Non-violence is the subject of two McPhillips’ films

Actress/producer Grace McPhillips

Actress-producer Grace McPhillips plans to release a narrative short called “Eclipse,” to be posted online Dec. 14, the painful one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting.  The 6-minute“Eclipse” and the 90-minute narrative feature, “The Other One,” tackle the complex subjects of promoting non-violence and mediating conflict.

“Eclipse” takes place minutes before the deadly young, white male shooter –- typical of school assassins — is about to enter the high school with the intent to kill.

McPhillips calls “Eclipse” a prequel to the feature, which revolves around a teacher (McPhillips) who survives the school shooting and how it affects her family.  

McPhillips, an Alabama native says she grew up in a family with a distinguished tradition of working towards non-violence. Her grandfather, the Rev. Julian McPhillips, Sr., an Episcopalian priest, who had served in the Peace Corps in India, and her grandmother, Eleanor McPhillips, were activists during the Civil Rights Movement in the turbulent south of the 1960s.

McPhillips’ social action video campaign

“Eclipse,” to be posted online Dec. 14, was created to support the social action campaign McPhillips started, called Declare Non Violence Videos (DNVs).

She explains its mission as “encouraging conversations about non-violence and the mediation of conflict by inviting the public to contribute their own experiences, via video commentary.  The videos are hosted on a dedicated playlist called DNV on the YouTube channel.

DNVs started during the filming of “Eclipse.” “We interviewed students actors who appeared in the film about what they believe ‘violence’ means and how they can take steps to mediate it and navigate a world filled withconflict.  We agree conflict will happen but how can we assure it won’t turn out to be violent?  We’re trying to change this, based on public opinion.” 

Children’s health organizations have approached McPhillips about showing “Eclipse” to prompt what could be a difficult discussion among young people. 

“This is exactly what we were hoping for, and we’re thrilled to prove that narrative storytelling can intrigue audiences and promote causes just as well as documentaries,” McPhillips says.

Films inspired by an earlier short

Both films were written and directed by Joe Steiff; Graham Metzger edited “Eclipse” and Melissa Lawrenz “The Other One.”  McPhillips, Elizabeth Theiss and Erica Lynn Schmeck produced them under the banner of McPhillips’ film company, Sterling Rock Productions.

“The Other One” co-stars Chicago actors Nancy Sellers as McPhillips’ mother, Brian Crawford as her husband and Jesse Bob Harper her brother.  The teen shooter is Adam Gronewold, “The title of the feature has many meanings,” explains McPhillips, but for me it refers to the missing presence of important people in your life.”

The feature was inspired by a short film she and Steiff wanted to make four years ago.  “I felt the story should’ve been larger, a feature, and Joe agreed.  The script was unfinished at the time, so we sat down and fleshed it out with Nancy and Jesse last winter and shot last April.” 

The feature will be completed mid-September for entry in film festivals, with the goal of Sundance being its world premiere.