By Todd F. Cope
My anticipation increased as we pulled onto the set. The street was blocked off so that only those with the appropriate passes could enter. A large boom truck supported several lights that were directed through the windows of a building. The driver escorted me inside the building and through a room full of electrical and lighting equipment to a group of people. He introduced me to Beth Polson. I had been in contact with Beth for more than a year, but this was the first time we had met. Her warm embrace instantly put me at ease in these foreign surroundings.
After introducing me to the crewmembers working in the area, Beth gave me a headset and directed me to a monitor positioned outside the room where they were shooting. I was introduced to the director and script supervisor and shown where to stand so I could best view the monitor and what was being filmed. I think my heart skipped a beat when I looked up and saw that the camera was directed at Maureen O’Hara. I gazed in awe and listened with wonder as each line of dialog she spoke came to life. Her eyes alone spoke volumes.
When they had finished shooting the scenes with Maureen, she prepared to leave the set for the day. I nervously approached her and introduced myself. Maureen smiled and told me what a pleasure it was to meet me. A pleasure to meet me? Maureen O’Hara said it was a pleasure for her to meet me, a nurse from a small town in Utah. But I could tell she meant it.
My mind was ushered back to an earlier time when I looked upon another amazing woman, but under less favorable circumstances. Several years earlier I was working a night shift at the local hospital when a woman was brought in suffering from cardiac arrest. In spite of the team’s best efforts, nothing could be done for the woman and she died in a cold, impersonal emergency room. As I began the process of cleaning up, something told me I knew this woman. I took a moment to really look at her. My chest felt heavy when I realized that this redhead had been my Junior High School typing teacher. As an ER nurse, I had frequently faced the reality of death and working in a small town often meant dealing with the death of someone I knew. But this time was different. My mind became preoccupied with thoughts of this teacher who had quietly guided me through some difficult teenage years.
As the author of a few published articles, I decided it would be appropriate to write some sort of a tribute to my teacher. From my intended tribute came the beginnings of a novel based on the education I received from this teacher. The message was important, but the time had to be right. After finding myself the victim of corporate downsizing in January 1998, I decided to complete the book. Two chapters grew into ten and “The Shift” was the end result. Because of a desire to make the book available as quickly as possible, I decided to self-publish. “The Shift” was on bookstore shelves by the end of March 1998. Less than a year later, while at a lunch meeting with another author, I was shown a newspaper article about a television-movie produced by Beth Polson. This author suggested that “The Shift” would make a good movie—the kind Beth makes. I sent Beth a copy of my book. In February 1999, Beth optioned the movie rights for “The Shift.” Who could have imagined that just a little over two years after publication, I would find myself as a technical advisor on the set of a television-movie inspired by my book and starring one of Hollywood’s greatest?
Over the next several days I had the opportunity of working closely with Maureen. I noticed that whenever anyone spoke with her, whether it was the executive producer or a member of the crew, Maureen was always kind. She expressed genuine gratitude whenever anyone assisted her in any way. Unlike so many in her profession, Maureen managed to maintain complete professionalism in everything she said and did and there was never a hint of arrogance. The humble elegance and grace of my teacher are fittingly reminiscent in the character portrayed by the embodiment of grace itself. Maureen O’Hara will always hold a special place in my heart.