Waunakee High School alumna Madi Aiello has inspired a motion picture to be released next year. Aiello died from a rare form of leukemia in 2011, during her junior year of high school.
She was 17 at the time of her death.
The film she inspired has been titled “Frosting: A Memory.” Produced by high-school classmate Leah Wasylik, it has given viewers a glimpse into the day Aiello celebrated her final birthday.
“The film takes place at Mattie’s birthday party,” Wasylik said. “And the room is filled with her friends and family, and boy that she’s had a crush on forever. So it goes through the friendship and love of everyone, and the way that everybody there remembers it.”
As one of the people who attended the celebration, the filmmaker said she wanted to revisit that day in particular because of how much it had meant to Aiello and her friends.
To portray her classmate accurately, Wasylik went so far as to cast herself as Madi in the film.
“I went back and forth on who I wanted to cast as her,” Wasylik said. “But since she’s so special to me, I didn’t want to put that pressure on anyone else but myself. And it was an honor to play her. I had a great time getting in the realm of Madi.”
The 25-year-old producer said the project is something she has wanted to do since Aiello’s death, but was only possible after graduating college and making connections in the film industry.
“It’s always been in the back of my head,” Wasylik said, “especially when I moved out to Los Angeles and got to know the film industry and the work of art that film can portray. So I always had this idea…And then last year, I started writing down ideas.”
The screenplay would prove more challenging than expected.
“Starting from scratch can be nerve-racking,” Wasylik said. “I’m primarily an actress, so I’m given the script and the words. But as a writer, it’s a scary thing to look at a blank paper.”
Nevertheless, the filmmaker wanted to share her memory of that day.
“Storytelling is a gift,” Wasylik said. “So I wanted to use that gift to tell an important story – one that’s important to me…And I’m sure someone somewhere else is going through a similar situation. So maybe this film will allow them to feel that, or remember somebody they want to.”
Wasylik said she plans to submit the film to various festivals around the country, and the globe. To raise money for submission fees, she has started a crowdfunding page with a goal of $2,500.
“We want to submit it to as many festivals as we can,” Wasylik said. “And depending on the film festival, the cost of submission can get pretty high. So that’s why we’re asking our friends and family to support us.”
The producer said she hopes the film will serve as a reminder of Aiello, in return.
“Losing a loved one stays with you forever,” Wasylik said. “There’s a saying that time will heal, but it doesn’t mean that you forget…And I hope this brings up a good memory for Waunakee.”
The exact release date of the film has yet to be announced.