The Making Of... A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story
Bill Sackter Documentary ... The
My name is Lane Wyrick, and I'm the
documentary filmmaker who created "A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story". In 2001, I met with
Academy Award Winning Screenwriter Barry Morrow (Rain Man) at the Los
Angeles Premiere of my documentary The Nazi Drawings to discuss
him a project he held dear to his heart. After viewing my documentary,
he said to me that he wanted me to create a new
feature length documentary project about a man named Bill Sackter, and
that it was a project he had been hoping to see produced for over
Barry Meets Bill Sackter
In the early 1970s the youthful
Barry Morrow met an older man in Minneapolis who was friendly but very
disheveled in appearance, someone who in Barry's words could have been easily overlooked
as a 'bum'. His name was Bill Sackter, and he and Barry, and his wife
Beverly became fast friends. Barry had been dabbling in video and film
production at the time, and began chronicling Bill's life with whatever
camera equipment he could get his hands on.
He found a man who was
abandoned in the state institution for nearly his entire
life - 44 years to be exact - for mild mental retardation, and never saw his family again. Bill said,
'I was there so long, I didn't even know I was there'. Barry took the
unprecedented step of becoming Bill's legal guardian so Bill wouldn't
be sent back to the institution, and he brought Bill down to Iowa City,
to live with Barry's wife Bev and newborn son Clay.
A New Outlook
With the help of Barry and Tom Walz
(Dir., Univ. of Iowa School of Social Work), a new coffee shop was
formed, giving Bill a place of employment an socialization, and a venue
for him to play his harmonica. It became affectionately known as 'Wild
Bill's Coffee Shop'. Bill looked like a brand new man, and through his
positive outlook on life, was gaining the attention of people around
his new community.
Soon everyone in Iowa City
knew of Bill. And after receiving the 'Handicapped Iowan of the Year'
Award in 1977, and then being invited to the White House for further awards,
people around the country knew of him as well.
A Documentary is Proposed
By this time Barry and others had taken
hundreds of photos and hours of film and video footage of Bill, and
Barry decided it was time to make a documentary about Bill. His
proposal was greeted with enthusiasm and his documentary idea was
instead turned into the now famous made-for-television movie 'Bill'(1981) starring Mickey Rooney (as Bill) and a young Dennis Quaid (as Barry).
(Dennis Quaid, Bill Sackter, Barry Morrow
at Golden Globe Awards)
Ratings were through the roof when it premiered in Christmas of 1981,
and it spawned a sequel 'Bill: On His Own' two years later, shortly
after Bill passed away peacefully in his sleep.
But the original documentary never got
While 'based in fact', Mickey Rooney
never meant to create a character that mimicked Bill, but rather wanted
to portray a sympathetic view of a person with disability. The vibrant
character of the real Bill Sackter was known to those around him, but
the real person who became a great hero for people with disabilities was
largely unknown to the rest of the country.
Nearly 25 years since his
passing, after being deeply immersed in all the original footage,
photograph, articles, memorabilia, etc. that have been locked up in
storage until now, I have taken over where Barry left off to complete the real life documentary of Bill Sackter.
What I have
come to know is an amazing person, a story rich in content, and a wide
variety of human emotion with scenes ranging from highly upbeat and
incredibly funny to deeply serious and powerfully inspirational. But
most of all, I've gotten to know who the real Bill is, and have the
privilege to bring this story and actual real-life footage of Bill to
a worldwide audience.
met and interviewed all the main people in Bill's life, and have
learned amazing true stories about Bill, compiling the hours of footage
along with an extensive 35 page written outline of every minute detail
relevant to Bill's life. Along the way, I have met many people in the
fundraising and production process, and have been working closely with
Tom Walz and the Extend the Dream Foundation to get the documentary
Bill Sackter Documentary Completed
Beginning with nearly 50
hours of great source material, I edited the production down to a
90 minute feature length documentary that has been described as "inspirational" and "an emotional rollercoaster" in private screenings, and many people said it brought them to tears.
After I completed a fairly detailed edit, there was a private "Sneak Preview" screening for contributors and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, even with temp music and temp narration.
I then travelled with Composer Peter Bloesch to Seattle to record his full orchestral music score that was performed by Seattle Music who has recorded soundtracks for many top Hollywood movies. Peter's contribution to the emotion of the documentary is truly outstanding, and we were fortunate to work together since the beginning of production to make the music an integral element in the storytelling process. Then I recorded the final narration with professional theater actress Sally Wingert, who brought an incredible amount of richness to the narration.
The documentary had its World Premiere at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City (Bill's home town) - with a crowd of 1175 people, the screening was a big success, and the documentary received a standing ovation.
Lane Wyrick, Barry Morrow, Peter Bloesch and Jack Doepke on stage
at the World Premiere of "A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story"
Nearly 1200 people attended the World Premiere at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City
It has since gone on to be voted the "#1 Audience Favorite" at five consecutive film festivals, and was screened at The Arc's National Convention in Albuquerque.
Creating the Deluxe Edition DVD
I assembled a vast number of DVD extras, deleted scenes, video and audio clips, director's commentary, and more that are included along with the full documentary in the Deluxe Edition DVD. With over two hours of additional content, the Deluxe Edition DVD gives even more depth to the documentary experience.
I would love for people around the world to have a chance to experience this wonderful story, so your help in spreading the word is greatly appreciated! If you have purchased the DVD, please write a customer review on Amazon.com - this will truly make a difference to people who have never heard of Bill Sackter to know if the documentary is worth watching.
Also, please consider hosting a screening of "A Friend Indeed" (public screening rights are included in your purchase of the DVD). You just can't beat the emotional experience of seeing "A Friend Indeed" with an audience large or small - it's very inspirational!