New Parkinson’s love story set to hit the big screen

Interviews

Author: Roisin McCormackPublished: 8 August 2019

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Russ Bradford and Charlotte Allen

A new film – due to premiere in October at one of London’s iconic Leicester Square Cinemas – is inspired by the true story of two people with Parkinson’s who found love after meeting at a support group. This is the story of ‘STAGES’


“I was introduced to Russ and Charlotte through a friend, and I was horrified to discover how little I knew about the condition. I actually felt annoyed at myself.”

Film producer Sen Monro discusses the inspiration behind his film ‘STAGES’ – a love story based on the real-life events of a couple (pictured above) who met through a Parkinson’s support group.

A tale of love, betrayal and tragedy, the film documents Russ Bradford and Charlotte Allen’s separate struggles with Parkinson’s, as well as the moment Russ’ marriage breaks down and Charlotte discovers her husband is having an affair. The pair eventually come together after being introduced at a Parkinson’s support event.

“The more I learnt about them the more I realised how amazing their story is,” says Sen. “I just felt I had to bring it to the attention of the public.”

Behind-the-scenes shot of the crew filming 'STAGES'

Filming of a scene in ‘STAGES’ starring English actress Noeleen Comiskey (far right).

“It’s about hope overcoming adversity”

Having been an actor for most of his career, appearing in films and a number of UK TV shows, Sen decided to change direction in 2017 and move into the writing and production side of film making.

He set up his own production company, Gripping Yarns Films, and initially focused on producing comedies – that was until a chance meeting with Russ and Charlotte captured his imagination and encouraged him to explore a new and heavier subject matter.

Although it’s a film about Parkinson’s, Sen doesn’t want  ‘STAGES’ to “spoon-feed” the audience with basic information about the condition.

“There’s already documentaries about the mechanics of Parkinson’s,” he explains. “This is a true story about how two people with young onset Parkinson’s coped, and how they managed despite the turmoil in their own lives. We have tried so hard to make this as authentic as possible.”

“It’s about how two people can meet, fall in love, and make the most of their lives. It’s about hope overcoming adversity. It’s about love – and how love conquers all”.

For Sen, this was a project of passion. Working alongside director Donna Taylor, of production company DT Films, and co-producer Michelle Orpe, ‘STAGES’ was largely self-funded and relied on sponsorship from UK company Astute Electronics to “get them over the line”.

It was hard work, says Sen, with the actors and crew volunteering their time because they “truly believed in the project.”

The cast dedicated to bringing Russ and Charlotte’s story to life includes UK actors Noeleen Comiskey, Cassandra French, Lewis Nicolas and Gary Webster (who also co-wrote the film).

Actor Gary Webster appears in the film 'STAGES'

A scene from ‘STAGES’ featuring actor Gary Webster.

“Get some tissues at the ready”

During filming, Russ Bradford – one half of the couple the film was based on – visited the set to meet the team. Something that left him “feeling emotional” after seeing his journey portrayed by actor Lewis Nicolas.

“It was very poignant. I won’t tell you which scene because I don’t want to spoil it, but Lewis’ portrayal of me gave me twists in my stomach. He captured exactly how I felt in that moment. Emotions were incredibly high that day.”

Charlotte agrees, adding: “When you see the actors get into the ‘zone’ it’s quite scary, it was so realistic.”

Sen Monro, director and co-writer of 'STAGES'.

Sen Monro, producer and co-writer of ‘STAGES’.

For Russ and Charlotte, the most important thing about the film – which is due to premiere in October in London’s Leicester Square – is the awareness it will raise about the struggles of Parkinson’s.

“What we find at the moment is there’s a plethora of YouTube videos, Facebook groups and individual campaigners who are raising awareness about Parkinson’s – but it’s all within the Parkinson’s community. It’s very insular”, says Russ.

“We want to educate people who were just like Sen and had no idea about the condition,” says Russ. “Sen even says that now he feels like a better person for knowing about Parkinson’s.”

So, what should Parkinson’s Life readers expect from the upcoming film?

“Get some tissues at the ready”, smiles Charlotte.

The film poster for 'STAGES'

‘STAGES’ will premiere in October 2019.

For more information on young onset Parkinson’s please visit the EPDA website.


Read more:

Crowdfunded Irish feature film shines light on young onset Parkinson’s

Seven must-see movies about Parkinson’s

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