Calling all extras! Movie shoot heads to town

Published 10:18 am Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This story started with a little girl that brought three strangers together and may culminate with bringing an entire community together to remember a fallen hero of their own.

Two-Meter Films, a production company from Washington, D.C., will be in Ironton on Dec. 5 to shoot the opening and ending scenes of a movie script and is hoping to have active participation from the community.

The movie is an adaptation of a true story based on three complete strangers who combine their talents on a songwriting Web site to pen a song in honor of a cancer-stricken little girl none of them will ever meet.

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Ironton-area resident Billy Bruce knows the story well — because he was one of those three strangers.

In October 2002, 13-year-old Shane Jones took Ironton to its knees. His struggle and ultimate death at the hands of leukemia was well-documented and known to most everyone in our community.

Prior to his passing, his mother, Patty, was able to keep the community posted about Shane’s condition at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital via a Web site: Through that very same Web site, she met a family from Florida with a sick 2-year-old little girl named Meghan Mack.

Patty asked those who were following Shane to offer prayers and encouragement to the Mack family.

“Personally, I fell in love with Meghan. Her story, written so eloquently by her mother, Carol, further endeared the gorgeous young child to my heart,” Bruce said. “She was only two years younger than my youngest daughter, Holly, which forced me to take inventory of what was really important in life.”

A few months later, this little girl joined Shane by earning her angel wings in Heaven, Bruce recounted.

“I remember the day vividly; Friday, Feb. 7th, 2003. Holly, who was four at the time, came to my side as I sat bawling in front of my computer screen, staring at a picture of Meghan. She took her thumb out of her mouth and asked, ‘What’s wrong, daddy?,’” Bruce said. “I hugged my little angel as though I would never see her again. I’ll never forget that day.”

Later that evening, Bruce remembered an e-mail he had seen about a little girl who wrapped a large empty box with expensive gift paper for her father. After he opened his present, the father yelled at her for wasting the paper on an empty box. She replied, “It’s not empty. I filled it up with kisses.”

So, using that premise, Bruce wrote a song lyric, posted it on a Yahoo! songwriting Web site and begged somebody, anybody, to help him put it to music.

Two members of a writing group fell in love with the lyric, as well as the entire story leading up to it, and pitched in to make an actual song. One member, Bob “KJack” Gustafson, lived in Washington, D.C. The other, Alan Hamilton, lives across the map in the state of Washington.

The trio obtained the copyright to this song, entitled “The Shoebox,” and signed all rights over to Meghan’s family, who continue to play it every year in Florida at a cancer fundraiser called Light the Night.

Years later, in early 2008, “KJack” sent Bruce a screenplay he had written. Bruce thought it was fabulous. Shortly after reading it, Bruce e-mailed him an idea: Let’s write a screenplay about three strangers doing something special for a family none have ever met … The Shoebox Story.

And, with “KJack” guiding the ship, that’s what they did.

Soon, that story will be told on film but the directors will need the community’s help.

Since this story began with Shane Jones, the opening scene starts with him. Two-Meter Films will be re-creating Shane’s massive funeral scene in the Ironton High School gymnasium and will need many people in the bleachers for the shoot.

Also, at least a thousand volunteers will be needed to film a Light the Night scene for the film’s finale.

More reminders about the filming will be printed in future editions of The Tribune.

Since Bruce has spent the past few months telling the group how close-knit the community is, he says he shares their hope for a good turnout.

For now, mark your calendar for Saturday, Dec. 5, at the Ironton High School gymnasium. Tentatively, the hours will be from 4-8 pm.

“There’s no way to tell where this film will go or who it will touch,” Bruce said. “But let’s make certain that, wherever it ends up, it has Ironton pride stamped all over it.”