If you’re a parent, then your worst nightmare would probably be the death of your child.
Actress Pamela Heffler dives headfirst into this arena during flashback sequences as part of Lee Cipolla’s hospital drama “The Shift,” currently available on DVD/VOD.
I recently caught up with Pamela Heffler to discuss the project and some other fun stuff.
Tell us about your role in “The Shift.”
PAMELA: I play the lead character Kayle's mother in flashback scenes. The opening of the film is of me with my two sons prior to my younger son almost drowning which leaves him in a coma. Kayle and I have an argument about whether his little brother should be kept alive on life support or not. As his mother I insist on keeping him alive no matter what. Kayle disagrees. I am furious with Kayle for giving up on his brother. I tell him to leave and it's the last time we see one another. My character haunts Kayle throughout the film with memories of his brothers drowning, my upset, and his conflict over the situation. It ultimately informs his decision to become a nurse and grapple with the question of DNR which is the crux of the film.
You help to explain some intense memories in the film, did you do anything special to prepare?
PAMELA: The circumstances of the film fueled my preparation. The drowning of my child became very real to me .I could imagine him calling for me and not being able to help him. I felt a lot of guilt and grief over this. The hospital scenes were also very intense, ie: seeing my child on life support. Using those specifics and the love for my children was really all I needed.
What would you consider your characters ‘best’ quality? And their ‘worst’?
PAMELA: Best qualities: Being a loving mom who won't give up on her kids who only wants the best for them.
Worst quality: Being rash and somewhat selfish…not considering the complexity of leaving someone on life support (even if it's my child) who is basically a vegetable for life. I also end up not coming to visit him after some time either.
Got any interesting stories from the set you can share with us?
PAMELA: We shot the film at the old USC hospital. It was as they say "haunted". When I got on set the first day it was rather creepy and this big burly tattooed guy got in the elevator with me to take me to the set. He told me the place was haunted and he would make sure I got to where I needed to be. He was working on Sons of Anarchy. He seemed like an angel of sorts since he appeared out of nowhere and I never saw him again.
I do remember shooting the scene in the hospital when I find out my son may not make it and is living only from life support. It was a very intense scene and the real mother of the little boy got quite emotional watching us shoot that scene.
Even though the subject matter was so serious the set had a very friendly positive quality. Kayle (played by Leo Oliva) was amazing. He wrote the script, starred in it and produced it. He was so upbeat and friendly. He'd see me and give me a hug or pick me up. He made sure everyone felt welcome.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned from working on this project?
PAMELA: To go for it! As an actress to go all the way in my creative work and personally to value life because it's so fragile. To live fully and love deeply. Tragically the wardrobe gal who worked on the film died a couple weeks after we finished filming. She was a lovely person. She was so young and full of life. It was hard to believe and the film is dedicated to her.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
PAMELA: This project was really labor of love so I would say if something has great meaning for you to do whatever it takes to make it happen... live your dream. I have worked as a life coach so I am always supporting my friends and clients to live a creative life that has meaning to them.
And, now just for fun:
What’s your favorite food?
PAMELA: I love lots of different food so it's hard to choose. My dad was an awesome cook. I love his eggplant parmesan. I also love some good salmon and veggies on the grill.
Cats or dogs?
PAMELA: Not yet but looking to get a dog soon
Favorite movie from your childhood.
PAMELA: Probably the “Sound of Music.” I have always loved music and I have been a dancer my whole life.
Tell us one thing that would surprise our readers to learn about you.
PAMELA: I meditate every day (and I am cranky if I don't). I have always grown vegetables in my garden both here and in New York and I love to sleep in…ok that's 3 things.
How can fans keep up with you?
"The Shift" - on set image