2013-09-13 / Community

Local production company focuses camera on burn victims

By Gabrielle Moreira

A production company from Simi Valley is the force behind a short film that will focus on the challenges faced by burn victims and their families.

The 25-minute movie, “See Me,” will be filmed in Simi Valley, West Hills and Universal City from Oct. 12 through 15.

Debbie Vaughn, 56, and her twin sister, Donna Eames, are in charge of the film through their Simi Valley-based company, Double Trouble Productions. The pair originally intended to make a film depicting the problems of bullying, but director and screenwriter Diane Cornell came up with an idea that resonated even more strongly with the sisters.

“She brought up the situation of burn survivors,” Vaughn said. “She’s had her own personal experience with burns, and when she talked about it, all these memories of my childhood came back.”

Now the twins are creating the film because of their experiences growing up with their childhood best friend, who as an infant had more than 90 percent of her body burned.

When their friend was only 6 months old, her baby carriage caught fire. Vaughn said she and her sister protected their friend from bullies who would point out her disfigurement, and Vaughn learned what it was like to live as a burn victim.

The film depicts a brother and sister who lost their parents in a fire and are being raised by their grandmother. Much of the story is written from the point of view of the siblings.

The teenage boy will be played by Dyllan Christopher, who starred in the 2006 film “Unaccompanied Minors,” and Steffani Brass of the television series “Six Feet Under” will play his sister.

Actress Tina Cole, known for her roles in 1960s television shows “The King Family” and “My Three Sons” will play the grandmother. Cole accepted the part because of her experience with a burn survivor.

Charles Woods, the best friend of Cole’s father-in-law, was injured in a plane explosion in 1944. Woods served in the Army Air Corps and was delivering aviation fuel to a small town in China during World War II. The accident left Woods with severe burns over more than 70 percent of his body.

Cole recalls her first meeting with Woods, saying she was nervous and didn’t know what to expect.

“Within a few minutes of meeting him, his disfigurement disappeared,” Cole said. “His personality had shone through, and when I looked at him I would no longer see the scars.

“That’s why I chose to do this. I hope this film can educate people to be more open and accepting.”

Vaughn said she is working with burn survivor groups, such as the Burn Foundation in Burbank, to endorse the film. Members of the Burn Foundation will visit the set Oct. 13 to meet the actors and share their stories. Red’s BBQ & Grillery, at 3090 Cochran St., a sponsor for the film and will provide food for the group’s visit.

There are 1 million burn injuries annually in the United States. Of those, about 45,000 victims need hospitalization, but only 150 burn units nationwide specialize in treating those patients.

The American Burn Association estimates about one-third of burn injuries are to children.

“When I spoke to foundation members, they said teens who are burned suffer the most,” Vaughn said. “It makes them feel different and self-conscious. The kids are bullied because of their disfigurement. I want this film to help people understand how hard it can be.”

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