MWAC Co-Writer–Ronni Romero

By L. Tanner Smith (director/co-writer/producer)

I want to dedicate a blog post to my co-writer for Millennial With a Cane: Ronni Romero. 

Ronni Romero

Ronni and I went to the same film-school—the digital-film/mass-communication program at the University of Central Arkansas (located in Conway, AR). We worked together on numerous projects on campus, she was one of the main focuses of my feature-length documentary “Unscripted” about the UCA film program, and after we graduated, we collaborated on three different short films (one of which she directed), all of which were made for the Little Rock 48-Hour Film Project. 

After I wrote the first draft for MWAC, I sent it out to some creative folks I knew would give insights and constructive criticism. (They’ll be credited as “Consultants.”) Ronni was one of them.

A couple early drafts in, I realized that while I was confident enough in the story, characters, and dialogue for MWAC, something was missing. I needed a co-writer—someone who could give this script the special “something” (or as I call it, “spice”) that it needed. It didn’t take me very long to realize it should be Ronni, based on our experiences in filmmaking together. So, I messaged her one day, practically begging for her help: “Help me make this script better! Like seriously, I trust your input, your insight, your inwhatever.” (How’s THAT for a pitch?) 

Her response: “I want to help darn it!!”

And she followed through. We had frequent Skype discussions (since I’m in Kansas and she’s in Arkansas), going over notes and alterations for the latest drafts of the script. And she’s not afraid to be honest or direct—one time, she asked me to omit a vulgar joke I wrote in the script, because “[I’m] better than that.” That was the exact repeated phrase our film instructor told each of us time and time again: “You’re better than that.” That was enough for me to take it out. 

Now, her interview: 

  1. What speaks to you about this project? I feel like there’s no right/wrong answers. But honestly, it’s really kind of your passion for it that spoke to me more than the script itself—don’t get me wrong, it’s a good script and I like it—and I also feel like I relate to it. I don’t have MS, but a lot of it reads into depression and anxiety, which I can relate to. But really, it was your passion and enthusiasm for the project that made me want to make it the best that it could be. 
  2. Describe your working relationship with me. It’s good. Sometimes, I feel like I’m really bossy and I don’t mean to be. (I hope I’m not!) I feel like you listen to me most of the time. I feel like we work really well together. If I don’t understand something in the script, you are really good to explain it in a way that makes me figure out what you mean, and then I’m able to learn whether or not my notes are relevant. Communicating is really easy between us, because I don’t feel like I have to think about it (except for right now, doing this interview). It’s just like we’re back in school and talking about school projects…just bigger. 
  3. Describe your favorite contribution to MWAC so far. The big puzzle move…and that’s all I’m going to say. (She’s referring to a major story alteration she suggested that actually worked wonders for the latest draft. To go into it would be giving away a big spoiler in the story.)
  4. Who do you think MWAC will speak to? Why should they be interested in it? I think everybody with some sort of hidden disability (again, depression and anxiety)—it’s not something you can see that you have. It’s something that speaks to a lot of people. And just like with MS, depression and anxiety have flareups—they can be good for a while and sometimes they can be bad. They can relate to it, and also, others can gain understanding about it through this.

Two of our 48-Hour films are on YouTube: Shoe Polish and Rock Island Line.

Keep up with more MWAC announcements by following us on our blog and on Facebook! Donations are still accepted here on our GoFundMe page!

Casting Announcement–Wayde Bowser, Jackie Jarvis, Drew Smith, and Brent Custer

By L. Tanner Smith (director/co-writer/producer)

Konstantin Stanislavski remarked that “there are no small parts, only small actors.” Dabbs Greer, a bit actor, once said, “Every character actor, in their own little sphere, is the lead.”

Well, anyway, we’re very pleased and happy to announce four other supporting actors taking bit parts in Millennial With a Cane.

Wayde Bowser will play the role of “Bill Stengel,” Delilah’s former cranky boss who doesn’t particularly care for Del’s negative attitude. Bowser is a former co-host of MMA in the Heartland (TV Show covering Mixed Martial Arts in Kansas and Missouri Areas) and a 22 year retired military veteran (Navy, Army) deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wayde Bowser

Jackie Jarvis is “Andrea,” the kind general manager at Del’s old job who sympathizes with Del but is powerless to stop her termination. Jarvis previously appeared in the MWAC vignette What Not to Say to People With MS and was the lead in my no-budget feature film The Cold.

