|East Coast Premiere|
|Cast: ||Susan Gordon, Meghan Flood, Frankie Weschler, Debra Rodkin|
|Crew: ||Producers: Jimmy Boratyn, Ryan Grundtisch, Johnny Woj - Screenwriters: Ryan Grundtisch, Melissa Boratyn, Jimmy Boratyn, Johnny Woj |
Like it is for many millennials, the future seems uncertain to recent college graduate Ginger Mathis. Her English Lit degree hasn't exactly scored her a publishing deal, and her part-time job isn't going to pay those student loans (or get her pushy mother off her back.) The only thing Ginger knows for sure is that she doesn't have a clue what to do about any of it. Getting diagnosed with breast cancer certainly doesn't ease that anxiety. And what about her lovelife? Perhaps dating and chemo go together like cool-mint toothpaste and an orange juice chaser on a hung over Monday morning, but that doesn't stop her from trying. Denial is one of her greatest strengths, next to avoidance. Perhaps a maladaptive trait left over from childhood. It came in handy when dealing with uncomfortable truths, and paternal abandonment, but its counterproductive to adult reality. Like accepting that she's going to lose her signature red hair, and that maybe she needs a double mastectomy. When Ginger crashes and burns trying to avoid the painful twists her life has taken, it threatens her entire support structure and the few real relationships she has. For her, it truly is darkest before the dawn. Only when Ginger's forced to face her greatest fear will she have the awakening she needs to learn life's most valuable lesson.
Ginger is more than a passion project for Directors Melissa Beck-Boratyn and her husband Jimmy. The couple met during their undergraduate studies at Loyola University where they fell in love with filmmaking, and each other. Since graduating in 2011 they started a successful film marketing business, which has producer hundreds of commercial project, produced several short films utilizing local talent and have won awards for two feature films--including for Jimmy's directorial debut, the Giggles. Melissa was nominated for best editing for her work on the Giggles.
Unfortunately, during this period, Melissa was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was just 23 years old. She beat it the first time with the help of chemotherapy and radiation. It returned and Melissa kept fighting. This time she beat it with the help of her husband, who proposed just before her double mastectomy.
Melissa and Jimmy's experience as filmmakers and as partners in life has given them the insight and motivation to think big and believe in themselves. They began discussing the idea of directing their first co-directed feature film before discovering DePaul University's MFA program. When they learned about the growth and depth of DePaul's School of Cinematic Arts, they saw an opportunity to utilize all of their resources and the knowledge they had obtained to work together on their dream project. It sat as just an idea for a few years, but they knew they had to make their film, Ginger.
Melissa and Jimmy completed their MFA program in October 2018. Ginger was made as their MFA thesis film. Melissa never missed a single day on set during production and edited the film herself in between chemotherapy sessions.
Today Melissa is still fighting breast cancer and receiving chemotherapy treatment with Jimmy by her side every step of the way. They are now in pre-production for the follow up to their debut film, Ginger.
I was 23 years old when I noticed a small lump in my breast and my doctor told me not to worry. I was 23 years old when I got the call that the “cyst” I had biopsied just one week prior was actually an aggressive form of breast cancer. After a grueling year of chemotherapy and radiation, I had lost a sense of identity after shaving my shoulder length red hair. I no longer trusted my body, but I anticipated that the worst of my cancer experience was behind me. I was 25 years old when my cancer came back and I decided to remove not just one but both breasts to ensure that this would be my last time dealing with this disease. I was 25 while I planned my double mastectomy and surgeons sat with me and said nothing about the possibility of the cancer spreading into other parts of my body and deeming me “treatable but incurable.” I was 28 years old when I was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, and this is my story.
As a filmmaker, my life’s mission crystallized in the face of my life's greatest sorrow. My experience with the insidious cruelty of breast cancer, especially at such a young age, provided me with two concrete goals: I planned to not only live to see my 30th birthday, but I decided to make a movie that captured all of the pain, suffering, humor, and all the love that comes along with this disease.
Ginger is first and foremost for all people who have gone through and will go through the horrors of breast cancer diagnoses and treatment. If my story can help empower at least one person, then it will have been successful. My hope, however, is that Ginger will move any audience member with its message of hope. There is nothing more valuable than the ability to find gratitude in the beautiful things in life. And while illness might make life harder, it does not limit or invalidate the meaning of each and every waking day.
A film like Ginger has yet to be distributed. While there are many documentaries on the subject, there has not yet been a truly powerful drama that captures the essence of what it's like being in your early 20s and dealing with a huge medical crisis like cancer. Ginger is unique precisely because it deals with the debilitating anxiety that young people face during and after diagnosis. It begs the question: how do you learn to be ok with not knowing if you are going to be ok? That was an answer I sought for myself, as well as for the movie.
Cancer sucks, and my intention for Ginger is to give the world a film that can help make cancer suck just a little bit less. That’s why, between chemotherapy infusions and scans, I refused to miss a single day on set during the oppressive summer heat. The main benefit Ginger will provide to society is the message that no one is ever alone, and that there is a power and source of strength that can be discovered and relied upon in the face of unknown circumstances.
Stylistically, I wanted to maintain a naturalistic look and feel, while allowing the actors’ performances to shine. This included leaving room for improvisation during takes, and our actors’ quick wits and commitment to their characters provided some very emotionally raw performances.
I was insistent, however, that the film maintain a cinematic quality. My co-director and husband, Jimmy, and our director of photography, Jeff Harder, did a wonderful job balancing the need for realism and cinematic style. We utilized close ups for intensely emotional moments and well crafted wide shots to create space and tension between characters. Our production design was full of color and pattern to match Ginger’s personality, and our music matched her quirky demeanor but evolved over time as did her maturity. As the director and editor, I also knew I would want to hold on Ginger’s close ups and use selective focus to really emphasize the main character’s reactions and perspective. This film is about the patient’s experience and nobody else’s, and I wanted the onscreen action to show that.