• November 29, 2021

Interview with "The way back home" Executive Producer Ralph Clemente

For its East Coast premiere, “The Way Back Home” found its way back home. Written and starring Michael H. King, a native of Central Florida, filmed in the Sanford and Orlando areas, and produced by a majority Central Florida crew, “The Way Back Home” is part of a local film screening at the Festival. Florida Film Festival 2006.

Executive producer Ralph Clemente decided to go ahead with the production of this independent film even after one of its stars, Julie Harris, suffered a heart attack, stroke and serious car accident one after another. In fact, Clemente rewrote the script to suit the actress.

“I had worked with Julie Harris before on another movie, ‘The First of May,’ and I knew she was a very talented actress,” he says. “Julie asked that we rewrite the character as someone who had survived a stroke. She hadn’t acted in a couple of years due to her health, and had been in intensive therapy ever since. Her assistant said that making this movie with us was the thing to do. best therapy he could have received. “

The actress is the most honored performer in Tony’s history, with 10 nominations, five wins and a lifetime achievement award. In the film, Harris plays Jo McMillen, a loving grandmother, good friend to Maude (Ruby Dee), and the owner of a beautiful home designated as a historic landmark. Almost a year after her stroke, her grandson Spencer Krane (King) comes to visit her from New York. A heavy emotional baggage accompanies him on the journey.

“We were lucky to have Ruby Dee and Julie Harris,” says Clemente. “The two women wanted to work together, so we managed to get them. This is their first time working together on a movie.”

He says that due to Harris’s medical condition, the crew often cared for her, sometimes even feeding her lines when she hesitated or stuttered. “She would turn to them and say, ‘I’m acting,'” says Clemente. “His performance was incredible; it’s no wonder he’s a legend.”

Directing the film is another legend in the business, Reza Badiyi, 75, who was recognized by the Director’s Guild of America for having directed more hours of dramatic television (416) than anyone in television history. His many directorial credits include “Baretta,” “Mission Impossible,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” So it’s no wonder “The Way Back Home” feels more like a family drama made for television than a sassy indie movie.

Although Clemente admits that “the movie will certainly appeal to those over 60,” the central story concerns the grandson’s escape back home to a small town in Florida from his job as a high-pressure lawyer in the big city. After his grandmother’s illness and a family crisis with his wife, the Broadway actress, he returns home and is reunited with the grandmother who raised him.

“There are younger people in the cast and this should increase the appeal to a younger audience,” says Clemente. “He tries to go back to his roots and refresh his soul, although we don’t really find out why until later in the movie.”

King co-produced the film with Paul Sirmons and Alan Lilly. Post-production specialist Oliver Peters worked on the many flashbacks that slowly reveal Spencer’s spiritual conflicts. Deezer D, Danny Nucci, Tessie Santiago, Robert Scott and Amy Landers appear as the simple people from a small town he left behind, while Mina Badie plays his troubled wife Faith.

Florida’s lush landscape, including tranquil lakes, lonely country roads, alligators roaming during mating season, late afternoon thunder showers, and native plants and flowers also play a supporting role in the film.

A joint effort between Back Home Productions, Inc. and Valencia Community College’s Film Production Technology program, “The Way Back Home,” had teams of students working alongside seasoned professionals.

“The director, producer, cinematographer, art director, editor, script supervisor, gaffers and camera operators are all professionals,” according to Clemente, the university’s program director. “Essentially, these people become free teachers for my students. There is a tremendous learning opportunity there that money just can’t buy.”

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