CFDb Interviews Fred & Sharon Wilharm
Husband/Wife Team ~ MainStreet Productions
= > How and when did the two of you begin working together as a media team?
Fred majored in communications arts and was doing video work when we married. Our first movie together was in 1999. We had just moved to a small town in Florida and Fred became fascinated by the town’s history so he was going to do a documentary on it. Only as he began researching and listening to stories, he felt that it might work better as a fictional story with the history interwoven. At the time, I (Sharon) was a freelance writer, but all my writing was nonfiction, mostly journalism. But I wrote a script and we spread the word around town and rounded up some actors and we shot it in around a month. Fred did all the camera work and editing. I played the lead. Neither one of us really directed. The silliest thing was about halfway through the filming we ran across a local Christian singer with some incredible original music that we wanted to use. So mid-filming I rewrote the script to incorporate her songs. It wasn’t exactly brilliant by any means, but it won an award at an obscure film festival and the locals enjoyed checking it out of the library.
= > Do you each have specific roles within the Company? What are each of your responsibilities?
I (Sharon) write the scripts and handle everything related to what goes on in front of the camera and related to actors. That includes directing, scheduling, blocking, storyboarding, catering, and publicizing. Fred handles the crew and everything that happens behind the camera and post production. That includes filming and editing, and either doing or overseeing all the post production activities. We both work on casting and marketing.
= > Sharon – you mentioned that you do the catering. Do you also have a catering business on the side?
No! I just feel that a well fed cast and crew is a happy cast and crew. And to me, a hearty hot meal is what you need for a busy day of shooting. I’ve got a collection of crock pot cookbooks and a couple of crockpots so I do a lot of one dish crockpot meals. It’s perfect. I get everything ready the night before. Get it started in the morning, and come noon, our lunch is ready for us. I do lasagna, chicken noodle soup, taco salad, chili, spaghetti, and all kinds of casseroles no one’s ever heard of. Most days I’m just feeding 10-20 so it’s really not a big deal at all. On the bigger shoots where we’ve had up to 70, we’ve been very fortunate to have help from our wonderful friends from church.
= > Fred – is it difficult to work as a husband/wife team, being concerned about hurting your personal relationship as a couple?
It’s certainly not something a couple with a weak relationship should try. As you can imagine, the director and the cinematographer do not always see eye to eye on all aspects of the production. Like anything else in marriage, healthy compromise (and a lot of prayer) is what sees us through. Fortunately, 90% of the time we are on the same page.
Much of the difficulty of producing a feature film has nothing to do with marriage. It’s just plain hard work! For me, shooting the scenes is the fun part. Going back home each day and editing for hours on end, trying to make each cut perfect, is the tough part, then doing that for several months. For Sharon, the load is tremendous – imagine trying to direct actors, stay calm and keep on schedule, knowing that somewhere in the middle you are responsible for serving a hot meal. And spending the days we aren’t shooting planning shots, scheduling, tweaking the script, responding to emails and helping edit – the work is endless.
= > Sharon – What led to the writing of the film, “Flowers for Fannie”?
Last year we moved into an 1890’s Queen Anne home in the historic district of a small town. The house had been a bed and breakfast at one time and has been beautifully preserved with most of the house period correct. From the beginning, we knew that the house was the perfect setting for a movie. So I started working on a script, but it took forever to get where it is now. It started off as a Judgment House kind of story, then a local contest, at one point there was a trial of some kind, then a family reunion of sorts.
The only thing that remained through each draft was this little old lady named Fannie. No matter what I wrote, Fannie was a character. At first she was this sweet little thing who’d been doing behind the scenes good deeds all her life. Then I took a screenwriting class where I was the only Christian in the class. They called my story a little moral story, but they didn’t feel like people could relate to Fannie since she was too perfect. That’s when I decided that Fannie wasn’t sweet at all. She was tired, and lonely, and bitter. And that’s when “Flowers for Fannie” truly emerged.
I wanted something visual to represent the love that was lacking in Fannie’s life and I thought of my grandmother who is always visiting the cemetery and taking flowers to her dead loved ones. So while technically, the movie is about Fannie’s search for someone to put flowers on her grave when she dies, it’s really about connecting with someone while she’s still alive. And that’s what happens with her relationship with Louise. Louise is a young woman whose parents were killed in a car crash her senior year. Like Fannie, Louise is all alone, and like Fannie, she puts up barriers to keep people at a distance. But she’s drawn to Fannie and she reaches out to her, and ultimately, it ends up changing both of their lives.
= > Fred – How many films has MainStreet Productions produced?
“Flowers for Fannie” is our fourth feature film. Our first was “Homecoming” in 1999. Our second, “The Inheritance”, was one we did with our church youth drama team so that they could have a filmmaking experience. It was fun and the kids enjoyed it but it was never intended for anything other than a church project. Our third movie was “Class of 91“. We shot it in 2009 and released it in 2010. To kick off the release, we set a date and lined up churches all across the country to air a simultaneous free showing of the movie. We had around 50 churches in 30+ states participate. After that it was picked up by a distributor and then purchased by Parables Network.
= > What is your vision for “Flowers of Fannie”?
Our goal for “Flowers for Fannie” is two-fold. One, is that people like Fannie who are feeling like life has passed them by, will realize that it’s never too late to find love if you’re willing to open up your heart and let people in. The second is that people will be encouraged to look around them and notice the Fannie’s in their life who are all alone and hurting and who just need someone to reach out to them and love them.
We’re doing some rather unique marketing of the movie. Because of its tie-in with the funeral home business as well as the elderly, we’re looking to do screenings in senior centers and even possibly funeral homes. This month two different funeral home trade organizations are covering the movie in their monthly magazines encouraging funeral homes to host screenings. We’ve already had requests from senior centers. And Fred did some video work for a chain of 500 nursing homes which has expressed interest in screenings. We’re also hoping that churches will do youth sponsored senior adult dinner and movie nights where the youth prepare a meal for the senior adults and then they all enjoy the movie together.
We honestly have no idea what to expect for the movie, but it’s been obvious from the start that this is the story that God wants us to share. We’ve done our part. Now we’ll present it to God and let him take it from there.
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