Last summer, our dear friend, Diane Hall, approached us about a short film she wanted Gwendolyn to star in. Diane runs the Little Star Pony Foundation and is the owner of Little Star, the sweetest, most wonderful pony that ever lived. Little Star is a tiny therapy horse in Santa Barbara and our story with him goes way back to when Gwendolyn was very small. Diane always says she got him because of Gwendolyn. I think she fulfilled her destiny and Gwendolyn was the very lucky little girl who got to be part of the magic she creates. Gwendolyn and Little Star have been friends for years and Gwendolyn got so much out of her visits with him throughout her life. She especially loved putting butterflies in his mane and walking him up and down the stable on a little purple leash.
We initially met Diane through hospice when Gwendolyn was just diagnosed with SMA. She did grocery shopping for us, errands, and really just made herself always available for whatever we may need. And the truth is, in those early dark days, just having her in our home made me feel lighter and allowed me to talk to a mother figure without getting advice. She has always had an incredible knack for just allowing me to be myself, even when I feel feeble and meek. And she in turn has always been herself with me, sharing about her own family and children, the highs and lows of parenthood, and doing so in a way that I learned lessons on parenting from love and compassion. Over the years we have spent time with her entire family and they are wonderful. They are the type of people that make you feel good by just being around them: positive, kind, and incredibly giving.
Before Gwendolyn started elementary school, we went to see Little Star at the stable nearly every week. She loved going and so did I. It was always so peaceful out there and I loved seeing her so happy. Once school started, our visits were saved for the weekends and holiday breaks. During the summer after Kindergarten, we spent a magical week at “Pony Camp” which was the highlight of our summer. And whenever Gwendolyn didn’t feel well, Diane would bring Little Star right to our house for a walk around the neighborhood or just a nuzzle on the front porch. (He loved to whiny at his reflection in the glass of our front door.) Little Star always made Gwendolyn feel special.
Last summer, instead of Pony Camp, Gwendolyn filmed a movie with Little Star. It was just after Gwendolyn had played the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg in her first grade play and she had officially caught the acting bug! She took her acting career very seriously and practiced her role for weeks.
Diane’s teenage son, Patrick, is an accomplished film director. At just 17, he’s already won three film festivals, attended the MAD Academy at Santa Barbara High, and is now off to college to attend the film school of his choice. Diane and Patrick worked on the script together and Patrick brought in a full film crew from LA for the production. Even though it was always planned to be just a 3-minute short film, this was the real deal. We had booms and lighting set up in our house, filmed for several days, and had to follow Patrick’s directions. Watching him direct Gwendolyn was my favorite part. At the time he was just 16, but he treated her as a professional actress, giving her clear instructions on what he was looking for her to do, and his overall vision for the film. She soaked it all in. Gazing off dreamily, the “sleeping”… she got notes on all of it and responded to every one of his instructions. She felt like a real actress. She was!
With senior year, college applications, the Santa Barbara Film Festival’s 10-10-10 (which he won), Patrick didn’t finish editing the film until this summer. On June 25th, one month before Gwendolyn passed away, Diane emailed us the finished product. Bill and I watched it on a loop and cried because Patrick really captured out sweet girl.
Gwendolyn got to see this film. And that makes my heart soar. We set it up like a movie premiere and Gwendolyn felt so excited. She never really liked watching her own videos, but this one, she was so proud. She watched it over and over and gave a “Guh!” of approval when she nailed the “sleeping” scene and a giggle at the horse scenes and an “Ahhh” at the ending.
This film is such a gift. It captures a day in our life. It captures Gwendolyn’s communication. It captures love and imagination. And because she was such an active part of it, we can feel Gwendolyn’s little spirit in it too. We cherish this film. It is beautiful. And we hope you like knowing the story behind it.
Thank you Diane and Hall family for blessing Gwendolyn’s life with so many wonderful experiences. We love you.
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