Alma’s Pond will screen in competition at the 2020 edition of the San Pedro International Film Festival. The first virtual edition of the festival will take place from November 5 to the 12th, offering global viewers an opportunity to stream a wide spectrum of independent film, documentaries, and shorts that embody inspiring entertainment for all.
Alma’s Pond, directed by Roger Lay, Jr. and produced by Eric Carnagey has already received the Best Drama Award at the 2020 Hollywood Just 4 Shorts Competition in Los Angeles as well as a special mention at the ARFF Berlin Film Competition.
Alma’s Pond is Lay-Carnagey’s third production based on the works of best-selling author Bruce Coville. Producers Roger Lay, Jr. and Eric Carnagey have been long-time fans of the author’s unique blend of fantasy and science fiction elements coupled with timeless themes and relatable characters. Coville’s stories have inspired readers across the globe for more than 4 decades. The acclaimed author is the creative force behind dozens of global best-sellers including My Teacher is an Alien, Into the Land of Unicorns, and Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher to name a few.
Producers Roger Lay, Jr and Eric Carnagey forged a strong working relationship with Coville on Universal’s Aliens Ate My Homework, the first film based on the four-part book series which has sold millions of copies worldwide and has been translated into 16 languages. The Emmy-Award nominated adaptation of Aliens Ate My Homework stars William Shatner, Dan Payne, and Kirsten Robek and is now streaming exclusively on Netflix. Commenting on his continuing collaboration with Lay, Jr. and Carnagey, the beloved author says “I’m incredibly excited at the idea of having more of my stories move to the screen. The fact that this will happen at the hands of a gifted pair of producers in who I have great trust makes these projects even more delicious!”
For their third collaboration with the beloved author, the filmmakers decided to delve into one of his more complex and compelling short stories – The Thing in Auntie Alma’s Pond, which was originally published as part of his best-selling Oddly Enough anthology. The production features everything fans have come to expect from a Bruce Coville adventure including hair-raising supernatural elements, compelling characters, and coming of age motifs. “We are delighted to continue this amazing journey with Bruce. Collaborating with him to bring Aliens Ate My Homework and its sequel Aliens Stole My Body to life on the screen was a joy from start to finish,” said producer Roger Lay, Jr. who also directed Alma’s Pond. The filmmaker continues, “As life-long fans of his work, Eric and I couldn’t dream of a better sandbox to play in than Bruce’s rich literary universe. We’re excited to have such a rich and imaginative body of work to explore and introduce to new audiences. It’s a big responsibility to have been entrusted with another one of his beloved tales.” Lay Jr’s producing partner, Eric Carnagey shares the sentiment: “As filmmakers, always aiming to tell stories that can entertain and engage the imagination, it doesn’t get any better than this story from an author that has been inspiring readers across the globe for so many years.”
Alma’s Pond filmed at various locations in Southern California including Big Bear’s picturesque Camp Cedar Lake, which has served as the backdrop for a wide-range of productions including Disney’s The Parent Trap, episodes of TV’s Bonanza, and most recently the season one finale of HBO’s hit comedy Barry. The production team secured the camp and surrounding areas including the breathtaking lake which was situated right in the center of the pristine natural environment, at the foot of a beautifully restored cabin that serves as the home of the film’s titular character. “There’s something mystical about this location”, says Kirsten Robek who plays the role of Aunt Alma. “I’m sure It has its own mysteries so it’s perfect for a campfire story like this one, plus it’s idyllic – it’s just beautiful.” Lauren McNamara, who plays the role of Margaret also was ecstatic about the location. “The drive was amazing! When you get up here and you see this lake which is just gorgeous you are blown away”, says the young star.
Lauren McNamara plays Margaret, a character that is reaching a fork in the road between the child world and the adult world. Young Margaret has seen a lot of conflict in her parents’ relationship and doesn’t quite know where she fits in. In order to escape her family’s troubles she seeks answers in the company of her Aunt Alma. The filmmakers first met McNamara during auditions for Aliens Ate My Homework. “From the moment she walked in the room for that first audition on Aliens, we knew we had found our star”, enthusiastically recalls Lay, Jr. “She was perfect for the role of Elspeth on Aliens and she kept surprising us every day with the incredible range and layers she brought to her role so we knew we wanted to work with her again”.
“Meeting and working with Lauren on Aliens was one of the key reasons we decided to move forward on Alma’s Pond,” recalls producer Carnagey. “We couldn’t wait to see what she would do with the role of Margaret and how she’d tackle all the acting challenges this particular story presented.” The young star was thrilled when the producers invited her to fly to Los Angeles and be a part of another Coville adaptation. “Bruce Coville is absolutely incredible”, exclaims Lauren. “I love him so much! I actually called him before the shoot and we talked about the character of Margaret a lot. Bruce told me that she’s a dreamer but she’s also a very lonely person and even though she wants to make everything work for her and her parents, she doesn’t really know how to do it until she starts to uncover the mystery of the pond.”
Kirsten Robek plays the enigmatic Aunt Alma, a character that has played a significant role in young Margaret’s life. “The film has a haunting beauty. It’s very poetic and it makes you want to come along and unravel the mystery,” Robek says. “It’s not just about what’s being said, it’s also about what’s not being said and I love that. We’re not entirely sure what is real and what is not. I love scripts like that.” Robek who was also a cast member on Aliens Ate My Homework, was thrilled at the opportunity to work with Lay, Jr. and Carnagey once again and to revisit the fantastic worlds of author Bruce Coville. “When you’re so in touch with the inner child in you, you can explore the world through innocent eyes and that’s what Bruce’s work has. He sees the darkness and he sees the light but he tells stories that are accessible to all ages. I met Bruce during production on Aliens – he was on set with us in Vancouver when we shot the movie and he was giddy with excitement. That enthusiasm is infectious! His stories tap into that insatiable need we all have to find answers to the questions – why, how, and what it?”
As the project came to a close all involved felt a strong sense of satisfaction. “It was a challenging project to tackle in such a short period of time”, states Lay, Jr. “But having members from our filmmaking family from Aliens Ate My Homework, Chrysalis, and other previous projects onboard made all the difference in the world. It was hard work but it also felt like going to summer camp with your best friends. It doesn’t get any better than this – a great story and the right people combined to help bring it to life on screen.” Kirsten Robek can’t help but think about the way the journey closes for the characters on screen. “The film touches on the bond between young Margaret and the wiser Aunt Alma. Very often they’ve shared moments where Alma has helped guide Margaret explain the oddities of the adult world but in the process she comes to realize that she has to answer some of those questions herself and that is sort of the arc of every child when they reach that fork in the road, that moment when reality takes over their fantasies and they must accept their fate by growing up and moving forward in life. It’s a powerful theme and one that we all think will resonate with audiences everywhere.”
Watch ALMA’S POND streaming exclusively as part of the 2020 edition of the San Pedro International Film Festival via www.spiffest.org November 5-12.
For more on the making of Alma’s Pond view the film’s press kit here.