Based on the events of her own life, a central Alberta filmmaker has set out to capture all the dimensions of what caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s dementia is really like, using a web series as her voice.
Laura Seabrook and her team were awarded a $10,000 grant through Telus’ Storyhive. However, the funds were only there to support the first 10-minute pilot episode of Heartsong The Series.
In her own life Seabrook is an accomplished equestrian rider, singer, actress, pianist and writer. Just before her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Seabrook had decided she was going to pursue acting full time and move to British Columbia’s west coast.
However, after the diagnosis she became her grandmother’s full time carer.
In the series Seabrook’s character has planned her entire life around an equestrian showjumping career. Those plans are disrupted after the heartbreaking diagnosis.
“Alzheimer’s is a very devastating disease,” said Seabrook. She explains how carers often feel lonely, isolated, and overwhelmed by their responsibility.
Seabrook says while this is one part of living a life affected by Alzheimer’s is is not all destructive and depressing. “It kind of takes the story from a different angle.”
“It’s a dramatic web series but if definitely has moments of humor,” she added.
Clint Lewing, one of the main actors in the series, who also owns the ranch west of Millet where portions of the episode were shot in late June, feels there is not enough work portraying an in-depth look at life with Alzheimer’s.
By the time Seabrook’s grandmother was officially diagnosed her symptom’s were already established; keeping her from gaining a full understanding of her condition, says Seabrook. “While it’s devastating for the family, she sees life just as beautifully as she always has.”
In Heartsong, Lewing’s character plays the “ying-yang” to Seabrook’s and helps her re-discover passion and adventure in life’s little moments despite the hardship she and her grandmother face.
After being awarded the $10,000 grant along with 14 other Albertan projects Seabrook and her team are competing against the other finalists for a $50,000 grant to finish the series.
“I feel like we definitely had an advantage over the other groups, they had to come up with their own stories. This really is my life story,” said Seabrook.
The recipient of the grant will be decided by public vote, which runs from Aug. 8 to 12, ending at 1 p.m. Voters can view the pilot episode at www.heartsongtheseries.com during that time.
“Our vision with this series, if we get the chance to continue, is to bring out the moments of humor and beauty in the midst of a devastating situation. If anyone reading this loves someone with Alzheimer’s and has stories to share, whether humorous or just heartwarming, they should email us at HeartsongTheSeries@gmail.com. We would love to hear from them, and if we have their permission we may share their stories with our social media following and potentially in a future episode of Heartsong,” said Seabrook.
Seabrook says one of the challenges of filming the pilot episode was fitting so much of her life into just 10 minutes — that is where award-winning director Justin Brunelle stepped in.
Seabrook contacted Brunelle two months before filming began, asking for his involvement. “I read the script and immediately fell in love with the story.”
“Telling a story like this with so much depth, emotion and meaning in a 10 minute pilot episode was definitely a difficult undertaking. There is so much character development and story to cover in such a short amount of time. This story could easily turn into a 90 minute feature film,” he added.
Seabrook grew up south of Edmonton and along with her equestrian training beginning at and early age, training and selling horses, recording music, her acting career has taken her to many places across the world including Colorado and Croatia. To this day she continues to ride recreationally when she is not busy with different projects.
After competing at his first National level natural bodybuilding competition, Lewing was the first ever Canadian to be awarded a Men’s Physique Pro Card with World Natural Bodybuilding Federation. This led to his fitness modelling/novel cover contracts with many New York best-selling authors. His acting career began when he booked his very first audition, for a project that had previous installments filmed in Cape Town, South Africa and Barcelona, Spain. After being cast for the solo/lead role it took him from the rocky mountains in Kananaskis country to the salt flats and sand dunes of the Baja desert in Mexico and along the coast of California.