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Alumna raises funds to film on campus

Amanda Gray | Friday, September 23, 2011

Nearly 20 years after the Notre Dame women’s swim team bus accident, University of Notre Dame officials approved filming on campus for a movie commemorating the event.

The film, “Two Miles From Home,” is a way for survivor Haley Scott DeMaria to reflect on the event.

“The one thing that jumps out at me is how young we were, and how long the rest of our lives are,” she said. “I now have lived with this [accident] longer than I didn’t.”

The accident, which occurred Jan. 24, 1992, took the lives of two of DeMaria’s teammates and left her severely injured.

Despite having been told she would never walk again, DeMaria regained some sensations in her legs one week after the event and was able to walk with the help of a cane one month later.

She returned to Notre Dame in the spring of 1992, began swimming again with some difficulty and eventually won a 50-meter heat Oct. 29, 1993, a University press release stated.

In February, the University gave permission to the producers to film the motion picture.

DeMaria said the project, based on her 2008 book, “What Though The Odds: Haley Scott’s Journey of Faith and Triumph,” will still happen, but she is unsure when.

“I’m now working on key pieces of information that investors and studios would need if they decide to partner with us,” she said. “The timeline is up in the air … That is the nature of the movie industry. It could happen within the year, or it could be three years.”

DeMaria said the original plan was to fund the movie independently.

“Now, I’ve learned that it’s not that easy to raise the money,” she said.

This past summer, DeMaria took a more active role in putting together a funding plan for the film.

“This is such a personal story,” she said. “If I can’t do it right and with integrity, I wouldn’t do it.”

DeMaria worked with screenwriter Dan Waterhouse to get the project translated from book to screen.

“He’s a great fit because he understands the University,” DeMaria said.

Waterhouse, who is also the film’s director, said he hopes this story will teach viewers how to live life.

“The big word for me is ‘perseverance,'” he said. “[DeMaria] had everything going against her. She lost her friends, her swimming. It teaches you to not look at things the way they immediately appear, but to look ahead to what they can be.”

The film should mean the most to Notre Dame students and alumni, DeMaria said.

“I hope they appreciate the enthusiasm of the community,” she said. “Moments of trial are what make Notre Dame what it is. I saw the memorial masses [for Sept. 11 and football team videographer Declan Sullivan]. I wasn’t able to go to the masses for my teammates. I was able to glimpse something from my own life [while watching these].

“Those are things I didn’t fully appreciate as a student. This should teach you to go back to the fundamentals. Notre Dame is such a wonderful place of faith, healing and community, and it’s like this for every student — whether they know it or not, whether they like it or not.”

The transition from DeMaria’s book to screenplay took almost an entire year, Waterhouse said.

“I knew this was a huge personal story and that the University would be shown in a different light than it’s normally seen,” he said.

The most difficult part was writing dialogue that fit the characters, especially because DeMaria’s book doesn’t have much dialogue.

“I had to create it by knowing how people react to a tragedy,” he said.

Waterhouse used interviews with many members of the Notre Dame family, as well as interviews with the coaches and DeMaria’s family.

“It’s interesting to read dialogue and hear, or not hear, the person’s voice. Dan was good about going back and letting me read scenes,” DeMaria said.

Satisfied with the screenplay, DeMaria said she looks forward to filming, even though the timeline has not yet been established.

“The University will always be involved,” she said. “[University support] will never go away, no matter what else changes.”