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Local writer & director makes feature film debut in emotional story on mental health

North Park Theater

A Western New York filmmaker is making his feature film debut tonight with a red carpet premiere at North Park Theater. It touches on themes of mental health and family.

Travis Carlson wrote and directed Mother’s Day based on his real-life experiences with his own mother and her mental health. Filmed over the course of the COVID pandemic with an all local cast and crew, Carlson said the film’s themes are relatable to all. 

“Radical vulnerability is an extremely important tool for growth in yourself and in other people,” Carlson said of his film. “And whether you have anything to do with mental illness or not, I think that's a part of it too. But just the fact of being able to dig deep and to talk about what's going on, I think is one of the most important tools in education and growth and moving our world towards a better place.” 

Mother’s Day was produced by Carlson’s Pan-American Film Division, a Buffalo-based film collective that has been active in the short film circuit, doing award winning work. 

Carlson’s feature debut makes use of an interesting cinematic technique, it’s all done in one continuous shot, and there’s a reason for that. 

“The story takes place in real time. We also felt like, because this is a conversation between two people, we should honor the fact that in real life when you are in a dysfunctional conversation, you can't just cut away or take a break,” Carlson said of the one-shot technique. “You can’t move on to a montage of traditional filmmaking. You're just stuck there, and you'd have to talk your way out of it.”

The film primarily portrays Carlson and his mother (played by Michael Charles Wagner and Lisa Ludwig, respectively) during their emotionally deep conversations and interactions.

“A relationship between a mother and son has all kinds of things that make it complex. And even in normal circumstances, there's generation gaps, there's usually disagreements over the past, but this was made a little more complicated with mental illness,” Carlson said. “So we really just look at a slice of life of two people who both love each other immensely, but are really trying to protect the other person.”

Mother’s Day premieres Friday, June 18 at 7:30pm at Hertel Avenue’s North Park Theater. It kicks off a week of screenings there which will include much of the cast and crew on hand for Q&A’s, and on Monday, June 21 the screening will include a special mental health professional panel.

You can watch the Mother's Days trailer below from the Pan-American Film Division YouTube channel.


Ryan Zunner joined WBFO in the summer of 2018 as an intern, before working his way up to reporter the following summer.
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