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  • Writer's pictureShawn McKee

Producer's Corner

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

Shawn is a Veteran of the U.S. Army & Reserves.

He has earned a MFA in Creative Writing from UCF.

I’m here to provide some insight about documentary production. So, here we have a film in the works about one family’s struggle with Cystic Fibrosis. It’s got heart, drama, conflict, realism, all the right elements for a gripping story. Of course, making a documentary isn’t easy work. Perhaps, I should start at the beginning...

I’ve known Jason (director of the film) and his family since I was a child. Jason and I grew up together, attending the same schools and classes from the third grade. By middle school, we were making home movies with our parents’ video cameras whenever possible. Outside of video games, it was our favorite pastime. The movies were juvenile, spur-of-the moment comedy shorts made with our friends and/or siblings. They were exactly what you’d expect from rowdy pre-teens obsessed with popular culture.

circa 1997

In high school, Jason and I were heavily involved in TV productions and continued to make dozens of short movies for our own enjoyment, and for the possible enjoyment of others. We always had fun, and there were some notable improvements in quality over the years. We loved movies and music as much as anything else. And our high school rock band, that is a story for another time.

Such aspirations continued past high school and through the dawn of the Internet age. We witnessed the rise of YouTube and its cultural transformation through user-based content. The option to upload and share just about anything seemed a grand opportunity beyond our wildest dreams. Everyone else was doing it too, leaving us with the question that would dominate generations to come: How can we stand out?

Technological advancements in the early 2000s saw better and more affordable camera options. Digital camcorders were replacing tape, and the picture quality was like nothing we had seen before. With the right camera, we could make something that looked miles beyond grainy home videos. We remained dedicated to the exhausting but sometimes rewarding aspects of moviemaking through our twenties, trying to utilize the internet to our advantage.

Between growing personal responsibilities and understandably dwindling commitment from friends and family, filmmaking became more of a hobby and less of a need. The passion, I believe, was still there.

In 2004, Jason made a sprawling 30-minute documentary about his grandfather who served in WWII. Easy Red Sector tells the story of Delbert Norman Bumpus and his war-time experiences with the 745th Tank Battalion in 1944.

His battalion landed on Omaha Beach as part of the Normandy invasion to beat back the Germans. Delbert took command of his Sherman tank and received a battlefield commission, from private to sergeant, after his commander was killed on Easy Red Sector, Omaha Beach. And that was just the beginning of this fascinating story. It was, at the time, the best work I had seen Jason do.

Around this time, he began to float the idea of documenting his siblings and their struggles with the rare genetic disorder Cystic Fibrosis. I was aware of the disease but never fully cognizant of the seriousness around it. Lindsay, Rosie, and Dillon appeared to lead normal lives, but there was a lot that they endured which I didn’t see. I recall the daily regiments, though it didn’t appear altogether detrimental at their young age.

Over the years, this documentary production has evolved. There have been many setbacks, developments, and milestones along the way. By 2013, Jason had accumulated years of documentary footage, with the hopes of compiling it into a narrative film. The idea was to raise awareness, while telling the story of his family in the vein of his grandfather’s exploits. I was more than happy to begin contributing to the project through writing and story structure.

Our Family and CF is about one family, a story that could easily mirror our own. Purpose is the best motivating factor, and that’s what this documentary holds for me. It’s a personal endeavor. The Bumpus family has been like a second family of mine since I first learned to tie my shoes.

We’re fortunate enough to witness monumental strides in treatment over the past few decades.

For almost ten years, this documentary has been a part of my life. It’s a small burden to bear given the very real struggles CF patients face daily. The support from friends, family, and the CF community has been inspiring.

Stay tuned for more insight as we progress in the post-production stage. Please share this Blog & Website. For more insight into the filmmaking process, Subscribe Here. We greatly appreciate your time and support.

-Shawn McKee


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