Mila, age 15, is a resident of Highlands Ranch. She is a pretty normal high school sophomore–she balances homework with her involvement in choir, French and drama club. She also loves the TV shows Doctor Who and Agents of Shield.
But one thing about Mila causes her to stand out from her peers. She is currently starring in a feature independent film that is playing in movie theaters across Utah, Idaho, and Arizona, and is now coming to the Denver area (AMC Highlands Ranch 24) on Friday, October 9th.
“Once I Was a Beehive” is a coming of age story about Lane, a teen girl who is coping with the loss of her father to cancer. After her mother suddenly remarries a “cheesy Mormon guy,” she is sent to live with her new stepdad’s family while the newlywed couple honeymoons. She ends up going to a summer girls camp with her new step-cousin Phoebe (played by Mila) and the two rely on each other to navigate this strange new world of enthusiastic camp leaders and energetic teenagers.
Hailey Smith, Mila’s mom in real life and in the movie, actually co-wrote the screenplay for “Once I Was a Beehive” with Maclain Nelson, the director of the movie. After completing the script, they raised the money to make the small budget film and then began the process of casting. Although the role of shy, anxiety-ridden Phoebe was partly based on Mila in real life, it didn’t occur to Hailey to have her daughter actually audition for the part until Nelson asked if she would send in a tape. Mila decided to give it a try, even though she had never acted in a film before, and she got the part.
The film was shot in Utah over fifteen days, and although they had to work long hours in extreme temperatures, it was a lot of fun for Hailey and Mila to work together on set every day. The fact that they were playing mother and daughter on screen made it seem like they weren’t acting at all. Mila brought along all of her high school course work and in between takes, she went right back to her homework. She missed two and half weeks of school that semester, but still earned a 4.0.
The movie opened on August 14th in Utah to rave reviews. Local critics praised it across the board, and moviegoers have kept it in theaters there for eight weeks. Although the movie is about a Mormon girls camp, you don’t have to be Mormon to enjoy it. A critic in Phoenix, AZ summed up the movie: “In a word, beautiful.” He loved the positive messages it had for teen girls of bonding together and of helping each other cope with loss and struggles.
Hailey, who is also a producer for the movie, is thrilled that her friends and neighbors finally get to see what they have been working so hard on for the past year. She hopes that Denver residents will come out to Highlands Ranch on October 9th and support this little independent film with a lot of heart, and especially since it is by a local filmmaker. She says, “This is a movie that you can bring your whole family to and I promise you will laugh and cry together!”
AMC Highlands Ranch 24 is located in Highlands Ranch, off I-470 at the Broadway exit, at 103 W. Centennial Blvd. Showtimes for the movie will soon be on the theater’s website at https://www.amctheatres.com/movie-theatres/denver/amc-highlands-ranch-24. Hailey and Mila will be at the theater after the Friday and Saturday evening showings to answer questions. For more information on the movie, please visit http://www.onceiwasabeehive.com.