Talking with Nancy Oeswein–screenwriter of award-winning ‘Bennett’s Song’

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A sequel to “Bennett’s-Song,”  entitled “Bennett’s-Song Holiday” is in the works.  The initial cast has been chosen.  Although featured actors from both the east and west coasts have yet to be announced,. this production is taking shape.  And some big surprises are in the stars for this production..

So before principal filming started,  we thought we woud like to talk with the author of this award- winning tale of a modern blended family with fourteen adopted children.

Nancy Oeswein wrote the script for “Bennett’s-Song” (originally entitled “United Colors of Bennett-Song”)  Having a colorful backstory as the owner and director of one of the top talent agencies in the college/university/performing arts circuits for music, comedy and spoken word,  for twenty four years. Her talents aboth natural and acquired she found easily transferred from being a business owner in the arts to film. We thought this would be a good place to start this interview which Nancy so graciously gave us.

NancyOesweinYou have an awesome backstory.  Tell us about what you did before becoming involved in the Michigan film industry.

It’s a bit of convoluted path that brought me here.  I was an opera singer at one point. After completing my master’s degree, I ran part of the shelf pickle business at Vlasic, and for 24 years, I ran one of the top agencies in the college/university/performing arts circuits for music, comedy and spoken word.  I closed Auburn Moon Agency 4 1/2 years ago…and while servicing the last year of contracts, was able to support my daughter Calhoun’s desire to make the transition from theater to film.  Her career took off, and I found myself on a lot of movie sets suddenly.  I discovered a lot of my talents as an artist, an agent, a business owner translated into film and I followed her into the business.

As Auburn Moon Productions you have co-produced several different award-winning feature films with Harley Wallen.  In fact, you have just returned from Hollywood where one of these films was premiered at the TCL Chinese Theater.  Tell us about this experience.

That was amazing and surreal.  It’s not supposed to happen, but “Betrayed” was picked up by SONY Home Video, and they wanted a Hollywood red carpet. It’s been getting an insane amount of national press for an independent film and is available in Target, Best Buy, Walmart, Barnes & Noble, as well as on nearly every streaming network. Harley wrote a timely, powerful story and the cast and crew nailed it!

As for the premiere, that night was magical.  It was my daughter’s first time in LA and the last time I was there was 12 years ago.  I was there for the first season finale of America’s Got Talent when one of the musicians I represented came in second.  We went to Hollywood as tourists that week and I called my mother from the courtyard of the Chinese Theatre.  She passed away 2  1/2 years ago as I was literally weeks away from co-producing my first film with Harley.  She was a huge old Hollywood buff, and I used to call her from places I traveled.  So here I was, premiering a film I co-produced at that very theater.  I can’t even imagine how excited she would have been.

While in Hollywood, your daughter Calhoun Koenig was recognized for a role she had in “Bennett’s Song.” Was this recognition something for which she had to go to Hollywood, or elsewhere?

The award was actually announced just before the trip.  She won International Independent Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role.  She’s been a finalist for a few others, but this was her first win.  While we were in Hollywood, Kaiti Wallen won Best Actress in a Lead Role for “Betrayed” at Lucky Strike Festival.

Calhoun also met with a few of the top Hollywood agencies for young talent while there, and she is deciding between multiple offers right now.  She plans to move to LA in 1 1/2 years at the latest, but I think she is ready to pack now.

Now that you have returned from Hollywood, you have returned to the sequel of “Bennett’s Song,”  a movie for which you wrote the script.  This is the continuing story of a modern family with a difference.  Tell us about his sequel.

The sequel picks up where we left off and follows this unique, modern, diverse family through the holidays.  This story focusses more on the kids, but Cole and Susan’s romance goes through some surprising and exciting twists as well. It is still a heartwarming tale with a strong point of view, sort of an antithesis to what is happening in the world…it embraces diversity in all its forms and inspires people to come together, not pull apart.  There are more original songs and more comedy.

How has Bennett’s Song been received?

Extremely well.  We’ve had a lot of great reviews. The adoption community around the world is so supportive.  People are touched by this family and inspired.  As much as financial success is important, I’m even more gratified by the fact that there have been quite a few people that have told me they were inspired to adopt soon or in the future.

In this sequel,  you have roles for two deaf children.  This is part of a campaign you have started to incorporate closed captioning in more movies.  How is this effort going?

There are actually three, including the return of Janis Bennett played by Morgan Nimmo, whose role expands in this one.  In the new film, we meet Adam Song, Susan’s deaf brother-in-law that was referenced in the first film as the reason she learned ASL. At his community center, we meet Essie and Kat, two young girls that are a part of his early intervention ASL classes. We fell in love with Morgan and are huge supporters of the foundation she founded this past year at age 14 to increase accessibility.  We were able to get Emagine Theatres to start open captioning screenings on a new release every week.  We have included deaf actors or extras in our last 2 films and have been pushing other indie filmmakers to open caption their films.  As a hearing person, you actually grow to like it if you even notice it at all.

In conclusion,  where do you see yourself in five years?

The funny thing is that 5 years ago, I could not have imagined the journey I’m on right now.  I was closing my business and planning to continue to write an industry book, then maybe a novel, and teach at Oakland University. Now, I know I have more stories in me.  I wouldn’t be on this path without Harley and my daughter Calhoun.  She is an extraordinary talent, and she brought me into this film world…we met Harley on Dennis Reed’s “I Declare War” and next thing you know, here we are.  I love Harley like a brother, and he saw a skill set in me that enhanced what he was trying to do and convinced me to join up on his dream.  But in 5 years, I’d love to be successful enough to be creating bigger opportunities for Michigan talent; but also to stop doing the work of 3 people so I could spend more time writing and work on my health.  As ULB film producers, we have to take on so much ourselves; there’s not a lot of breathing room.  And I still have a half-finished novel collecting dust…but now I think that might be a great film. 🙂

For reviews on “Bennett’s Song”

To follow Nancy Oeswein on Facebook, click on.

Thank you, Nancy Oeswein.

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