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Local filmmaker turns personal nightmare into an artistic feat in ‘The Last Butterflies’

Locations spanned from Oceanside to Kansas and Missouri
Whitney Wegman-Wood wrote and stars in “The Last Butterflies,” which is now making film festival rounds. (“The Last Butterflies” production photo)

The 2023 short film “The Last Butterflies,” written by San Diego’s own Whitney Wegman-Wood, is a passion project born out of a series of dark and frightening moments.

During a stressful and emotionally exhausting week in late 2019, Wegman-Wood experienced several anxiety dreams that served as the foundation of the short film’s story. Each dream represented a piece of the same story, and this bout of insomnia inspired her to write the primary part of the script for “The Last Butterflies” in a single night.

Wegman-Wood revisited the story again in early 2022 and saw her script as a universal story that could emotionally resonate with viewers. Filming took place during the latter part of the year in Kansas, Missouri and Oceanside, and the film has now enjoyed an extensive film festival run.

“The Last Butterflies” had its opening screening at the Arizona Underground Film Festival this past September, followed by successful screenings at the Coronado Film Festival (where the film received a Frances Marion Award for outstanding achievement in screenwriting by a woman) and San Diego Film Week.

Click here for more OsideNewsBesides getting the chance to converse with filmmakers, Wegman-Wood has been able to see firsthand the impact her short film, especially its real-life subject matter, has had on audiences. In “The Last Butterflies,” she envisions a world rife with drought, famine and environmental devastation, with a level of existential panic that draws out uneasy memories of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a near-future apocalypse drama … brought on by ecological disasters, so it’s not far from what could be our reality and I think it just really struck a chord with a lot of people,” Wegman-Wood said. “So the reception has been amazing, like everything I’d hoped it would be.”

In addition to writing and producing “The Last Butterflies,” Wegman-Wood was one of the primary cast members in the 27-minute film. She refers to the film’s production as a “cross-country effort” since the cast and crew were made up of connections she made from her time growing up in Missouri, finishing her undergrad in Kansas City, and living in Atlanta and San Diego.

“For this movie, it was sort of a culmination of all of the people that I’ve befriended over my film career,” Wegman-Wood said.

Despite the heavy subject matter, and inclement weather during the midwest portion of the film’s shoot, production went very smoothly. Wegman-Wood specifically highlighted the work of Executive Producer Sue Vicory and Director Patrick Rea as “gentle mentors” on set who got the best out of the cast and crew.

With the film’s run of screenings far from over, Wegman-Wood has high hopes for the future of “The Last Butterflies” as she would love to see the story expanded into a feature film and get the chance to meet other filmmakers who are interested in creating eco-impact films.

“I hope this story has ripples in the pond for people and that somehow it affects something a little bit bigger. I think that would be a wonderful purpose for this art,” Wegman-Wood said.

Next up for “The Last Butterflies” is a screening at the Borrego Springs Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 12, at 4 p.m. For more information about the film’s upcoming screenings, check out the film’s Instagram page.

Ryan Hardison is a local freelance writer.

Whitney Wegman-Wood and Cooper Andrews in a scene from “The Last Butterflies.” The film is earning awards at film festivals. (“The Last Butterflies” production photo)