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'Stronger together': Director shares film focused on Lawrence's response to COVID-19

Title

Dear Larry is a short film created by director Marc Havener. It tells the story of how the Lawrence community came together during crisis.

"Part of it is weird, but when does this get crazy?" Marc Havener says, as he remembers how many late evenings he spent waiting in an empty Massachusetts Street for the perfect shot — right when the sun pulls back to give off its best light. The months of work, personal sacrifice and patience he felt would all be worth it for the story he wanted to tell.

Havener, a University of Kansas film school graduate, came back to Lawrence and spent six months creating "Dear Larry: A Letter to Home." It's a short film that documented his hometown's response during the opening months of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The film was released on Sept. 18, during a Facebook event with a live Q&A. The video can be found on Vimeo and YouTube.  

Havener's film explores the many people and organizations who stepped up to help the community during its time of crisis. He filmed it all on his own from the beginning of March to July with three cameras, including a drone, and terabytes of unused footage.

Havener says he had been directing films ever since he picked up his dad's camera. He studied his craft throughout high school and college, and graduated from KU with an intent to work as an assistant director.

He worked in Hollywood for 10 years on films like "Wedding Crashers" and "Pirates of The Caribbean," big movies with big personalities and amazing experiences, he says. 

Drone

Havener used a drone to capture his arial footage. He filmed school buses, crop circles and Lawrence from above.

But his creative spirit wasn't fully satisfied and the assistant director position wasn't the next step in being a full-time director, so he decided to take a shift in his career path. 

To be in a place where he could have more creative involvement, Havener moved back home to Kansas where he made documentary projects and started his own film studio: Resonate Pictures.

For Havener, March 17 was the day everything changed. Once businesses shut down and the stay-at-home order was announced, Havener says that life seemed to stop and the fear of the unknown started to grip him.

He says he didn't know if he should be out filming or working, but he used creativity as an outlet to keep the fear at bay. 

Havener started with filming empty streets and Lawrence life rendered frozen by the fear of the pandemic, but he soon found a story of how the community tried to put itself back together.

His goal was to use his skillset to make something that inspired a sense of urgency and desire to keep his town strong during difficult times, but then he looked around and saw people already doing it. 

"Instead of looking at schools and saying, 'What did you do?' It's like, look what you've done," Havener says.

He realized that the central aim of his film would be to highlight the workers he felt weren't being celebrated, those he believed were also on the front lines of the pandemic.

Restaurant workers, school teachers and organization leaders became integral characters in his story that he says were “central to a thriving community that provide the experiences and people to this place we call home." 

Instead of focusing on negative aspects of the pandemic, Havener’s point of view was to bring out some of the positives that come from a community banding together for each other during a crisis. 

TylerGregory

Musician Tyler Gregory plays guitar in front of an empty crowd during a scene in "Dear Larry: A Letter to Home."

"We could tell the stories of 'Oh man, the students aren't wearing their masks,' and is that what we want to remember?" Havener says. "Is that what we're going to grow stronger from, or do we tell the story of hope and inspiration and lay this foundation for something that's worth building on fighting for?”

Havener says in the days since the film's release and with over 23,000 views on YouTube, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

"The messages I read online, I was in tears," he says. “It seems to be touching people more than I can imagine.”

During its live Facebook premiere, the film received comments of gratitude from people describing how much the film meant to them. 

The online messages thanked him for covering the crisis and giving them something to feel proud of.  

"What a wonderful reflection on such a challenging time in this great community, well done! Thank you," reads one of the Facebook comments from Cindy Johnson, a Lawrence community member. 

He says the positive reception also found its way into the real world, where he’s been stopped on the street multiple times by complete strangers who loved how the film portrayed the community.

Son

Havener's son plays the piano during the film's climax.

Havener says that he is proud to be able to tell the story through the perspective he had envisioned with the people he wanted to feature. 

“I think I’m so overwhelmed by the incredible response it’s receiving,” Havener says. “I think the power of storytellers and art is something that we always use to build our hope and humanity on; they’re reminders of what we’re fighting for.”

Clarice Patchen, 75, has lived in Lawrence her entire life. She says she’s never experienced an event like this, but the film gave her hope for a brighter future.

