‘The Bedmaker’ by Kristen Mack

Screenplay to feature-length film explores the dynamics among siblings and caregivers for their loved one living with dementia
Featured Image: A radiant Donna Fishbaugh.
A radiant Donna Fishbaugh.

What is The Bedmaker and how did it come to be? 

The Bedmaker, from Bunk Bed Pictures, is a feature-length family drama with comedic and somewhat magical elements. This is a script inspired by my experience as a caregiver (alongside my 4 siblings) to my mother, Donna, amid her days living with dementia

Donna raised my siblings and me to be strong, resilient, and independent. She is our pillar of strength. And 15 years ago when she started showing signs of forgetfulness, the path forward seemed unbearable. As many know, caring for a dementia parent can be extremely challenging, but in many regards, rewarding. Patience and love are qualities everyone can express, and with our mom, it was and had to be multiplied. She was sweet, extremely funny, and loving.

I wanted to remember everything I could before she forgot us, so I began writing. One of the things about my mother was that she loved making beds. It kept her feeling sane and useful. Hence, this title of our film. 

The synopsis of the film: After a shocking tragedy forces an adult brother and sister to take care of their dementia-ridden grandmother, they discover that she channels the voices of their deceased parents, giving the siblings a second chance at saying goodbye.

The next step is producing the film with my actor/producer daughter, Kelley, and actor son, Parker. My children and I work together on most of my screenplays, and we make up the principals of our family-run production company, Bunk Bed Pictures.   

By sharing and normalizing the experience of caring for someone with dementia, I hope others under the same circumstances feel less alone and see dementia in a different light. 

How did your work with dementia come about? 

I would have to say I grappled with dementia because there was no choice. It is part of the human experience, now more so than ever. When my mother was diagnosed, I started researching ways to take care of her, as my family and I did not want to send her to a facility. Lord knows I checked out many. Of course, none were good enough in my eyes. 

It was not until the last few months of our mother’s life that we moved her into a home near her sisters, and this place was amazing. Her two sisters actually lived across the street from her. With dementia, my mother always talked about going home, so she did, in essence, get to go “home.” This seemed to be the best next step, as I could not physically move her anymore. The blessing was that she saw her sisters every single day (in addition to me and my siblings) for several months before she ultimately passed.

How has working on dementia-related art changed you?

I love telling stories that uplift humanity, especially in tough times. Screenwriting is my way of continuing the storytelling tradition passed down from my parents and grandparents, and while I have written several fictional scripts, a few of them are very much inspired by or based on my real life.

The Bedmaker is the closest to my personal experience of all my scripts. I never thought a dementia story could be so relevant. But, sharing the human experience from a truthful place can be impactful, and my hope is that this story can help others through their dementia journey. I have already seen the impression this story has made on the circle of family and acquaintances who have read it, and it has encouraged me to share the story on a larger scale through a produced feature film.

How has The Bedmaker been received? 

I recently entered The Bedmaker script into a screenwriting contest on a whim, and it was named a finalist. 

This was the contest’s feedback: “It’s the depth of the characterization that elevates ‘The Bedmaker’. The characters are complex and layered, with Mary’s condition revealing her only in brief, haunting glimpses. Dillon and Kelsey are also really authentic, with the mix of burden and compassion they contend with creating a tension that sustains across the entire read. This helps the resolution land with genuine emotional weight and poignancy.”

Additionally, every family member of mine has read the script and was moved by it. Many of them were caregivers to my mother at one point. I took some creative liberties, for storytelling purposes, but the heart of it is love and compassion, just like we expressed to my sweet mother. We know she’s at peace with her husband, her parents, and all who went before her. We are at peace knowing we took care of her the best we could.

This work is dedicated to: My mother, Donna Fishbaugh. Donna lived an extremely interesting life, until she passed away in the fall of 2023.

Find more from Bunk Bed Pictures on the website, and more from the family via Instagram for Kristen, Kelley, and Parker.

What is a Spotlight?

The Dementia Arts Spotlight promotes visual and performing artists who are grappling with dementia through original work or innovative arts programs. The Spotlight—in a Q&A format where artists describe the details and significance of their work or program—connects each artist to the Dementia Spring community. Find examples of prior Dementia Arts Spotlights here. Know of an artist whose work should be Spotlighted? Send them this link!

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