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Don’t miss local ‘Message in a Bottle’ movie screenings

"Message in a Bottle," an adventure/drama about three teens whose lives are changed forever when they go on a journey to rescue a kid sending eerie notes down stream in bottles, will soon be featured in three local movie screenings.

Many have told a local film director, “no,” but that’s never stopped her from pursuing her dreams.

Meet Rhonda Parker, owner of Beaver Alley Studios. Her third film “Message in a Bottle,” an adventure/drama about three teens whose lives are changed forever when they go on a journey to rescue a kid sending eerie notes down stream in bottles, will soon be featured in three local movie screenings. The thing we like about Parker is that she’s very honest about the hardships she’s faced to get to where she is today and Sweet Buffalo loves sharing the stories of those who inspire us to be better.

Here’s our exclusive interview with Rhonda Parker.

1) Tell us about yourself. What does it mean to you to be a female film director and what hardships have you faced? 

I am a married, mother of three in my early 40s. I grew up in Virginia and started making movies when I was 16. I graduated late in life, from Genesee Community College, with degrees in paralegal and communications media arts. My first feature film, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Date Friends Date Friends” was an honors project at GCC.

I am always being told my dreams are too big and my goals are unrealistic. I was told the 27 minute Zombie Comedy I wanted to film in one day was not possible, and I should do something easy. I was told that making a feature film was not something I should attempt because others, more qualified than myself, had failed. I was told that I can not have my own film festival. I have decided not to listen, and do it anyway. I even go a step further by starting a nonprofit for the arts and hosting a Film Art and Music Event – WNY FAME. (

I cannot say for sure that people not believing in me had anything to do with my gender. They were likely smart, well meaning people, who are giving sound advice. I have no way of knowing if they would have given that same advice to a man. What I have learned is that too many women are easily shut down by warnings and cautionary advice. Too often, women and girls are told to play it safe, and that is why more have not achieved greatness. If they stop being afraid to fail, there is no limit to what they can achieve.

2) What do you hope viewers take home with them from “Message in a Bottle?” Do you think they will leave with a new perspective on life? 

This movie will give viewers a lot of perspective on a wide range of topics. The character of Johnny is a dreamer with a bit of a hero complex. Viewers will learn how the family history with his parents and older brother shape the man he is  becoming. He is a flawed hero, but a perfect representation of every individual who every wanted to prove he is more than what people perceive. Emily is every young woman who does not see her self worth. She is brilliant and beautiful, but she only hears the negativity from others and in her own mind. Emily becomes convinced that she must change to fit society’s standards. Timmy could have easily have been nothing but a third wheel that existed for comic relief. As quick as he is with his one liners, he also bears the burden of being labeled as less than whole, due to medical issues. The characters are very real, and likable, from the drunk bum begging for money to the hookers in Beaver Alley. Every character, every detail, holds meaning. This allows the story holds up to repeated viewings. I hope audiences have a renewed zest for life and see value in people they otherwise would have written off as worthless.

Where was the film shot? 

The first two thirds of the film was shot in the woods because the teenage kids are following a river to find the kid sending the messages. My family lived in Albion at the time of filming, and it has become my signature to film at least one scene in “Beaver Alley.” (The name of my studio.) The Buffalo based scenes were shot for the final third, as it  depicts the dark turns in the lives of the young adults, in the years after their journey.

How excited are you for your screenings? This is your third feature. You must be very proud.

The screenings represent the culmination of the years of hard work. Often I spend the screening focused on the reactions of the audience. Did they laugh at the times where I anticipated, or were unexpected moments funny? Does the crowd grow still and quiet , and is anyone crying? Are there moments that provoke an audience member to shout at the screen? Can you see the actors face beaming with pride at the finished product. We are making no budget films that are unlikely to make enough money to pay for itself. What we get instead is an intimacy with our audience.

What does the future hold for you and Beaver Alley Studios? 

The next project on the horizon for “Beaver Alley Studios” is a  psychological thriller called “Lifeboat.” It is a very dark piece about the battle between good and evil that rages on inside us all. The story centers around Samuel, a seemingly average man who is posed with an ethical dilemma while on a cruise. A mysterious man tells him that the ship they are on is going to sink in 36 hours. With only nine survivors, Samuel must decide who boards the Lifeboat. This will be my most ambitious project yet and we need some help. We are looking for people who are passionate about storytelling to board the Lifeboat as part of our team. Inquiries can be sent to our Facebook page or

“Message in a Bottle,” stars Buffalo actor Matthew Owen Kozak of “Game Changers,” among other local and out of area actors. There will be a dinner and a movie screening 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9 at The Screening Room in Buffalo. The Rochester screening will be held 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10 at the Cinema in Rochester and a festival screening at WNY FAME wi be held 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15 at GCC.


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