Jackie Jarvis

Drew Smith will be playing “Paul,” Liam’s father who overcompensates for his son’s chronic illness. Smith is a news director/journalism professor at Kansas State University and a former Sports Anchor/Director at WLUK Fox 11.

Drew Smith

And Brent Custer will play the role of “Gus,” Lily’s arrogant, “bro-ish” jerk of a date. (There won’t be a second date.) Custer has appeared in both film and stage works in the Kansas City area. I documented behind-the-scenes for a play he was in during the 2018 KC Fringe Festival. (Link to my documentary here.)

Brent Custer

Boy, am I glad Brent gave me permission to use this headshot!…But, to be fair, I’ll also include the other one he sent:

Brent Custer
  1. What originally drew you to the project?

Wayde: I would like to be a part of productions that are both successful and meaningful. This movie touches on subject matter that is not talked about often. I myself know only a little about MS, and that is likely more than most people. If this movie can raise awareness of MS, then it will definitely be meaningful.

Jackie: We’re BFFs.

Drew: I was interested in the project because of the message of the film and the depiction of the struggle to live and fit in in a society that sometimes makes that hard.  We all have things we struggle with- some are hidden and some are not.

Brent: I saw you post about the film on Facebook. I remember you from the documentary last year and wanted to be part of what you do with your own original material.

2. Why do you want to participate?

Wayde: I want to tackle quality dramatic roles. Movies that focus on real social issues produce excellent dramatic cinema. This project will hopefully help me evolve as an actor, and let me be a part of creating something I will be proud of.

Jackie: Making films with you is fun.

Drew: I wanted to participate because I feel I have a compassion for people, and want to help those who struggle, and being involved in this kind of art is a productive way to help others feel accepted and valued, regardless their circumstances.

Brent: I love acting/movies/theatre and love to get involved whenever I can.

3. Who do you think MWAC will speak to? Why should people be interested in it?

Wayde: Obviously this will speak to those who afflicted with MS. I hope that it will also influence those who interact with them. Give them a different perspective. I believe that unfortunately we all judge people, each and every one of us if we want to admit it or not. This is not something that can be changed, but information and multiple perspectives can help people judge others a little more fairly.

Jackie: [It will speak to] anyone who’s ever felt misunderstood.

Brent: I think MWAC will speak to anyone trying to make their way through hard times and life challenges. There’s never any shame in asking for help and guidance through unfamiliar territory. I hope this film will speak to anyone who’s ever felt like they don’t belong or feel a lack of community.

Keep up with more MWAC announcements by following us on our blog and on Facebook! Donations are still accepted here on our GoFundMe page!

Casting Announcement–Benjamin Gipson as “Liam Jacobs”

By L. Tanner Smith (director/co-writer/producer)

We’re very happy and excited to announce that Benjamin Gipson will be joining the cast of Millennial With a Cane!

Benjamin Gipson

Benjamin will be playing the role of Liam Jacobs, a budding playwright who becomes one of Delilah’s new best friends. He’s friendly, funny, and highly optimistic. He also has primary-progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), which causes him to use a wheelchair for ambulatory purposes–and not even that gets him down.

How would I simplify this character? In describing him, I would start with, “If Lloyd Dobler from ‘Say Anything’ was in a wheelchair, he’d be Liam Jacobs.”

Ben’s interview:

  1. What first drew you to this project (and/or the role of Liam)?

For me, knowing everything you will be doing, it is inspiring to be asked to help share in the story and lives of people who live with MS and to do it in a way that just faces its realities. The role of Liam is almost as if you wrote about me if I had MS. I couldn’t stop laughing as I was reading the script, because I’m like, “Oh yep, I’d definitely say that/act like that!”

2. Why do you want to participate in this film?

When asked to participate in this film, I spent a lot of time asking myself, “Would I be able to dedicate the time?” But I realized I was asking a selfish question. So instead I started to ask myself, “Do I want to partner in this dream becoming a reality?” And after many meetings with you and praying over things, I knew that this was a dream that I want to help you make into a beautiful reality.

3. Who do you think MWAC will speak to? Why should people be interested in it?

MWAC will speak to everyone; it will be a breath of “YESSS EXACTLY” from those who have MS; it will be a “oh wow, I didn’t know that” from those who don’t; but ultimately it will be a coming together of both sides as they learn to walk (or hobble or roll) life in a more understanding way with the bastard MS.

Keep up with more MWAC announcements by following us on our blog and on Facebook! Donations are still accepted here on our GoFundMe page!

