14 September 2018

You’re never too old to make a wish and have that wish come true. That’s the message behind the film Don’t Let Life Fly By, which chronicles 100-year-old Mary Ledbetter as she dreams of flying a plane and then has her wish granted. The film is one of two real-life stories in Brookdale’s Second Annual Celebrate Aging Film Festival, which are nominated for the Courage Award, recognizing films that show older adults with the courage to live life to its fullest. Written by Debbie Grubb, 71, who has been blind since birth, the film was created as a reminder that we can accomplish great things together, even realizing dreams. Don’t Let Life Fly By was shot and directed by Katie Penta, the resident programs director at Freedom Village Bradenton. We talked to her about making the film.

Vote for your favorite!
You can watch all the nominated films and vote for the Ecolab People’s Choice Award.

What were you trying to say with this film?

Penta: Our main message was to prove that age is just a number. You’re only as old as you feel. Seniors can be an inspiration for the rest of the world, including younger generations. Don’t Let Life Fly By was conceived as a dream in the hearts of those daring to hope, that despite all the reasons for believing that these dreams could never come true for them, they still dared to believe that they could soar. Debbie Grubb wrote the script and she’s been blind since birth. Mary just turned 100 this year.

Why was that topic important to you?

Penta: I think it was important to us because of the community and our residents. We’ve all been passionate about the Wish of a Lifetime program and wanted to share how wonderful it is. You’re never too old to have a wish or have it fulfilled. You can do anything and we wanted to show people that our residents can, too.

How many people participated in making this film?

Penta: We had about 10 residents and associates help.

What was the most challenging part of the film making process?

Penta: For me it was the lighting and trying to get the shot of the birds. I spent a solid three weeks going out to the pond to check the lighting so it would match our other shots. It came down to the wire, but I finally got the birds on camera.

How did this project help connect residents and associations at your community?

Penta: I think it helped us connect as a community. Everyone saw me running around with the iPad. I even had the maintenance guy scare the bird to make it fly so I could get a shot of it. So this really did pull us all together.
It gave the residents purpose and meaning. We worked hard to tell a good story. Everyone knows Mary. She was telling everyone that she was going to be a star. She’s just through the moon about being nominated. The entire community is excited for her.

What did you like best about creating this film?

Penta: I loved the entire process. I really loved working with Debbie. Doing her voice over and watching her type on the brail keyboard to make the words come across was fascinating. She’s an advocate for the blind. She’s so active and is the most positive person in the world. She’s an incredible writer.

Is there anything else you want to tell us about your film or your crew?

Penta: It was an overall amazing experience. Debbie, her guide dog and I are all excited about coming to the film festival.

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