I wrote The Extraordinary World of Cecily Blinkstop during my first semester at graduate school and, from the moment I completed the first draft, I knew that this would be the first feature film I would tackle as a director. While creating Cecily's world, I pulled from my own life experiences to develop the characters and basic plot, but then something truly magical happened: my characters came to life. They took over and told the story for me.
The Extraordinary World of Cecily Blinkstop brings to life so much of my journey as a child growing up in the 1970s. It was a time of freedom and adventure. I created worlds and played games and explored life in a magical way. For me, it was also a time of loneliness. When I was three years old, my sister went to school every day and my younger brother was too young to really play with me. I was also aware that my parents’ marriage was starting to fall apart and I had no one to talk to. I created my own imaginary friend named Jeanie-Janie who stayed by my side until I started preschool and had real friends in my life.
Unlike Cecily, I never lost a sibling, but after I was newly married, I miscarried three babies. It was a very dark time for me and I experienced an unbearable loneliness and grief. The hardest part for me was that no one ever wanted to talk about it. Since that time, I have met so many people who have lost children - from miscarriages to stillborn and child deaths to the deaths of adult children. I watched a 70-year old woman fall at the coffin of her 40-year old son. I have friends whose only child died very early in life and they must find a way to keep her memory alive every day. Losing a child is a tragedy that knows no economic or racial barriers, In fact, approximately nine million children under the age of five die every year. This means that nine million families experience the loss of a child every year and no one wants to talk about it. We need to change that.
Exploring the world of a family suffering from grief following the death of a child seemed overwhelming at first. That is, until I realized that the only way I could really dive into this was through the eyes of a child. A child with a magical imagination. A child who could create her own world and her own friends. And from those ideas, Cecily Blinkstop was born. And from that moment on, she wrote the story for me. It has recently occurred to me that these characters I play with every day prove that you do not need to be a child to have imaginary friends.