The 2012 Florida Film Festival kicks off on Friday, April 13 with the opening night movie Renee. The film will be making its east coast debut, and marks the end of a long journey for producer David McKenna. David is a graduate of Full Sail’s Recording Arts program, and has been working for a number of years to bring this intensely personal project to screens.
“The two main characters depicted in the movie are Renee Yohe and David McKenna,” he says. “So I’m not only the producer, I’m also one of the subjects.”
Renee tells a fictionalized account of Yohe’s battle with addiction and depression, and how her story inspired the global non-profit movement To Write Love on Her Arms. David was among Yohe’s close friends during this period, and their inspiring relationship was adapted into Renee’s screenplay by writer Kate King Lynch.
While the script was completed over half a decade ago, cameras wouldn’t roll on the film until early 2011, when the right people aligned themselves with the project. This included producing partners Kim Dawson and David Nixon, as well as a collaboration with Full Sail’s Film department that led to them shooting on campus, as well as employing both students and graduates on the crew.
“We eventually figured out how to make the screenplay work with the budget we had,” David says. “That was largely due to the partnerships we formed, including Full Sail, which was a huge part of allowing us to make this film. It was a great opportunity, and I was touched that the staff believed in this.”
These efforts produced a powerful independent feature that has already received acclaim from other festivals, and is inspiring David as he continues to develop new projects. He admits that Renee’s Florida Film Festival screening will be a special night for him and the production team, as they share the realization of this story with local friends who helped make the film possible.
“This is probably our most significant premiere, and I’m going to try to hold back the watershed when it screens,” he says. “We’re really optimistic with what we created. There’s a huge commercial side to it and then there’s also a huge human side, and we hope they’re both properly exploited.”