Casting Announcement–Liz Hackworth as “Lily Stevens”

By L. Tanner Smith (director/co-writer/producer)

We’re very happy and excited to announce that Liz Hackworth will be joining the cast of Millennial With a Cane!

Liz Hackworth

Liz will be playing the pivotal role of Lily Stevens–Delilah’s tall, conservative best friend who still lives with her middle-class suburban parents. Lily has an uneasy outlook on Del’s illness, which only surfaces as Del’s symptoms get worse. This character goes through one of the most important arcs of the story.

Liz’s interview:

1) What drew you to this project (and/or the role of Lily)? I was drawn to the role of Lily by her diverse, sometimes borderline irresponsible, displays of emotion and her being at the point in life where she’s forging her own way – she’s finding out whether and where she wants to separate from formerly defining relationships, make her own choices/decide some things for herself, and forge her own path; I feel at a very similar stage in my life, and I’m looking forward to letting those similarities inform my connection with this character.

2) Why do you want to participate in this project? I love when I have the opportunity to help make art with a message.  The story of this film and even some of the dialogue have been born out of a lot of Tanner’s personal life experiences as a person who has MS, and I’m honored to help give voice and substance to this story he’s ready to tell.  One of the things I love most about being an actor is helping people tell their stories.

3) Who do you think Millennial With a Cane will speak to? Why should people be interested in it? I hope Millennial With A Cane will speak to everyone in some way or another. I hope it fosters understanding of MS, gives hope to those facing hardships, and lends credence to the value of exercising receiving kindness and forgiveness in life.

Keep up with more MWAC announcements by following us on our blog and on Facebook! Donations are still accepted here on our GoFundMe page!

Casting Announcement–Christie Courville as “Blair” and Ashley Moreland as “Lynn”

By L. Tanner Smith (director/co-writer/producer)

We’re very excited to announce that Christie Courville and Ashley Moreland will be joining the cast of Millennial With a Cane!

Christie Courville
Ashley Moreland

Christie and Ashley play Blair and Lynn, MS patients who attend the support group and give helpful advice to the film’s protagonists.

  1. What drew you to this project (and/or your roles)?

Christie: I was drawn to this film, and to the role of Blair, because the story hit close to home. I have had a few friends who have MS. I have also been tested for MS three times while trying to find a diagnosis for my autoimmune issues. 

Ashley: I was drawn to the role of Lynn right away. She is very strong but still vulnerable. I am very honored to get to portray her!

2. Why do you want to participate in this project?

Christie: I want to participate in this project because the story is truthful and touching. I think it brings a lot of awareness to a disease that not many understand.

Ashley: I am very excited to be a part of this very meaningful project! My husband and I have a close friend afflicted with MS so this is an opportunity for me to help spread awareness while learning more about the disease myself.

3. Who do you think MWAC will speak to? Why should people be interested in it?

Christie: I think this film will speak to many. Those who live with MS, family members, and those who may live with many other types of disease and autoimmune issues. People will be interested in it, because it is a story about persistence and strength. 

Ashley: Millennial With a Cane is a window inside of a life lived with MS.  Everyone will get something out of this story, but to me, it especially speaks to those with a loved one or who are themselves afflicted with this disease. There is big heart in this story, and that speaks to just about everyone.

Keep up with more MWAC announcements by following us on our blog and on Facebook! Donations are still accepted here on our GoFundMe page!

Casting Announcement–Jamie Campbell as “Joel”

By L. Tanner Smith (director/co-writer/producer)

We at MWAC are excited to announce that Jamie Campbell will be playing the role of Joel, the helpful leader of the MS support group that our protagonists are a part of.

Jamie Campbell

Campbell is a comedian, actor, improviser and playwright. He is a member of the professional ensemble The Kansas City Improv Company. His film and television work includes numerous commercial campaigns as well as appearances on NBC’s Chicago Fire and Pop TV’s Hollywood Darlings.

And we’re very excited to get to work with him! Here are his answers to the cast questions I sent him.

1) What drew you to this project (and/or the role of Joel)? In addition to my work as an actor, I teach workshops on improv, stand-up and storytelling.  Last year, I toured all over the United States with a workshop called Take the Power Back.  It is a storytelling workshop that helps people share moments of trauma in their lives.  In many ways, it is part workshop and part therapy session.  I found that when people have a safe space to share their stories, a healing process begins and people begin to feel that they’re not alone.  I am really proud of the work I was able to do in helping others, and when I read the description of Joel’s character, I identified with his desire to help others, even though he isn’t going through the things that they’re experiencing.
2) Why do you want to participate in this project? This project really intrigued me.  I don’t know a lot about MS, and I don’t think that a lot of our population does, either. I am looking forward to being part of something that helps to educate others and gives a voice to an underrepresented group of people.
3) Who do you think Millennial With a Cane will speak to? Why should people be interested in it?
I think that Millennial With a Cane will speak to anyone who has ever felt misunderstood or frustrated with what life has thrown their way.  It’s a film about a young person dealing with MS, but it’s more than that. It is a story of hope in the midst of that frustration.  It is a story that teaches us to stop assuming we know what someone is going through, and just listen.  

