The Heart of the Story

Whenever I write, be it scripts or novels, I need to find that one idea that I can be passionate about. An emotional spine that will drive the story, and the eventual creation process, forward. In the case of my feature film Displacement, it all boiled down to one sequence that has become fondly referred to as The Beach Scene With Mom.

Brilliantly executed by my talented stars, Susan Blakely and Courtney Hope, who play mother and daughter in the film, this scene and their relationship was inspired by my real relationship with my mom… and frankly a blatant attempt at wish fulfillment. Because in this case, the scene is one that I wish could’ve happened in real life.

When my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, she wanted to see the ocean one last time. My dad and I had planned to take her the following weekend. Unfortunately, by that time the disease had progressed so fast she had become too ill to go.

So after dealing with the heartache of losing her, writing this script became a form of therapy for me. Turning back the clock via a kind of time travel device was my way into that story and, at least metaphorically and cinematically, granting my mom’s final wish.

All roads in the narrative lead to here, and this sequence ended up being the anchor for the entire movie. The Beating Heart of Displacement.

I believe every story needs one. That thing you can hang onto when the challenges of writing or filmmaking seem too overwhelming to bear and you’re ready to throw in the towel. These are the moments that keep me going and soldiering on to see it through.

My writing partner and I are currently in the middle of it with our book series The Arcadia Chronicles as we develop books two, three, and four. (The first in the series, Afterlife, is finished and will be published by Zimbell House in early 2020.) Finding those beating hearts to the story in an extended narrative, while keeping them fresh and authentic, is a new and unique challenge that is both exhilarating and rewarding as they reveal themselves to us through the characters.

For me, with Displacement, it all came down to this scene and knowing the movie would rise or fall on the strength of it. Fortunately all the elements came together beautifully and I think it turned out pretty well. Some folks even weep while watching it, which is the highest compliment and a testimony to the power of writing and creating with authenticity.

Here is The Beach Scene With Mom in its entirety as it appears in the film:

Oh and it also required a ton of visual effects work, as the first half of the shooting day was overcast and didn’t match the sunshine that broke through after lunch… but that’s a story for another day.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. And go embrace the heart of your story.

– Ken


Displacement is available for download on iTunes, rental or streaming on Amazon in the U.S. or across the pond in the UK here, or you can buy the DVD with Bonus Features, including Extended and Deleted Scenes and Director’s Commentary, at major online stores or on the film’s website here.

You can also check out my award-winning short film Passing Darkness which is the inspiration for our book series publishing soon.


Kenneth Mader is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, and self-determined dreammaker. Much to the chagrin of his ex-wives, certain family members, and the “committee” in his head.

His award-winning feature film Displacement was released theatrically in Spring 2017, acquired by A+E Networks for broadcast on Lifetime, curated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for inclusion in their historical Margaret Herrick Library, and is now available on VOD and DVD. For more info click here.

His first novel, Afterlife, which he co-wrote with acclaimed author J.K. Ishaya, will be published by Zimbell House for release in hardcover, paperback, and ebook in early 2020.

He was named one of the “Top 100 Indie Filmmakers in the World” in the book by Action On Film’s Del Weston. He is the founder and operator of Maderfilm Studios, a full-service boutique production studio specializing in high-quality films and entertainment projects, along with its Nightfall Studios post-production division. He also runs the actor services company PerfectReel specializing in high quality demo scenes, reels, and short films for actors.

He is available for consulting on scripts and film projects as well. Contact him here.


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