The day will come when your lungs will stop filling up with air. The day will come when your heart will no longer pump blood through your veins, and your nervous system will stop firing messages down your spine.
That day came early for Regina Nicholson, better known as Reggie, a 19-year-old woman with icy, soulful eyes and a charmingly dark sense of humor. Her mission was to create a film before the end of her short life, and she pressed on toward her dream until her last moments.
“Farewell to Hollywood,” which showed at DocUtah last week, was directed by Henry Corra and Nicholson herself. The raw, gut-wrenching film examines Nicholson’s life full of osteosarcoma cancer, twisted humor, suffering, endless hospital rooms, explosive turmoil with her parents, gaining independence, loving, and dying. The film walks the audience through the highs and lows of Nicholson’s last two years on earth and displays her vision and talents as a filmmaker.
Henry Corra, a seasoned filmmaker from New York, met Nicholson during a film event and decided to collaborate with her after getting a glimpse into her world.
Corra said: “She pulled me aside and said, ‘You know I’m going to die. Do you have a problem with that? Can you handle that?’And I said, ‘I think I can.’ And she said, ‘Good, then we can work on this movie together.’”
Corra was instantly in awe of Nicholson.
“Reggie said, ‘You know my parents, my church, my friends, everybody I love and adore can’t accept the fact that I am going to die, and I need to make a film with someone who I feel absolutely open with to talk about that fact that I’m dying,’” Corra said. “‘Because otherwise it’s not going to be beautiful; it’s going to be about hiding, and I want to be free.’ At that moment I knew that not only was she an amazing film subject, but she was one of the most elevated human beings I’ve ever met, no matter how old she was.”
Nicholson left her mark on Dixie State University as students watched the film.
KarLee Cox, a sophomore integrated studies major from Brigham City, left the movie with a heavy heart.
“It was really powerful,” Cox said. “It gives you a perspective on life that you wouldn’t otherwise have. I think a lot of people don’t realize what people go through when they have cancer. My mom went through cancer, and you really don’t know what they’re going through.”
Phil Tuckett, assistant communication professor and artistic director for DocUtah, said DocUtah exists so DSU students can be touched by films like “Farewell to Hollywood.”
“Documentary films, to me, are a great way to open people’s eyes, especially with life lessons,” Tuckett said. “To me, the film is a beautifully rendered slice of life and (about) the relationship between two people who are in the most dire situation you can find yourself in.”
Tuckett encourages students to see the more documentary films.
“[‘Farewell to Hollywood’] could be the most meaningful movie you’ll see all year in terms of shaping attitudes about the world and how people handle extreme situations,” Tuckett said.
Shaelie Knutson, a senior communication major from Preston, Idaho, viewed the film and reflected on her own life.
“You know, I thought of myself in that situation, and I put my parents in their situation, and it made me feel very grateful for everything that I have,” Knutson said. “I think it’s a huge learning experience, and when you go and watch the movie, you come out with a whole different perspective.”
This earth is no longer home to Nicholson, the woman with a passion for film, sharp wit and a compassionate heart, but her film lives on and engraves itself onto the hearts of those who view it.
“It’s a tough film,” Corra said. “It’s a film that asks a lot, but it gives a lot. We never know what our movies are going to be like until they’re done. Sometimes it takes three years to make them, and you don’t really know what it’s like until you show it to audiences and see it through their eyes.”