill, with proceeds benefiting Stage West Community Playhouse.
For Dilts, who graduated as valedictorian from Springstead High School in 1996, the movie has been something of a labor of love that took three years to bring to the screen.
Inspired by Arbogast's own experiences growing up in West Virginia and observing his grandmother's long battle with Alzheimer's, the story takes a touching look at a successful young architect living in Pittsburgh who is torn between the career opportunity of a lifetime and caring for his last living relative in a small town far removed from his urban ambitions.
Since the independent film's debut in June, the couple have accompanied it during more than two dozen showings across the country. They often take part in question-and-answer sessions afterward with audiences touched by the film's emotional tug.
"So many people find themselves unprepared for the difficult challenges and decisions that come when faced with Alzheimer's," Dilts said from her home in Los Angeles. "I think many of them take comfort knowing that they aren't alone after seeing our film."
Although Angel's Perch is Dilts and Arbogast's first film project, both are well schooled in the actor's art. After graduating from the University of South Florida's school of theater and dance, Dilts enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, where she met Arbogast. Over the past several years, both have worked steadily in various film and TV roles, all the while aspiring to put their personal creativity to work.
Produced on a small budget, raised mostly though Kickstarter online and donations, Angel's Perch was never intended for wide audience release, Dilts said. Rather, the film features an ensemble cast that includes familiar veteran actors Joyce Van Patten (The Danny Kaye Show), Ellen Crawford (ER), Ally Walker (Sons of Anarchy, The Protector) and Ashley Jones (The Bold and the Beautiful), all of whom she said were deeply committed to the film's ideals.
"One of the things that's made us so proud is that it really was a community-funded project, and a lot of people believed in it," Dilts said. "As an independent movie, it was all very hands-on. A lot of people gave their time and hard work just because they wanted to see the film made."
Next month's screening of the film in Hernando County will provide Dilts with a special homecoming, in that the event will help raise money for the community theater whose stage has often showcased her family members.
Although she never performed at the venue, her mother, Lynda Dilts-Benson, was the notable director of this year's production of The Producers and has starred in many other offerings through the years. Her younger sister, Karlye, and her stepfather, Dalton Benson, have starred in several shows as well.
"Even though I've been away for years, Spring Hill and Hernando County have always factored into my life," Dilts said. "I love going back whenever I can."
In fact, a movie script recently completed by Dilts is titled The Mermaids of Wachapoka Springs and has a decided Hernando flair to it.
"It's something I would love to find an investor for," Dilts said. "That's probably the hardest part of working in the film industry. There are plenty of good movie ideas floating around, but finding a way to make them is always another story."
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.