Angie Gaffney and Brittani Ward take us behind the scenes of Single Car Crashes

Chicago based Producer, Angie Gaffney and Writer/Director, Brittani Ward give us a look behind the scenes in the making of the film Single Car Crashes.

The film will have its Chicago premiere at The Gene Siskel Film Center from July 12-16.

Single Car Crashes explores themes of enduring friendship and the possibilities that arise when one chooses to look forward rather than dwell on the past. Gaffney and Ward teamed up with a talented Illinois-based crew and cast that includes Trevor Morgan, Billy Zane, Lindsey Morgan, Chris Lee, Paulina Olszynski, Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel, Billy Dec, and Charín Alvarez.

The film centers around Sean (Trevor Morgan), a once-promising baseball recruit haunted by survivor’s guilt after a tragic car accident claimed the life of his best friend, Zach. Set in their small hometown, Sean grapples with his stagnant life and neglected responsibilities, including his young son Zachary. The narrative takes a poignant turn when Kendall (Lindsey Morgan), Zach’s sister and Sean’s first love, returns to town for her upcoming wedding. This event forces Sean to confront his unresolved grief and the impact it has had on his relationships and aspirations. 

We had the opportunity to go behind the scenes with Angie Gaffney and Brittani Ward on the making of Single Car Crashes.

You’ve said the film is based on a true story, Brittani, what inspired you to write this story?

[BW]: The characters in Single Car Crashes are fictional, but the storytelling is inspired by true events. Going to high school in rural Illinois, I lost many of my young peers too soon – mostly to sudden car accidents. By early adulthood, I had experienced lasting grief and the messiness of lifelong friendships, which are two central themes in the film. 

Angie, you have addressed the subject of grief in several of your films. What drew you this story?

[AG]: Grief is a core part of the human experience, and exists on a vast gradient. I believe, if done right, that most films will touch on grief and loss. Grief does not exist without love, and that is a beautiful thing. With Single Car Crashes, I was initially drawn to Brittani as a storyteller. We went to DePaul Unviersity at the same time, a few years apart, and I had always admired her intellect, leadership, and emotional tenacity. I was fortunate to read an early draft of the script (many many years ago), and resonated strongly with the characters and their emotional journeys. When we did finally go into production, we were both mothers. I was actually two months post-partum with my first child during the shoot; I think both of us had a new appreciation for all that’s possible when you love deeply. Entering into motherhood, this story resonated with me on a whole new level. I feel so fortunate to have helped birth it into existence. (Yes, the childbirth metaphor is intentional – they are not so dissimilar). 

Can you both tell us a bit about the journey of getting the film from page to screen, and Angie, what was it like working with Brittani as a first time director?

[BW]: This movie does not exist without the artistry and dedication of lead actor Trevor Morgan, Director of Photography Christopher Rejano, Editor/Post Producer Ana Christian, Colorist/Post Producer Ryan Stemple, Noisefloor, Katie Waters, Devin Delaney, Costume Designer Halley Sharp, Music Supervisor Melissa Chapman, Alex Wilson and Saró Melero Bonnin, Angie Gaffney (my remarkable producing partner and friend), and many more. 

[AG]: I’ve worked with many first-time directors, and Brittani was an incredible one. Her previous casting experience in the industry gives her a natural communication style with actors, and she is endlessly curious, and willing to fail. It is the latter two that really are some of the hallmarks of an excellent director: insatiable curiosity and enough self-worth to be able to handle the obstacles with grace. Plus, she’s hilarious, smarter than me in so many ways, and has an unmatched work ethic. I can’t wait to work with her many more times, both as a Director and Producer.

What were your main filming locations?

This film was entirely shot in Highwood, Illinois. We are proud that the vast majority of the money spent on this project went directly to Illinois-based cast, crew, and vendors. Our locations were generously donated by the the citizens and business owners of Highwood, and we are forever grateful to those people who made this film possible. 

What do you hope the audience will take away from this film?

[BW]: More than anything, I want anyone who watches Single Car Crashes to feel seen. When the film succeeds with an audience, those leaving the theatre will feel an urgent sense to connect more deeply with their loved ones. That’s what it’s all about. Also – no matter what’s been holding you back, you always have the right to move forward, to change course when needed, and to craft the authentic life you want to live.

You recently had a screening of the film at the Midwest Film Festival. Brittani, as the screenwriter and first time director, how did it feel the first time you sat in a theater with an audience and watched your film?

[BW]: Midwest Film Festival selected Single Car Crashes for its Inaugural Roadshow Event in Milwaukee, in collaboration with Milwaukee Film, at the stunning Oriental Theatre. It was one of the best days of my life. Before that in March, we world premiered at Cinquest ’24 and won the ‘Best New Vision’ award. When I first watched the film with an audience, I breathed a sigh of relief. Friends and strangers alike were laughing at the jokes, cringing at the pain points, and shedding cathartic tears… all according to plan! “My baby is going to be okay in the world without me,” I thought to myself, “It’s playing how I dreamed it would play.” 

The film will have its Chicago premiere next week at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Where will it go from there?

We are about to sign a distribution deal, which will lead to a digital release in the US towards the end of this year. Stay tuned by following @fivetwoonefilms on Instagram. 

Audiences can catch Single Car Crashes at The Gene Siskel Film Center on multiple dates: 

Friday, July 12 at 8:00PM
Saturday, July 13 at 5:30PM
Sunday, July 14 at 2:30PM
Tuesday, July 16 at 8:30PM. 

Each screening will be followed by a Q&A session with director Brittani Ward along with select cast and crew members, offering an opportunity to engage with this compelling story and its creators firsthand. 

Tickets are available for purchase online here.


Written and Directed by Brittani Ward
Produced by Angie Gaffney, Brittani Ward
Executive Producers: Kelly Aisthorpe Waller, Ted Reilly, Markie Glassgow
Starring: Trevor Morgan, Lindsey Morgan, Paulina Olszynski, Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel, Chris Lee, Billy Dec, Charin Alvarez, and Billy Zane
Director of Photography: Christopher Rejano
Edited by: Ana Christian
Colorist: C. Ryan Stemple, CSI
Costume Designer: Halley Sharp
Production Designer: Stefanie Mitchell
Original Score by Devin Delaney
Supervising Sound Editor: Katie Waters, MPSE
Music Supervision by Melissa Chapman, Annie Pearlman
Post Producers: Ana Christian, C. Ryan Stemple

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