Approximately 17% of Canadians are registered as organ and tissue donors. Every 10 minutes another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list in America. One person can save eight lives. However, many people are desensitized to stats and numbers. They respond better to stories. Producer Michelle Solomon hopes to shed light on this issue by sharing the film Sunny Side Up.
The film tells the story of Marc, who after receiving a corneal transplant unexpectedly befriends a witty, blue-haired girl named Sunny. She helps him see his potential for a happier life.
“Sunny Side Up is a chance to show the real-life impact a donor could have. Hopefully, it inspires people to sign up as organ and tissue donors,” said Solomon. “It is a story that tackles the importance of organ donation and showcases the impact one person could make. This beautiful short film is an abstract look into how one can see the beauty in life despite great adversity.”
The film features a young star on the rise, Peyton Kennedy, as the title character Sunny. Her credits range from leads in television series to feature films, like the Netflix series Between, Emmy award-winning Odd Squad, Killjoys, and Murdoch Mysteries. In addition, she has starred in critically acclaimed films American Fable (across House of Lies’ Richard Schiff and The Fosters’ Gavin MacIntosh), Lavender (with Justin Long), and upcoming Telefilm micro-budget feature Cardinal. She worked alongside the film’s other lead Marc, played by David Reale. David has appeared across both film and television, with credits in Suits, Minority Report, Beauty and the Beast to the Canadian Screen Award winner Bang, Bang, Baby, Ben’s At Home, and, Glen Coco in Mean Girls.
“It was fun and very much a collaborative work environment. We received much support from the community in which we were filming. In the end, our financing was a bit of a Frankenstein between our sponsors, investors, and donations. This resulted in the film feeling “bigger” than us, as we had others equally invested in the project,” said Solomon.
Solomon describes the inspiration for the film beginning with the creation of the title character Sunny. Simultaneously, the writer, Simon Paluck, saw a Facebook post from a friend addressing the twenty-year anniversary of his kidney transplant and how thankful he was for his donor.
“How death in one person could mean life in another was a stimulating relationship worth exploring. Especially if the transplant recipient feels unworthy of the organ donation,” said Solomon.
One of Solomon’s greatest strengths as a producer is her savviness. She instinctively understands who to partner with, where to distribute funds, and where films should be submitted to get the greatest recognitions. Kelly Kiernan, a Producer of Creative Design and Development at DreamWorks Animation, mentored with Solomon during the film and realized her talent.
“Sunny Side Up is developing partnerships with nonprofit organizations. The film is set to enter Tribeca Film Festival and South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Michelle’s passion for TV and film, combined with her relentless work ethic and drive, led to Sunny Side Up being a hugely impactful film with great performances. I can’t wait to see it’s continued success in the field, and of course Michelle’s continued success as well,” said Kiernan.
Solomon and the film’s writer Simon Paluck run the production company Picosphere Inc. in Toronto, and together have worked on many projects including the award-winning films Emma and Chalk Dust.
“The biggest challenge of Sunny Side Up was shooting the entire thing in three consecutive days with the majority of the shoot being outdoors. Time was never on our side but we overcame it by immediately dealing with problems as they came up and constantly communicating with everyone,” said Solomon.
In addition to being an award-winning film producer, Solomon is internationally recognized for her work in graphic design. She revitalized the Ace Building Materials brand and will be launching her own social shopping app Adoorn early next year. In addition to all of this, she is proud to be a successful producer.
“I absolutely love assembling a group of hard working, talented individuals and seeing everyone work together for a common goal. There are few environments where you really depend on your peers’ skills, and producing is one of them,” she concluded.