Short film ‘Dear Larry’ celebrates Lawrence’s interconnectedness, resilience throughout pandemic

photo by: Marc Havener

Tyler Gregory is featured in a still from Marc Havener's short film, "Dear Larry: A Letter To Home."

Completely by chance, local videographer Marc Havener released a short film — a celebration of Lawrence’s resilience and interconnectedness throughout the pandemic — on the city’s birthday.

After the film was released Friday morning, a commenter pointed out the serendipity.

“How perfect,” Havener told the Journal-World that afternoon. “It just shows that sometimes you can’t just plan stuff. It’s just supposed to happen.”

“Dear Larry: A Letter To Home,” is a five-minute film that documents the stories of Lawrence’s beloved restaurants, shops, characters and organizations during the pandemic. It’s set to Woodlock’s song “Forever Ago,” and Havener said it’s important to turn the sound on before watching.

“The song plays such a central role in the film. It’s almost like its own character,” said Havener, who’s the owner of Resonate Pictures, a film and video production agency in Lawrence.

Dear Larry: A Letter to Home

When the pandemic first hit, I began documenting my home town and how it responded. During the following weeks and months, I witnessed our little community stand together and sacrifice for each other while I watched the nation bicker on TV. A short film dedicated to the characters of Lawrence that make this town home.

The film opens with scenes of Lawrence at the beginning of the pandemic: an empty Massachusetts Street, stacked-up chairs inside Alchemy Coffee and signs on store windows promising they’ll be back.

“Don’t go changing / You mean everything to me,” the lyrics begin.

It’s somber. Havener said he felt it was a time period that needed to be documented. As the pandemic continued, and businesses reopened, Havener continued to follow along with his camera. Images of free sack lunch distributions at Ladybird Diner, Global Cafe, Just Food and more fill the screen. School district Superintendent Anthony Lewis waves out of a school bus with a half red, half green mask: the colors of the two local high schools. Workers from local organizations pose in power stances outside their buildings.

In the background, the song goes:

“It’s hard, I know, it don’t feel right when we are apart / But we will grow taller together / I’ll be known by the strength of your heart / For my love for you grows stronger when we are apart.”

Then, in a section Havener calls “the dreamers,” there’s a series of images of community members longing after things that have been taken away: a lone musician sits on a stage, a girl with a towel around her neck stares at the empty public pool, a blue-eyed girl stares at her reflection in a vacant dance studio.

photo by: Marc Havener

A still from Marc Havener’s short film, “Dear Larry: A Letter To Home,” of his daughter, Mae Havener.

Havener’s personal point of view is also incorporated throughout the film. The blue-eyed girl in the ballet dress is his daughter. The boy playing piano is his son. His neighbors are in the film. And his wife, Jenea Havener, produced it.

It was a passion piece, Havener said, noting that it probably took him about 300 hours to put together. The film is “a reminder to focus on the strength that runs through this community” and an opportunity “to focus on what binds us together and celebrate that.”

photo by: Brian Sandefur

Marc Havener

Callahan, a Lawrence advertising agency, helped spread the word about the film and promote it. On Friday morning at 10 a.m., the agency streamed it live on Facebook so that community members could watch it together.

Havener didn’t want to end the film with the images of the “dreamers,” as he felt it was too depressing. So the last image in the film is of the sign above The Bottleneck: “Be kind, be well, we will see you soon.”

“The whole point is to instill hope. Because without hope, we fall back,” Havener said. “We don’t have the perspective that we need to carry us through.”

Happy birthday, Lawrence.


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