Congratulations to alumnus Joseph Ruggieri (MFA ’04) and his production company, Red Love Film, whose newest feature film, Joy, is now released through and other retailers like Best Buy and Barnes & Noble.  Joseph wrote to us recently, sharing the success his film is achieving.  Read on!

What can the perfect cake teach us about love and loss? Have you ever passed someone at the grocery store and wondered what is going on in their life? What can a 1997 Michigan Pinot Grigio teach us about the unexpected death of a loved one? What’s on your grocery list?

These questions and more are asked in Joy. When the death of their father doesn’t bring sisters closer together, it takes an unexpected journey to make them realize the importance of finding joy in life by living each day to the fullest. In this feature comedy, these sisters learn about love, loss, and redemption while on a trip to quite possibly the most magical grocery store.  Joy is the latest completed film from Red Love Film.   It’s a slice of life film mixed with a dose of the mystical – reminiscent of I <3 Huckabees, What the [Bleep] Do we Know!? and Peaceful Warrior ITN will be taking the film to MIPCOM and AFM for international distribution.

Joy is a magical reinterpretation of a true story.  After her sister and father passed away, both unexpectedly, actress Julie Marie Hassett conceived the script.  In awe of her family’s journey through grief and healing, she decided to make a film that would be a perfect explanation to fix grief, erase the fear of unknown, and heal.  Instead of finding those answers, she created a celebratory film that has been called by cast and crew, “the little film that could.”   It is our story of finding joy, told with bravery and humility, some great music, and a lot of joy.

Hassett began co-producing the film with her sister Elizabeth Joy, an MBA student at Xavier University, after their father passed away.  The goal for Julie, Liz and Red Love was to combine profitable feature film-making with support to the non-profit and philanthropic world.

No one knew how literal and personally this goal would be realized. When they were nearing completion of pre-production, Elizabeth and her twins passed away after 17 weeks of pregnancy.  Devastated, the film almost came to a complete halt, put on a shelf and left to move on to other projects. But encouraged by friends and family to finish the film for Liz, Julie decided to finish this for her and their family. Julie started the Foundation of Joy, a 501(c)(3) charity in honor of Elizabeth. Foundation of Joy produces and creates art in the effort to educate, increase awareness, and raise money for the health, wellness, education and artistic development of children and women’s reproductive healthcare and human rights.  We partner with nonprofits domestically and globally and we are dedicated in our participation in the UN Millennium Development Goals.

The film did happen, and Liz posthumously became a producer on her first feature,  because of the generosity of the cast, crew, vendors, locations and the community at large who donated their time, energy and love to the film.  Actors who flew in from Los Angeles at a fraction of their rate, crew that came in from Chicago and New York on buses, or drove on their own dollar are just some of the many incredible efforts put forth to see this film made.

Our website is being built around our message of “Spread the Joy,” with a cookbook of cast and crew recipes that can be downloaded to “cook for your family,” postcards to write to friends and relatives – encouraging them to do selfless works on behalf of other people. It’s a social movement – philanthropic in nature – not unlike the “Pay it Forward” idea.  There are also links that can be copied into Facebook. After just a few weeks of being online the Facebook Spread the Joy Cause is already a few hundred members strong.

The publicity for this film up to now has been very positive.  During production, the cast and crew were interviewed several times by local ABC affiliates, Julie was interviewed by Backstage West, and Filmstew and Yahoo news covered the project.

I may be a bit biased, but I’ve seen how this film, and the process of making it has already touched so many people, I have to believe it’s a story worth telling and an effort worth supporting.

Joseph Ruggieri