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Strangers’ kindness inspires script for short film

Judith Cowley is both writer and director of Walk a Mile

Judith Cowley has never forgotten the kindness shown to her by strangers when her day-old baby died.

Now that kindness has become the inspiration for the short film Walk a Mile.

The death of a baby isn’t part of the film, rather it is the story of the power of kindness that is reflected in the storyline.

Well-known New Zealand actor John Bach will play the part of Russ, the grumpy older neighbour to the noisy young family next door.

Russ meets the family’s oldest son but doesn’t want anything to do with them.

Then something happens to the family and solitary Russ is forced to reach out.

The film shows “kindness can change things that seem so hard to change”, Judith says.

It’s a story of changing years of bitterness.

Judith loves stories of redemption and change.

Walk before you judge

She wrote the script for Walk a Mile in one night about four years ago. Its title is taken from the saying “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes”.

The short film’s title is taken from the saying “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes”

She was doing her masters in scriptwriting at the International Institute of Modern Letters.

Twenty-nine years ago Judith and her family were living in Whangarei when baby Phoebe died following a birth injury. The family wasn’t local and knew hardly anyone there.

“We were in a dark time, that’s what I remember.”

Judith particularly remembers the kindness of one nurse who put aside other duties to focus on her.

She recalls that people found it hard to know what to say so they did helpful things instead.

The lesson she has learned is that sharing love is the most important thing.

That legacy of kindness motivates her to do little things for people, even if it’s just to smile at a homeless person when others look away.

Learning not to give up

For Judith, who now lives on the Kapiti Coast, her journey has also taught her tenacity. As a young person she would give up easily. Now she sees the difference that perseverance makes.

She has also begun a new career as a funeral director in Levin in the Horowhenua.

Judith is one of eight screenwriters chosen from 72 applicants for the 2018 Aotearoa Short Film Lab, a prestigious hothouse mentoring scheme for screenwriters and aspiring screenwriters to workshop new ideas for short films. Mentors help guide participants to develop their stories.

Judith’s several years as a television floor manager will be useful when Walk a Mile is shot at two adjacent houses in the Lower Hutt suburb of Naenae in late September.

Judith is director as well as writer. Producer is Sarah Anne Dudley. Janine Frei is editor, Isidora Parra is the first assistant director, in charge of the location set, Seraphina Tausilia is looking after the wardrobe and Natano Keni is casting director.

Waka Attewell is the lighting director and will operate the camera and Ken Saville is in charge of sound.

Acts of Kindness Day

September 1 marks Acts of Kindness Day. During August Walk a Mile is fundraising for $10,000 on Boosted to help cover production, post production and distribution. They have also created a community through Facebook, to keep everyone up to date with the preproduction and filming process.

Judith says, “Without this kindness from our networks, making this film wouldn’t be possible and we have been blown away by the generosity so far”.

Walk a Mile shows “kindness can change things that seem so hard to change,” Judith says

Walk a Mile Films hope their film might make the New Zealand Film Festival and Show Me Shorts New Zealand International Short Film Festival, and maybe even some overseas.

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