by SARAH NACHIN
HERNANDO SUN WRITER
Hollywood, complete with red carpet and press coverage, came to downtown St. Petersburg on Friday, Dec. 7, 2018 with the world premiere of Bernie the Dolphin. Co-scripted by Spring Hill teacher and screenwriter Terri Emerson, the film tells the story of two children who save a beloved dolphin and his pod, along with an environmentally-sensitive cove from an unscrupulous real estate developer. Although the movie’s setting is St. Augustine, near Marineland Dolphin Adventure, the film was shot primarily in Pinellas County.
Emerson was approached by Tony Armer and Marty Poole, the producers, who sent her the treatment and asked if she could write the script.
“I immediately said, ‘Yes,’ ” Emerson explains, excitedly.
“It took approximately two months to write the script. It started with Tony and Marty’s treatment. Then, we all worked together to flesh out the story,” she continues.
A treatment is a piece of prose, typically the step between scene cards (index cards) and the first draft of a screenplay for a motion picture, television program, or radio play.
The three would collaborate on ideas and changes that needed to be made. After that, Emerson did several edits and sent the script to her collaborators who also made changes and added to the screenplay.
The next step was casting the film. The producers auditioned seasoned actors, as well as newcomers. They tapped Lola Sultan to play one of the leading roles, Holly Ryan, a young girl who is smart, sensitive and an animal lover who seemingly communicates with dolphins. The ten-year-old Californian has been acting and modeling since she was six years old. She has acted in seven feature films alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest stars including James Franco, Selena Gomez and Robert Duvall.
Fourteen-year-old Logan Allen from Kissimmee, Florida plays Holly’s brother, Kevin. In the movie he is a budding filmmaker and environmental crusader. In real life, Logan aspires to continue with his acting career and possibly become a director one day. Bernie the Dolphin is his first feature film, but he has appeared in several commercials, TV shows, and short films.
Playing the children’s parents are Patrick Muldoon and Dahlia Lagault. Early in his career, Muldoon played in the TV series Who’s the Boss and the daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives. Canadian-born Legault is best known for her work on AMC’s The Walking Dead.
Rounding out the main characters are Winston Mills (the nefarious real estate developer) played by Kevin Sorbo and Sidney Simms (the Marineland employee and childrens’ ally), played by Lily Cardone.
The film was directed by Kirk Harris, founder of the indie production/distribution company Rogue Arts LLC. The company has produced eight feature films and handled the distribution of nearly fifty films. Harris has also acted in several Indie films.
It was through the efforts of Tony Armer, the Film Commissioner for Pinellas County, that the production of Bernie the Dolphin was brought to this area. The majority of the filming took place at Ft. Desoto Park. The rest of the movie was filmed in and around Marineland Dolphin Adventure in St. Augustine. Production and post-production took a year.
Terri Emerson is a full time second grade teacher in Pasco County, a mother of three grown children and a grandmother to four-year-old Aleksandr, daughter Summer’s son. Her entire family, including her mother who passed away at the beginning of 2018, have been very supportive of her screenwriting. She has successfully juggled her teaching career and her literary vocation.
“Fortunately, I have summers off and I was able to write Bernie the Dolphin during summer break. When I work on other scripts I write after work and over the weekend. I write every day,” Emerson remarks.
The prestigious entertainment company Lionsgate is distributing Bernie the Dolphin worldwide.
For more information on Terri Emerson go to her personal Facebook page: Terri Lynn Emerson and her professional page: The Movie Script Chick.
For more information on Bernie the Dolphin – screening locations and a look behind the scenes go to https://www.berniethedolphinfilm.com/.
You can also see full biographies of cast members and crew at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7549618/fullcredits