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'Emma was Here' explores Death with Dignity

ROW 211 FILMS, a Rogue Valley production company composed of Southern Oregon University alumni, is planning to make its first independent feature film in 2017: "Emma Was Here," a poignant drama about a terminally ill young woman’s decision to end her life via Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act — but not before journeying to the coast to have the vacation of a lifetime with her sister and closest friends.

A reading of the screenplay, written by Daniel Rester, will be from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, in the Arena Room, Stevenson Union Building at SOU, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd, Ashland. Tickets are free, but donations are encouraged to help support the making of the film. The concept trailer will be shown after the reading, which is being sponsored by the SOU Film Club.

Oregon made history when it became the first state to legalize physician-assisted dying in 1994. Since then, Washington, Vermont, California and Montana have enacted similar laws. Besides the award-winning documentary "How to Die In Oregon," there have not been many films which depict physician-assisted death as a central theme.

Rester started writing the script in 2014, and since then it has won two awards, placing second in the Oregon Film Awards screenplay contest and first runner-up in the Jefferson State Flixx Festival’s screenplay category. The latter festival complimented Rester’s ability to write about a topical issue “without being overtly political.”

"The screenplay is one of the more deeply felt things I've ever written,” Rester says in a news release. “I hope it's something that can make audiences cry, laugh, and think."

Rester and the rest of ROW 211 plan to make "Emma Was Here" into an independent feature film in 2017. Mig Windows, a ROW 211 founding member, is slated to play the role of Emma’s friend and biographer, Jenn. Windows recently won Best Actress in a Short Film at the Oregon Independent Film Festival.

To help raise funds for the feature film, Rester, Windows, and the rest of ROW 211 (Rory and Angelica Owens) shot a proof-of-concept cinematic trailer with the help of cinematographer Todd Wilson ("Life, Adjusted," "Black Road"). The trailer also features SOU students Sydney Langlie, Alyssa Marie Mathews, Helen-Thea Marcus, Aleah Zimmer and Taylor Hood, all of whom will be appearing in the reading. Peter Wickliffe, artistic director of Thanks for the Memories Theatre in Ashland, will narrate.

'Emma Was Here' was written by Daniel Rester and will be produced by ROW 211 FILMS. Submitted photo