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home : readerswrite : yourstory March 26, 2017

A storytelling core
" You don't really know how to do something until you just dive in and do it."
- Maribeth Romslo

by Maribeth Romslo


I visited my grandparents in Colorado each summer as a child. My Papa would often wake me up before daylight with an energetic "Hello Sunshine!" to see the sun rise over the Rocky Mountains. As we watched the soft pink light creep onto the peaks, he'd tell me all kinds of stories - about his childhood, about my dad, about my grandparents' airplane and their travels, about what an amazing pilot my very independent grandmother was.

Papa was an avid photographer. He gave me my first camera when I was 13. He showed me how to develop film and make prints in his coat-closet-turned-darkroom.

He taught me that stories are all about people - both the characters within your story and the audience who listens to your story.

I started my storytelling career as a photographer, capturing joy and telling stories at weddings. I loved the work and the people. After ten years and more than 200 weddings, I was looking to scratch a new creative itch. I wanted to make movies, but I didn't really know how.

That's the thing. You don't really know how to do something until you just dive in and do it.

It was a steep technical learning curve, but I was determined to transition my storytelling from still images to moving images with sound.

A few years later, I said YES to one of the biggest creative experiences of my life. My actor/writer friend Cara Greene Epstein posted on Facebook that she wanted to make a short film, but she didn't know how. I quickly replied, "I think I know a girl who can help."

Once Cara started writing, it became clear that the story wasn't a short film. "Dragonfly" was a feature film. As the project grew, we brought on Cara's sister-in-law Mim Epstein, a commercial producer. We were in over our heads, but we all kept saying YES to the story and the project. The three of us recruited and led a team of amazing talent to bring the story to life.

Told with heart, humor and a little bit of magic, "Dragonfly" is a story of homecoming and healing for a Midwestern family divided by divorce and illness.

Struggling artist Anna Larsen's mother has never understood her. After her mom is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, Anna returns home to help, but brings years of family baggage with her. As she unpacks her past, Anna rediscovers a mysterious mailbox from her childhood and embarks on a search to solve its mystery. What she learns along the way may be the key to rekindling her own magic.

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In 2013, women accounted for a mere 16 percent of all Hollywood directors, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors. And only 30 percent of Hollywood speaking roles are women. In contrast, "Dragonfly's" screenwriter, directors, executive producers, three main characters, production designer, editor, animator and assistant director were all women.

"Dragonfly" achieved true gender equity with a 50/50 split of women and men for both its cast and crew. We recently premiered "Dragonfly" to a sold-out audience at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival.

I carry all that my Papa taught me about storytelling in the work that I do as a filmmaker. I wear a lot of hats, depending on the project. I'm a director, a producer, a writer, a camera operator, an editor. But no matter what the role is, I am at my core a storyteller. Stories connect us. They help us understand each other.

Maribeth Romslo lives in Minneapolis and is the owner of Hello Sunshine Films. www.hellosunshinefilms.com

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