Return to Zero: A Beautiful Movie About Terrible Things

Kickstarter Movies

Sean in the middle with Minnie Driver (*sigh*) to right.

We talk about buzz and clicks and page views leading to crowdfunding and VC interest and then a sale to Google or FB or Apple or Microsoft. What does that nifty new app do, exactly? Who cares! It’s awesome! Don’t get me wrong: we love us a nifty new app. We love us a little bit o’ awesome. But every once in a while a project comes across the desk that dramatically, audaciously flips the workflow from “what widget could we possibly make that will make money?” to “what could we possibly do to get this project made?”

That’s Sean Hanish’s new indie film: Return to Zero. See, Sean and his wife Kiley had a stillborn child. Most of us here at GeekDad have kids: imagine it. Sean had done a couple well-received indies and a play, but was working as an ad producer at the time, most notably doing spots for Cindy Crawford’s furniture line, which he shot on location and then edited in his converted garage. Then in 2005, in week 37 of the pregnancy, after a healthy check just the previous month, there was no heartbeat. Their son, Norbert, was born still.

Sean’s a good guy. He’s a fantasy football addict, which he plays by his harebrained (or genius?) take on deep team stats, knows his microbrews, drives multiple screens of Final Cut Pro like he’s flowing Tai Chi, has a big easy laugh with kids — in short, he’s one of us. And in 2005, the geek dad life he’d always envisioned started to unravel. It seemed like there was an empty hole where meaning should be.

So he wrote a screenplay about stillbirth. He quit the ad gig. He fought to save his marriage and he and Kiley had another child (now two). Most stories of damn-the-torpedoes screenplays don’t have the punch line of Minnie Driver, Paul Adelstein and Alfred Molina (yes: “Throw me the idol, I give you the whip!”). But the screenplay’s that good. Really. In one scene the heroine tries to return the birth gift of a ceramic elephant — when the salesperson, ignorant of context, refuses the return, the heroine’s freakout is some of the best scene writing I’ve ever read. Sean’s little movie that could is real enough, heartfelt enough and simply well enough written to have grabbed not only the attention of the stillbirth community but of Hollywood’s A-list. Watch for it in festival awards.

That is, if Sean and Co. can pull together the final $50k needed to get the film edited and set to music. Will you join me in helping? This is one parent-relevant Kickstarter that goes beyond the dollar. This is one geeky dad’s life work.




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