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By Eric Campos | March 24, 2004

The Chester Story intertwines several tales of personal tragedy and hardship to prove that fate can be a harsh mistress at times, but if one hangs in there, that same mistress will make sure that everything turns out okay.

We took a few moments with Rebecca Bagley Cook to talk about her fate as the director of The Chester Story.

When did you start making films?
Technically I began making films when I was about twelve years old, once I got my hands on my mom’s video camera- a huge, bulky thing, back in those days – I put together movies with my cousins whereby I was always the star, writer and director. They had the exciting job of taking all my notes and bearing the brunt of my young, artistic criticism!

I went to Bates, a liberal arts college in Maine, where film studies weren’t a major focus of academia. I ended up becoming more entrenched in my passion for movies by studying abroad in Paris. Between that and some film courses at Bates, I had a somewhat historical platform of film knowledge, but not technical. My spring semester of senior year, I rented out the edit suite, and carried around a video camera for a week, putting together a graduation video for my friends, a tradition that has carried on in other areas of my life over the years.

From Bates I went to LA and learned the ropes before shooting my first short film in 1998.

What was your inspiration for The Chester Story?
The Chester Story is a combination of inspiration. At the time, when I began the script, I was moved by Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts”. I was fascinated by the way he adeptly brought together so many simultaneous stories, reflecting how closely our lives touch. “Grand Canyon” had a similar effect on me – combine those creative inspirations with the early loss of a few friends in my life, and I found a perspective which was unexpected – that tragedy and loss, when combined with the right point of view, can deliver a type of gift, whether it is appreciation of life, or the unfolding of a new life path as a result of the loss. It is something that, if you take a moment and trace back the evolution of your life since the loss, there is a refreshing sense of fate, good or bad, that has clearly lead you to the person you are that day, presenting you with the awareness that you can choose where to take that perspective in the future.

Was making The Chester Story a positive experience?
Making The Chester Story was one of the most incredible experiences in my life – it has resulted in something where my own life, my creative sensibilities, friendships, professional growth, and those of others is captured and frozen in time by the very nature of film itself. It was an exciting adventure and an absolute graduate course in independent filmmaking!

What were some of the more difficult aspects of the production you had to overcome?
As with any independent film, budget constraints are by far the greatest challenge, but without which, a team spirit wouldn’t exist. Everyone is working toward the finish line together, however, it would have been much easier to have the resources to pay the crew overtime and get that added coverage or extra shot. Oh yes, and my first AD would kill me if I didn’t mention this – the tides. The ebb and flow of the ocean! We had to work with water quite a bit in this scene, and plan our locations and call times according to the tides. Quite funny in retrospect!

What would you like The Chester Story to do for its audience?
I hope the film will provide a sense of hope, inner acceptance and peace for those who have grieved, experienced tough times, or are looking for a momentary respite from the world where they can remember why relationships and good will are worth something. I hope it will remind them that you can rise above the cinders and find something out of the ashes that can be considered a gift to your life.

Has it been difficult trying to get your film screened?
It has been extremely difficult to book The Chester Story. By nature, “feel good” dramas are tough to market. When they are independent and have a lesser known cast, the difficulties prove greater for the distributor and filmmaker, which is unfortunate, as it seems there is almost a punishment for making a “nice” movie. I would like to believe that word of mouth and our support system of fans out there will help Chester find a home in a theater near you! A premiere on television is something we look forward to as well, so stay tuned!

What is your opinion of the festival circuit?
A political jungle that filmmakers are forced to wrangle, while finding a distributor, and with a distributor, while finding an audience. The high profile festivals have become a necessary evil for smaller films, but the political nature of the relationships involved can be harrowing for someone new to the name game.

Any future projects?
I’m about to go into production on another independent feature we’re shooting in New York City this fall. Ali Larter, Trudie Styler, and Adam Pascal are attached. Unlike Chester, this film, “Shooting Livien,” is dark, edgy and pyschological, based in the New York Music scene. We’re excited to finally get the project off the ground as it is another feat of love which we have been developing for quite some time. If only money were as plentiful as a filmmaker’s passion to tell their story!

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