On Thursday at Bristol Public Library, a Bristol resident will screen a short film he made with community support. The film promises to be the first step in a new after-school program starting this year at a college in Simsbury.
14-minute “Butterfield” will be screened on August 4 at 6:30 p.m. There will be a live Q&A session with the filmmakers.
Douglas Haddad, the main force behind “Butterfield”, teaches science at Henry James Memorial School in Simsbury. A few years ago, when the school was undergoing major renovations, he decided to found a film club there.
When the COVID pandemic got in the way of her plans, Haddad decided to make a short film anyway to prove what a dedicated extracurricular film program could accomplish.
He brought together students, fellow teachers, old friends and community members and shot “Butterfield” in August 2021 at Mills Pond Park in Canton.
“It was super hot and humid,” Haddad says. “I had 25 people for the cast and the team, who didn’t know each other. I literally taught everyone [crew] members how to do their part”, from camera operators to script supervisors.
In preparation for directing the short, Haddad applied for various filmmaking grants. He received a scholarship for a week-long residency at the Tisch School of the Arts. The training was invaluable, as Haddad found himself becoming the writer, director, cinematographer and producer of “Butterfield.” He also plays the role of Uncle Al in the film.
“Butterfield” stars Teddy Russell as Cordie Butterfield, a teenage girl going through a very difficult time.
“His father is dead,” Haddad explains. “His mother is depressed. His father had been his football coach and the new football coach is not empathetic at all. Cordie is bullied by her classmates, but other people in her life engage her in new activities and ideas. “Every encounter he has gives him strength,” Haddad says.
“I wanted to come up with something inspiring and uplifting for everyone,” Haddad said of crafting the script. He was influenced by a den of foxes living in his backyard to write dialogue about animals being “spirit guides”. Foxes, Haddad says, “appear in times of uncertainty” while butterflies represent flight and freedom.
The filmmaker describes some of the characters who help Cordie in the film as “people from the invisible realm,” but “Butterfield” isn’t science fiction or fantasy. It’s a story of learning to face the world.
Haddad enlisted an actor friend, Christopher W. Holmes, to play Fox, a free-spirited hippie character who advises Cordie about the existence of spirit guides like the fox and the butterfly. (Renard is the French word for fox.) Holmes is also a musician, and “Butterfield” features many of his original songs.
‘Butterfield’ has only had one public screening ahead of this week’s Bristol event. The short received a “red carpet movie premiere,” as Haddad describes it, in April at Henry James Memorial School.
“It really got gangbusters,” Haddad says of the premiere. “It was one of the first school-wide events since COVID. It was major.
Another screening has been held for the fall, this time in a real movie theatre, on October 15 at 10 a.m. at Niantic Cinemas in Niantic.
The film was submitted to several film festivals and survived the first rounds of judging at the prestigious Los Angeles International Film Festival. Haddad says “Butterfield” has reached the semi-finals and he’ll know in a few weeks whether the film will be a finalist and screen at the festival.
With her first effort already a success, Haddad is confidently moving forward with her plan to start the school’s film club, with an ambitious goal of making a new film with the students every year.
“It’s an interesting challenge that I launched,” he said. “It’s going to be so hands-on, kid-focused, with middle schoolers.”
‘Butterfield’ will be screened on August 4 at 6.30pm at the Bristol Public Library, 5 High St., Bristol. Free entry. Subscribe to bristollib.com.
Christopher Arnott can be reached at [email protected].