Keep up with more MWAC announcements by following us on our blog and on Facebook! Donations are still accepted here on our GoFundMe page!

Casting Announcement–McKenzie Stell as “Meadow Keaton”

By L. Tanner Smith (director/co-writer/producer)

We’re so close to having our official cast rounded up for “Millennial With a Cane,” which will commence production July 2020!

For this blog, I’ll be sharing individual cast/crew announcements, complete with questions and answers for these talented people that we’re very excited to work with. I’d like to start with the announcement of one of the key players of the cast: McKenzie Stell.

McKenzie Stell

McKenzie has accepted the role of “Meadow Keaton” in “Millennial With a Cane.” The character description: mid-20s, hospital pharmacist, perky and energetic but also wise and motherly. Meadow has no hair due to alopecia aerata, but not for a moment does that bother her. KEY SUPPORTING ROLE

McKenzie previously acted in one of the “MWAC” vignettes: “Barista.”

I asked her questions about her involvement in the project (particularly, why she decided to take part in “MWAC”). Here’s what she came up with:

  1. What drew you to this project (and/or the role of Meadow)?

First of all, you and I have been making movies for a long time, and I like our dynamic together. So when you told me you were doing this, I decided to get involved. What drew me to Meadow was her heart and the way that she cares for the people around her. 

2. Why do you want to participate in this project?

I want to participate because I feel like it’s relevant, and because I feel like this is an important story and viable to a lot of people because not a lot of people discuss chronic illness. People who have it will understand and people who don’t have it can have an idea of what something like MS is, and this could help to define at least one version of it. I feel it’s important because it gives people a voice who can’t necessarily put a voice to MS. 

McKenzie with the “Barista” crew.

3. Describe your experience in making “Barista.”

Definitely fun, for sure! But also, I appreciated the gravity of the situation. Daniel Lee Harris (co-star in “Barista”) is a star in every since of the word and it was great to work with him. I feel like you brought gravity to his character and the situation, and Daniel really brought out the seriousness of it. For me being a part of that really helped get in the mood for what we are trying to do. 

4. Do YOU think your waitress character in “Barista” is the same as Meadow Keaton?

I think it’s part of her, honestly—a small portion. It could be, but at the same time, her capacity in the film is very much on a “Friend” level, and so, while her attitude and mental state is very much in the surface portion of friendship, she wants to help them, she’s very loyal to them—I think it definitely shows one aspect of her. So, yes, I would say so. 

5. Who do you think “Millennial With a Cane” will speak to? Why should people be interested in it?

I think “MWAC” will speak to a wide variety of people—I don’t think it’s just going to be for people with MS. It’s for everyone who’s struggling with something, whether it’s physical or emotional. It not only touches upon MS but also emotions of people who have it or know someone who does or is struggling with something. And I think people should be interested in it because we don’t all really comprehend MS and I know it’s different for a lot of people—but I think the things that the characters experience lend themselves to a wider variety. We have the caregiver aspect, friend aspect, outsider aspect, and whatnot, so I think it’ll speak to everybody and they’ll be interested because it’s everybody’s story. It’s not just one person’s story. 

6. Because your character is bald, you’ll have to have all of your hair completely removed from your head. You sure you’re OK with that?

OMG yes! It’s just hair! And plus, I get to wear a cool wig!

We are very pleased to announce her as part of the cast and even more excited to work with her!

Keep up with more MWAC announcements by following us on our blog and on Facebook! Donations are still accepted here on our GoFundMe page!


In this new special holiday vignette, we have somewhat of a sequel to Love is Tricky. What gives this holiday worker (L. Tanner Smith) joy after working on Christmas Day? Spending time with his love (Kelly Woodruff) afterwards.

Directed and edited by L. Tanner Smith. Written by and starring L. Tanner Smith and Kelly Woodruff. Music by Matthew Lentz. Special thanks to Grant McHugh, Jacob O’Neill, and Julian Schempf.