‘Wake Up Maggie’ by Katie Prentiss

Filmmaker goes from short to feature-length as she takes on frontotemporal dementia in this coming of middle age story
Featured Image: Katie Prentiss with her mom, Maggie Branson, in the late stages of her frontotemporal dementia.
Katie Prentiss with her mom, Maggie Branson, in the late stages of her frontotemporal dementia.

What is Wake Up Maggie and how did it come to be? 

Wake Up Maggie (Sunshine Soul Films) is a coming of middle age movie that will feature frontotemporal dementia (FTD). The film (currently in pre-production) will demonstrate the early-onset nature of FTD and raise awareness of what it’s like to be a caregiver

In 2020, I made my first short film called Front Porches. It tells the story of two neglected female neighbors becoming like family to one another. Everything begins to unravel further when signs of dementia become present in the older neighbor. This film was a passion project that helped raise awareness for dementia and garnered quite a response from our communities. From this experience, I realized I had a calling to make a feature film around this same topic, and thus, Wake Up Maggie was born. 

Who initially inspired you to grapple with dementia? 

My mother, Margaret Katherine Branson, was diagnosed with FTD at the age of 62, but we believe she was exhibiting symptoms for years prior. She moved in with my family and I in the last few years of her life. We lost her in 2016, and that grief changed me. But, I also realized that when we can share the specificity of our particular grief, it can be a comfort. So, I made my first film! And now, I’m inspired to make this feature film. I know it honors mom and I’m calling it my love letter to caregivers. 

How has working on dementia-related art changed you?

I know that there’s a possibility that I could be genetically predisposed to FTD. Grappling with that fact makes me very particular in the work I want to contribute to the world. Wake Up Maggie is probably the most important contribution I will make to our culture. 

How has Wake Up Maggie been received? 

For my work on Front Porches, I was interviewed on podcasts like Remember Me, featured in articles by Willamette Week and AFTD, asked to speak at the AARP/Alzheimer’s convention, and interviewed on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud, an NPR program. Needless to say, the film touched a nerve. I believe this work, specifically in a feature-length film format, has the potential to be seen more broadly and have an even greater impact. 

My dementia film work has also won multiple awards in its festival run, including Best Oregon Short, Best Director, and Best Actress. I’m honored. But I’m honored MOST when someone watches my film and approaches me to say that it made them remember their beloved sister or husband or aunt with tears in their eyes. That is why I am making Waking Up Maggie

This work is dedicated to: My mom: “Maggie” Margaret Katherine Branson

Find more from Katie Prentiss on her website and Instagram and follow along on the production of Wake Up Maggie via Instagram.

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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