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Film set in county to premier this week

Photo by Cole Bielecki Travis Carlson, center, is pictured listening to Davies, left, and Aaron Rizzo from the camera team. “Mother’s Day” is based on a true experience from filmmaker Travis Carlson’s life, and it was set and shot in Chautauqua County.

“Mother’s Day,” the first feature film of local filmmaker Travis Carlson’s career, is set to premier in Buffalo this month.

Carlson, a Cassadaga Central School and a State University of New York College at Buffalo graduate, decided to set and shoot “Mother’s Day” in his hometown of Gerry. The film aims at reducing the stigma surrounding mental health.

“I feel like the medium of film is one of the most influential factors of education in general,” Carlson said. “You become immersed in the story plot, the characters, the way people think, the world that they’re living in and the characters. And also, your emotions are being triggered, not just your analytical brain.”

“There’s a lot of power in story telling,” he added. “I think it’s the foundation of education.”

Because “Mother’s Day” is a conversation between two parties, Carlson believes there is a lot that can be learned from it.

“We did our best to recreate, in real time, the two-hour conversation that took place,” he said. “It was to reflect back to people who weren’t there or who don’t get to see it, whether it’s a disfunctional conversation or it’s someone who’s dealing with mental illness, just what that’s like — the pain or the growth, all the details.”

“I’m sharing, and my family is sharing, a part of our experience,” Carlson added. “I think naturally, whatever the audience’s context is coming into it, they might feel a little bit more encouraged that it’s OK to talk about things that are usually held closer to the vest. I think that when you’re witnessing an argument as the third-party, you gain a lot more perspective and you can really feel what’s needed and how you might handle the situation differently.”

Writing on the script for the film began in September 2019 and was completed in November 2019. The finishing touches in post-production were completed this month. COVID played a role in altering the plans of shooting the film, but it was shot over six days in August.

“It totally changed the normal work flow of a shoot, of course,” Carlson said. “We adjusted and actually pushed our shooting dates back from spring 2020 until it was deemed safe and appropriate again.”

Many different protocols and guidelines were followed to allow a safe yet productive shoot. Carlson and Pan-American Films are incredibly thrilled to see their work finally come to fruition.

“We are extremely excited,” Carlson said. “This has been a full-time occupation for me and the core team for a year-and-a-half now. All of it kind of goes into one big event, and we’re thrilled and a little nervous, obviously. It’ll be very special to see it up there.”

Part of the nervousness for Carlson comes from the fact that the story is based on events that transpired in his own personal life.

“It’s a very personal story for me,” he said. “It’s based on my experience with my family, so there’s hesitation to how that’ll be taken. You let it go to the public, and it becomes it’s own thing. Overall, I’m comfortable with what the project is.”

The premier location, North Park Theatre in Buffalo, is a special place to Carlson given that he graduated from college in the city and is aiming to highlight the greatness of Western New York.

“I am thrilled that it’s in Buffalo,” he said. “We worked exceptionally to make sure that it premiered in Western New York, because one of the big missions of our team is to shine a spotlight on Western New York. It gets overlooked sometimes in the national media. We think that culture and art can help adjust or show some of our realities, too.”

The film was accepted to a film festival in New York City and is going to be shown there on June 26, so the team worked to make sure the first showing of the film would be held before that in the region they look to highlight.

“We made sure that we got on the phone, and have a release in Western New York first,” Carlson said. “It’s all about this community as far as we’re concerned.”

The film is slated to premier Friday and will be shown at North Park Theatre until June 24, so anyone in Western New York who can’t make the premier has a chance to see it here. Carlson said he has hopes that the film will be shown in Jamestown, too.

“There’s a footprint of our community here that deserve to see it in their hometown, too,” he said.

Carlson and Pan-American Films have submitted the film to 15 other film festivals, and are also looking at other ways to distribute the film to consumers.

“We’ve been learning more about self-distribution and the current channels of distribution for the film,” Carlson said. “We’re actively pushing those things. We’re looking at a lot of different options to do wider distribution beyond these small, one-off events.”

“Mother’s Day” is an honest and true expression of some of the negative aspects that life may throw at someone.

“This film came from an extremely deep place of love and growth from me and the team being almost completely volunteer,” Carlson said. “I know at the very least we put in our best efforts to tell a very honest story in a very real way for the right reasons.”

“We shot it in a continuous take,” Carlson said. “We wanted to make people feel like they’re right there with the two characters and they have to find there way out. There’s no escape to a different scene or different take.”

Carlson also commended the communities of Chautauqua County and Gerry for their support in shooting the film.

“It wouldn’t be possible without how much support they poured into it, and all of those people who made phone calls or gave us the room we needed to do a shoot,” Carlson said. “I would say a big thank you to this community. They put as much into it as they could.”

Tickets and the official trailer for “Mother’s Day” are both available at panamericanfilms.com. The official premier is June 18 at the North Park Theatre in Buffalo.

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