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Communication senior’s film set for limited theatrical release, online streaming

A scene from “A Normal Life.” Alex Herz’s first feature film has received international acclaim.

A scene from “A Normal Life.” Alex Herz’s first feature film has received international acclaim.

Source: Alex Herz

Source: Alex Herz

A scene from “A Normal Life.” Alex Herz’s first feature film has received international acclaim.

Charlotte Walsh, Reporter

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Most RTVF students wonder if their films will ever be accepted to a film festival. For Communication senior Alex Herz, the question isn’t if, but how many.

After his film’s international debut at the Together! Disability Film Festival in London and its subsequent screening at the Vittorio Veneto Film Festival in northern Italy, Herz’s first feature-length film, “A Normal Life,” has taken the United States by storm.

The movie made its U.S. premiere at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis in October. Since Herz’s completion of the film last year, it has been accepted to three more festivals and will have a limited theatrical run in Hollywood from March 23 to March 29. The movie will also be available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video beginning March 23, and will subsequently be released on an array of other streaming platforms with eventual DVD and Blu-ray releases.

“A Normal Life” is inspired by Herz’s experience living with his brother — who has Down syndrome — and the difficulty of leaving him to go to Northwestern. Herz said the film is semi-autobiographical; some scenes are based on true conversations while others are completely fictionalized.

Herz said it was challenging to make a movie that hits so close to home.

“I don’t necessarily portray myself and my family members always in the most perfect, flattering light because it’s a very real film,” Herz said. “But on the other hand, I’m really glad that I’m able to tell this story and to make my experiences with my younger brother seem more normal.”

Herz said aside from his sense of personal pride in the film, the scope of the film’s success at festivals and the experience of having a Hollywood release has been “surreal.”

Emerson College student Jack Bushell, one of Herz’s close high school friends and director of photography for “A Normal Life,” said he expected some festival recognition, but not the level of acclaim the film has garnered. He and Herz have been collaborating on filmmaking projects for years, most recently completing a documentary set in Iceland.

Bushell said he is thrilled the film will be shown to a greater population, as he thinks it’s an important story for audiences to witness.

“A lot of times people try to tell stories that they haven’t really lived, and this is a story that is Alex’s own experience,” Bushell said. “He’s able to tell it from his own eye and he has an insider approach, and I think this story is a very clear depiction of what it’s like to live with someone who has Down syndrome.”

Film distribution company Indie Rights is running the distribution and marketing of the film for its Hollywood theatrical run and streaming release. Herz said he enjoyed working with Indie Rights, as it typically markets films with subjects that have a somewhat niche audience.

Linda Nelson, CEO and co-founder of Indie Rights, said Herz’s well-crafted film has the potential to engage with organizations and foundations dedicated to Down syndrome.

“Having (Down syndrome) be the subtext of the movie is a great way for people to learn,” Nelson said. “There’s still a lot of bias out there and a lot of bullying of kids with Down syndrome. … It’s a serious issue.”

As part of the limited Hollywood release, the film will be reviewed by a Los Angeles Times critic, which Nelson said will “raise the perceived value” of the movie.

Herz said he’s new to the world of distribution, but has been eager to learn about the movie marketing process. His ultimate goal in making the film, he added, was to show that his family dynamic is not out of the ordinary and that his story is one anyone can relate to.

“I originally made the movie to prove to myself that I could make a feature and it’s really awesome that I’ve made something not only that people enjoy but that’s marketable,” Herz said. “I feel really lucky, and I’m really glad that my story and my message is going to get out to a wider audience.”

Twitter: @charwalsh_