By Donna Hill
When writer/director Jennifer Fox was growing up in Fort Bend County, she never realized the area would provide the framework for the stories she would eventually write.
Fox recently penned the screenplay for “This Man’s June,” a movie centered around a husband and wife as they face one of life’s most challenging circumstances – Alzheimer’s disease. The husband in the film, Tommy, fights as nature relentlessly strips him of his identity and his perceived reality as he lives with the disease.
“The story is unique because it takes place from Tommy’s perspective,” said the first time screenwriter.
“The character was inspired by three of my grandparents who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” continued Fox. “My first interaction with someone who had Alzheimer’s was with my great-grandmother. Another grandmother died last November with dementia, and I have a grandfather who is currently struggling with Alzheimer’s. I saw first hand what the disease can do to people, and I wanted to tell a story that brings empathy and humanity to the disease, especially from the victim’s perspective. It’s likely that I will get Alzheimer’s one day because it runs in my family. So this film is my reckoning with the disease.”
While Fox now works in New York, the logistics of filming a movie in Fort Bend and in Hous-ton make planning hectic, but Fox remains committed to the film and her Texas roots.
“I grew up in Quail Valley, and my parents still live there,” Fox said. “My grandparents were a big part of my childhood. Aside from holidays we would try to visit all of them as much as possible. It was easy for us to travel to see them and vice versa.”
Fox said filming will be local.
“We will be filming some of the nature sequences around Fort Bend, and Memorial Park, while most of the film will be shot in Fredericksburg this summer, which is where the story takes place,” she said.
The lead actress, Babe McGuire, who plays wife Margaret in the film, also lives in Quail Valley. Tommy is played by Les Best is from Georgetown.
The film, produced in Fredricksburg, focuses on the story of Tommy, who is a proud wood craftsman in his 70s. He is emotionally scarred by memories of his oppressive father as well as losing his brother Robert and his mother at an early age. Flashbacks occur frequently in the film as he relives old memories, sees ghosts through nature, and is haunted by the scars of his child-hood. The film follows the development of Tommy and Margaret’s relationship and how they change as his condition develops.
Margaret, an artist who put her career on hold to raise a family, becomes his caretaker. Fox stated that caretaking becomes an interesting point in their relationship because they are both recently retired and have been counting on the retirement years to get their relationship “right’ and to invest in each other. Margaret has to choose to put bitterness aside and take care of him, or to put him into a nursing home. The reality of his everyday life is transformed into an agonizing decision.
“I wanted to give a different perspective on the individual struggles related to the disease,” Fox said. “The film provides an observational atmosphere – but it’s also interactive, allowing for a kinship between the film and viewer’s imagination to form.”
Local actors from Fort Bend include John Maciag who plays Dick and Bryce Miller playing John. Mixed martial artist champion Lee Shone (who trained actor Tom Hardy for his role in “Warrior”) plays Tommy’s father. Cesaray Sarnella, who starred in the Disney Channel Original Movie “The Thirteenth Year” will play young Tommy.
Fox attended Logos Preparatory Academy in Sugar Land and Houston Baptist University, studying Fine Arts. She moved to New York last year to complete work on a new film from Jim Jar-musch (“Ghost Dog,” “The Way of the Samurai” and “Broken Flowers”). She is now working in the art department of the AMC TV show “Feed The Beast.”
Recalling her childhood, Fox fondly remembers Fort Bend as a wonderful place to grow up.
“I was able to be outside, to explore. The cicadas and fireflies on the golf course in the summer, the Christmas lights in Quail Valley during the winter. There is no other place I would rather be from. This is my first feature film to write and direct, and I am excited to represent Fort Bend and Texas in the film industry.”