BY KAREN BOSSICK
They were the best of friends, nurturing their friendship in the long days of Sun Valley’s summers where they had both learned to ski on Dollar Mountain.
And their dream was to spend the summer following their first year of college together in Sun Valley, waitressing and traipsing through the wildflowers.
But Jill Curran was hit by a bus while studying abroad in London. And a week later doctors told her parents John and Judy Curran that there was nothing they could do, given the brain injury she had sustained.
“It turned my world upside down,” said Megan Brotherton, who attended a Seattle prep school with Jill. “We were both 20. She had been my best friend. The hardest thing was that I had never gotten to say goodbye.”
Brotherton found a way to pay homage to her dear friend, whom she lost at far too young an age, 14 years later when she made a short film titled “Buttercup.”
The 12-minute film, about friendship, grief and finding joy again following the loss of a loved one, will be shown this week at the 2017 Sun Valley Film Festival as part of an Idaho Short Film Series screening.
The series—at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 19, at nexStage Theatre—will feature five films running from six minutes to 29. Among them, a film showcasing the hope and triumph of an Idaho refugee seeking her own American dream in Boise.
“‘Buttercup’ is a sweet, sad and funny short, filmed locally, and it’s kicking off the ‘Idaho Shorts’ block on Sunday at 1 p.m.,” said Associate Producer Max Montel.
In “Buttercup,” Brotherton plays Maggie who--like herself--is stuck in her grief, unable to enjoy her memories of the mother she’s lost because thinking of her means remembering losing her.
But Janie--a friend from her past and the Yang to Maggie’s Yin--shows her a path through her grief, teaching her to find joy in her memories. The film deals with death, but it also enjoys lighthearted funny moments as it explores the power of friendship and how those we love never really leave us.
Brotherton, who normally deals with comic films, said she encountered a number of serendipitous moments in making the film that gave her goosebumps.
The movie itself was inspired in part from a dream she had about Jill and about finding joy.
The music video from the song she used to end the film—“Another Story” sung by The Head and the Heart—depicts two friends, one of whom remembers the friend she lost in a car accident as she develops old photographs from the camera her friend gave her before her death.
“It was the perfect song for the end of the film—almost like Jill had chosen the song herself,” Brotherton said.
And, after Brotherton shared the script with Jill’s mother Judy Curran, who was in Sun Valley at the time of her daughter’s accident, Judy Curran offered to help fund the film. She used a check with Jill’s name on it, confiding how she couldn’t bring herself to close Jill’s checking account.
“So, in part, this film that I wrote for and about my best friend was in part funded by her,” said Brotherton. “I’m not a deeply religious person, but there were enough things like that to show me I was on the right track.”
Brotherton filmed the movie on a family farm near Fenn, Idaho, 65 miles southeast of Lewiston where her brother had gotten married. She named the film “Buttercup” after Jill’s favorite song, “Build Me Up, Buttercup”—a song that was played at her funeral.
“Making the film was bittersweet but also reaffirming,” said Brotherton. “It was my final phase of saying goodbye. It got to revisit the happy times I had had with her and I felt comforted. I felt as if she was present. In fact, every time I had a question about I’d ask myself, ‘What would Jill do?’ “
Brotherton and her co-horts—producer Elizabeth Bates, who played “Janie” in the film,” and Montel—plan to take the film to the Cleveland Film Festival after the Sun Valley Film Festival.
“We’ll see where it takes us. There are platforms for short films. Or, maybe we could turn it into a feature length film,” said Brotherton. “I just hope it can help others find ways to remember the good times with their friends.”
WANT TO SEE “BUTTERCUP?”
It will show at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 19, at the nexStage Theatre, along with four other short films shot in Idaho. Tickets are $10 for those without festival passes, available at the Sun Valley Film Festival headquarters at the Warfield Distillery. For more information, go to www.sunvalleyfilmfestival.org.