Becca Gleason grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio with dreams of becoming a television writer. In 2010 she moved to Los Angeles and started her career as an assistant on the critically acclaimed NBC sitcom COMMUNITY. Since then, she’s been independently filming her own projects. She's written and directed three short films which made the rounds on the festival circuit. Her directorial debut, MOLLY, won the LACMA Young Directors award and her second short, WE, sold to Sundance Now for TV development. She's spent the last few years directing series and shorts for digital companies like AwesomenessTV & NewForm Digital. SUMMER '03 is her first feature.
SUMMER ’03 is a small fraction of what it was like to grow up in suburban Ohio in the early oughts. It’s a love letter to summer romances, Harry Potter, pool parties, and dysfunctional families. While the film is partially autobiographical and partially fabricated, I wanted to explore how funny death can actually be.
I was initially drawn to the idea of watching what would happen when a matriarch comes to terms with the fact that she’s dying. The twist being, rather than wanting to be remembered in a positive light, she just wants to be remembered period. The character, Dotty, played by the incomparable June Squibb, doesn’t necessarily care if the memories she leaves her family with are good or bad, but what makes the most impact. At it’s core, it’s about forgiving those we’re no longer able to confront and embracing the messiness of life and death. And what better way to tell that by seeing it unfold though the eyes of an emotionally vulnerable sixteen year old girl?
Jamie Winkle is the bold, unapologetic version of myself that I was able to live vicariously through while making this film. Joey King was the perfect actress to embody the girl I so lovingly torture throughout this dramady. She is who I wish I was at sixteen: messy, outspoken and courageous. What I hope the audience comes away with, if anything, is that even though Jamie is flawed, the mistakes she makes are what will inevitably make her a more interesting adult.
The forbidden love with Luke (Jack Kilmer), the fights with her parents Ned and Shira (Paul Scheer & Andrea Savage), as well as her friendships with Emily and March (Kelly Lamor Wilson & Stephen Ruffin), though all mostly comedic, come from a place of authenticity and emotional vulnerability that Joey was able to navigate seamlessly. Jamie’s mistakes are hers and they are okay. Rather than feeling shame, we should embrace these emotional scars and hope that we’ll come out the other end a little bit stronger.
SUMMER ’03 is the summer we all fucked up — and that’s okay.