MIDDLEBURG – Drew Lewis Brown, an Oscar-winning Jacksonville filmmaker and 2010 graduate of Middleburg High, will return home next spring to shoot his debut feature film, “Baby Tooth.” Filming …
MIDDLEBURG – Drew Lewis Brown, an Oscar-winning Jacksonville filmmaker and 2010 graduate of Middleburg High, will return home next spring to shoot his debut feature film, “Baby Tooth.” Filming will take place for three weeks across multiple locations in Northeast Florida.
Duval and Clay counties were explicitly selected to be featured in the project. The production will employ a crew of local film professionals to tell the heartfelt story of a disconnected family coming together to provide care for their terminally ill grandmother.
“The movie takes place in a rural town that is very much based in Middleburg. I think it’s quite possible that we will be able to scout specific locations that work for the film and go back to where the story really started,” Brown said.
Brown started his filming career as a senior in high school, taking a TV production class to combine his interest in theater and the arts.
“I realized that film was really the medium that was for me. I was able to tap into all these different interests and really showcase who I am as an artist,” Brown said. “I could not have understood that part about myself without the help of those teachers, Dave Thomas and Kim Lanoue. I am where I am today because of those experiences in the arts that I had in Clay County.”
Brown graduated and later became an adjunct film professor at The Art Institute of Jacksonville, receiving a Student Academy Award in 2014 for his short film “Person.” He was later awarded the Rising Star Award from the Jacksonville Mayor’s Office for his “outstanding contributions and achievements in Jacksonville’s Film and Television Industry.
After 12 years, Brown will return to his roots to complete the most personal project of his career thus far.
“It’s a story that is inspired by my own family’s experiences,” Brown said. It’s a project that’s really important to me, so I wanted to spend time on it.”
The film tells the story of Jude, an insecure young actor, who returns to his rural hometown in northeast Florida to provide support for Grandma’s caregivers – Jude’s dismissive mother and resentful sister – before the family reaches their breaking point.
Brown said the film’s screenplay was developed between 2019-2023, and the project will be filmed in northeast Florida in early 2024.
The film was inspired by his family’s journey with caregiving for his terminally ill grandmother in the final year of her life. “Baby Tooth” captures the selfless act of being a family caregiver with no prior medical knowledge, the looming threat of financial instability, the obligation to conform to societal expectations, and its impact on self-perception and caregiving decisions.
“I was a bit oblivious. I was living my life as a stage actor and filmmaker in Jacksonville,” he said. “When I came to visit them for Christmas, I really came as an outsider. I was able to see the hard work and empathy that goes into caregiving.”
This experience propelled Brown to write about his family’s experience with the American elderly system, as well as a place to process his own emotions after returning home.
“The experience has been to get these words on paper. It was a private and vulnerable time in my family’s life. But bridging these spaces and having these uncomfortable conversations has the ability to help others,” Brown said.
Brown’s “Baby Tooth” serves as a call to action for families to discuss the best path forward for aging loved ones.
“My hope with this film is that I will be able to not only help caregivers see themselves on the screen and understand the important role that they play in our society – but also encourage families of aging loved ones to reach out to each other and have these conversations.”
Additionally, Brown said the project can help communities empathize and understand their role in social change, like supporting the efforts to recognize caregiving as a job worthy of a living wage.
The film also allows viewers to support their local arts community.
“Baby Tooth” offers a unique tax benefit to all who contribute. The film is fiscally sponsored through the nonprofit organization Film Independent, meaning any monetary contribution from the general public is tax-deductible, and any non-monetary donation of goods, services, food and location rentals from local businesses is considered in-kind.
This unique opportunity allows locals to promote their businesses creatively, see their names in the film’s credits, and support the Jacksonville arts community through charitable giving.
“It’s important to be a champion for local arts. We can’t go without them, and that starts by funding public arts education,” he said.
Brown, alongside a cast of local actors, hosted live staged readings of the screenplay last weekend.
To get involved in Brown’s upcoming film, attend the live readings or make a contribution, visit babytoothfilm.com. For information on Brown and his past work, visit drewlewisbrown.com.