In A Sort of Homecoming, a film written and produced by Lynn Reed, FCRH ’91, the protagonist returns to her hometown in Louisiana and revisits her years as a high school debate champion. This summer, Reed will be having a sort of homecoming of her own, as she screens the award-winning film for her Fordham classmates during their 25th reunion at Jubilee.
Though Reed, a Louisiana native who now lives just outside of Portland, Maine, had taken a screenwriting class and even helped produce a student-written musical during her senior year at Fordham, it wasn’t until recently that she sat down to tackle her first screenplay.
For many years, Reed worked in politics as a webmaster, developing and maintaining campaign websites since 1996. But she had always followed the movie industry at what she calls a “fan level.”
“I always knew the names of the writers for things I liked,” she says. “It was always something I paid attention to and thought I could do.”
Finally, in 2011, it “became a personal challenge,” she says. “I said, ‘You know what? You’ve always thought about writing a screenplay. Can you do it?’”Reed ended up drafting the script for A Sort of Homecoming, which tells the story of Amy, a New York City-based news producer who has to unexpectedly return to her small Louisiana hometown when her former high school debate coach falls ill. While there, she is forced to relive many buried and painful memories from her senior year.
Reed, a former high school debater herself, spent almost a year asking for feedback from friends, attending screenwriting workshops, and making changes to the script. When she was done, “I put it aside,” she says. “I felt like I had really exhausted the idea, and it was kind of heavy, and there were aspects of it grounded in some personal emotion even though the story was fiction.”
It wasn’t until Reed reconnected with her former high school debate partner, a professional actor in Louisiana, that she started seriously considering producing the movie. Together they spent about a year and a half planning, finding investors, raising money, and hiring a director.
“There were so many aspects of it that were new and that I had to learn about,” Reed says, “from how to run a small business to how to make an independent film, from how the industry is set up to all the artistic pieces of it.”
With Maria Burton signed on to direct the film, and Disney Channel star Laura Marano in place as the lead actress, Reed finally started filming in Louisiana in 2014. Though she says the process was “thrilling,” it wasn’t until the movie had been shown at several film festivals (and won several awards) that she felt confident enough to relax.
Now that the movie has been released online overseas and will soon be released on demand in the United States, Reed says she’s getting to interact with fans who have posted on social media about their experience watching and rewatching the movie. “That’s really gratifying to me,” she says, “that I wrote something and we all made something that stays valuable to somebody and that they want to watch it multiple times. That’s how I personally define the success of it.”
She’s particularly excited to show the film at Jubilee, where many of her classmates who contributed to a crowdsourcing campaign will be able to see the film for the first time. Joe Rizzo, FCRH ’91, a member of Reed’s close circle of friends from her freshman year in Queen’s Court Residential College, is one of the few friends who has already seen the film.
Rizzo says he wasn’t surprised when he heard Reed had written and produced a film. “She is one of those people who is good at anything she does,” he says, “and she did this thing from soup to nuts.” He particularly enjoyed seeing elements of Reed’s personality coming through in the movie.
For Reed, one of the most personal moments of the film comes when the protagonist is asked if coming to New York City from Louisiana for the High School Debate National Championship is “culture shock.” The protagonist’s response is just what Lynn felt when she came to Fordham.
“The way my character answers is that New York is everywhere. New York is in all the novels you read and in all the movies and TV shows you watch. It’s where Sesame Street is set. So for me New York felt big,” Reed says, “but there was something sort of familiar about it because it was in my imagination so strongly.”
And that feeling has remained. Reed says that being able to come back to the city for Jubilee every five years, getting to stay on the Rose Hill campus and see all of her Fordham friends, “really feels like we’re coming home.”
Watch a trailer for A Sort of Homecoming below.