“It was really inspiring to watch all the people getting back together and how we're all stronger together,” Patchen says. “It's going to be okay, though. We're going to make it through this, we always do.”

Person 1: This song slaps.

Person 2: Your mom slaps.

Person 1: Thank you, my mom is a kind and wonderful lady.


 Person 1: I’m so sick of alcohol.

Person 2: I don’t know, I’m getting stronger every day. I love it.


Person 1: Do you do the vegan wrap here?

Person 2: We can do the chicken wrap with no cheese?

Person 1: I’ll take the Beyond Burger please. 


Person 1: Oh my God! I feel like I know you somehow…

Person 2: Yeah, we went to high school together. 

Person 1: Oh! *walks off*


Guy 1: Is the black market even real? Has anyone ever been on it?

Guy 2: I tried once but I couldn’t figure out how to get on.


Guy 1: I stayed up until 2 am watching Disney plus

Guy 2: I told my girlfriend I fell asleep but I was actually watching the Mandalorian.


Girl 1: How long have you guys been dating?

Girl 2: Since the summer, well actually for like two years but it’s a long story.


Girl 1: Who are you looking for?

Girl 2: This guy, wait I found him. Fanny pack boy. He flipped off my professor after a test and ran out of the classroom.


Girl 1: How did you choose KU? 

Girl 2: Honestly, I flipped a coin. 


Boy 1: Did I tell you? I think I had a threesome this weekend.

Boy 2: Woah, hold up. You think?


Boy 1: I was born a Phi Delt.

Boy 2: Please don’t ever say that again.


Girl 1: How do you get your boobs to look like that?

Girl 2: I don’t ever wear a bra? I don’t know. 


Girl 1: I just really want a guy to bend me over you know?

Girl 2: How do you know? You’re a virgin!


Guy: Sometimes I wish I could just be a dog and sleep all day. 

Girl: You wake up at like three every day. 

Guy: I know.

Girl: So…

Guy: So does that make me a dog or something?


Girl 1: I wish I was a little bit taller.

Girl 2: I wish I was balder.

Girl 1: I wish I had a...wait, wait, wait balder?


Guy 1: Let’s slap dicks

Guy 2: You ever pee and it feels like throwing up?


Woman 1: *holding baby* He would have been safer at the Hawk

Woman 2: Oh absolutely.


Girl 1: I would never date that guy.

Girl 2: Well, it depends how much money he has.


Girl 1: I’m going to the doctor to see if I have bronchitis before I hook up with him again.

Girl 2: Yeah that’s smart so you don’t give it to anyone else. 

Girl 1: No I mean I want to make sure I infect him.


Guy 1: I'm cutting some of my unnecessary costs, starting with Juuling.

Guy 2: Ight man, good luck.

Guy 1: Actually I might just start chewing


Guy 1: How was work?

Guy 2: My manager was chastising me for not dressing up in a Halloween costume, she doesn’t understand I’m strictly here to get paid.


Guy 1: I am so tired of this week, man

Guy 2: Dude it’s Monday

Guy 1: I know


Person#1: I want to be on the first ship to mars

Person#2: Not me, I doubt they have Wi-Fi

Perons#1: Yeah but at least they’re evolving up there. We’re all just devolving.


Girl 1: Um, I don’t eat pig.

Girl 2: You eat bacon all the time, bitch.


Guy 1: You better get going. 

Guy 2: Yeah, see ya. I’m off to get some Adderall.


Girl 1: Are you home right now?

Girl 2: Yeah, why?

Girl 1: I bought a cat


Girl 1: I just don't understand what fishing is for.

Girl 2: I don't know. Food, maybe?


Guy: I’m just gonna have to like carry an entire box of spiders up the hill tomorrow.

Girl: What?

Guy: Yeah, just like a hundred spiders in a box.


Guy 1: Sometimes ya just gotta give yourself a haircut.

Guy 2: Dude, you shaved half your head. That’s not a haircut, that’s a mess.


Girl 1: Can you eat fruit raw?

Girl 2: How else are you supposed to eat it?


Girl: That class is killing us. ​But they say rest is for the dead.

Guy: Well, at least we'll be rested.


Girl: She's not in class this semester

Guy: Maybe she's dead

Girl: Or studying abroad