Fruita grad's indy film garners acclaim

Real-life mother and son Maggie Baird and Finneas O'Connell appear in the acclaimed movie, "Life Inside Out." Photo special to the Sentinel.

After putting so much time and effort into her recently released feature film, former Fruita resident Maggie Baird is pleased with the reception it has received from both the public and critics.

Baird, who graduated from Fruita Monument High School in 1977 and is the daughter of the late Edie and Bill Baird, hasn't lived in western Colorado for years, but she maintains friendships in the area and wants those in her hometown to know she's doing well in Los Angeles.

Her film, "Life Inside Out," which Baird co-wrote and starred in, was released to DVD and Video On Demand on April 21, having received a 5 Doves rating — the highest — from the Dove Foundation, which rates movies based on family-friendly content and operates independent of the motion picture industry.

"This movie does a wonderful job looking at relationships from the inside out," reads the Dove Foundation's online review, "It clearly demonstrates that outward appearances do not tell the entire story."

Gary Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times in his review of the movie called it "A gentle, poignant drama whose heart and head are in the right place."

"To be completely honest, we were kind of blown away by the response," said Baird, who co-wrote the film with Lori Nasso in about a year and a half. "We had this little story we wanted to tell. When we first screened it, our target audience was moms, but all these men were crying and all these kids were loving it. It was so surprising to us."

Although Baird has lived in Los Angeles for more than two decades, the inspiration for "Life Inside Out" surfaced just five years ago when Baird and her real son Finneas O'Connell, who was 12 at the time, took a songwriting class together.

"Before my eyes, he started writing these amazing songs," Baird said. "He went from a typical moody pre-teen to being 24 hours a day into music."

Consequently, "Life Inside Out" tells the story of a mother Laura (played by Baird) and her struggling youngest teenage son Shane (played by O'Connell). Once a songwriter and singer, Laura picks up her guitar after years and returns to an open-mike night and Shane tags along, as mother and son realize they have more in common than they thought.

The opportunity to work with her son on-screen in a movie about their shared experiences was "amazing," Baird said.

"The movie is two stories: how do we find our creative outlet amidst our daily responsibilities and then how does that affect our children, and how do we help our children find what they love," Baird said.

O'Connell has made guest appearances on "Glee" and "Modern Family."

"Life Inside Out" wasn't shown in Grand Junction during its limited theatrical release in 2014, but Baird said she has a friend looking into the possibility of bringing it to western Colorado in the future.

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