Bittersweet victory is not unusual. Accomplishments are often hard-won, satisfaction often comes at a cost. On August 26th of this year, at 3:15pm PST at the Blue Mouse Theatre in Tacoma, WA, that cost will be the absence of one of the greatest champions of independent art I have ever known, and the impetus behind the production of IRENE: Mollie Mook-Fiddler.
Mollie, my lifelong friend and partner in all things good and mischievous, was meant to be with us on set in Silverton, CO, in June of 2016. She was meant to have picked me up at the Durango airport, drive me over the horrifying pass to Silverton, lead production meetings with me, help me dress the set, she wanted to learn camera work under IRENE director Sinjin Jones’ mentorship, we were meant to have drinks at Montanya and catch up and laugh until it was too late to walk through the streets of Silverton without seeing a nighttime bear rummaging through the dumpsters, as we did the last time she and I created art together in Silverton.
A phone call a week before the production put an end to all those plans. Her cancer had returned and she was compelled to fight it, in her way, with all her knowledge of the disease and with all her might.
Still, the production went on. There were a few texts back and forth to let her know all was well. Producer and A Theatre Group secretary Louis King, also a dear friend of Mollie’s, was my go-to for long talks over wine in her absence. We set the shoot. And then we shot. And the brilliant performances from actors Rebecca Krebbs and Ben Mattson, the extraordinary control of lighting and framing in direction from Sinjin Jones and the dedication of sound and camera team James Richard Padilla and Tressa Lynne Smith all took my breath away. The result was an absolutely beautiful 10-minute short film, IRENE.
We submitted it to one festival, The Destiny City Film Festival. This was the festival that, several years earlier, awarded IRENE’s inspiration, BLUE BUNNY, the best short script award in its screenwriting competition. There was a meaning and a weight behind our submitting it there. And it was accepted.
So now IRENE has its first laurels, and we have something to show Mollie that we succeeded in her physical absence, though her spirit was constant, even as she fought for her life. We will have to trust that, somehow, she knows.
In November of last year, we lost Mollie.
In one text she sent me while I was in Silverton, she asked that I visit a ‘secret waterfall.’ “Sinjin knows where it is” she texted. Shooting and cutting and editing a film in less than three days, however, does not leave much time for a trip to a waterfall. The week came and went and I did not see the waterfall. “It’s okay,” she texted. “I’ll take you there next time.”
There would not be a next time, but now I know how to find my closure in the wake of her passing and how to, really, find her. A goal of mine for the summer of 2018 is to return to Silverton to, among other things, visit the secret waterfall.
When I do, I will wear the ring she left me, a 1970s Navajo piece that she must have remembered I admired. And I will wear her lipstick. Far and away, the most certain I have come to her actually no longer being with us physically on this planet is when I held her lipstick in my hand. One tube half-used, one yet unopened. I will forever be grateful to her husband for having the strength to send that to me.
A huge congratulations to the IRENE team, a giant thank you to A Theatre Group, to The Animas Bed and Breakfast for hosting us, and endless love to Mollie for being who she was, who she still is, and for bringing us all together.