By Lora Scripps
Joy Willow might not sound like a typical college student.
At age 53, her children are grown and she said she is suffering from empty nest syndrome.
Joy also has experience in a myriad of careers including home building, real estate, retail clothing, prop design, interior design and antiques.
Joy started back to school at the age of 50. Though it hasn’t always been easy, going back to school is a decision she doesn’t regret. “I regret not having finished the first time, but I feel it is now or never,” she said.
Joy is the first professional and interdisciplinary studies major at the University of North Alabama with a focus on communications and business.
Through her studies, Joy has been working on a capstone project fueled by a screenplay she wrote in 2011. The project, a movie known as “The Orchard Baby,” is a Southern historical romance story that spans from 1960 until 2000. “It’s about two loves, two states, two colors and little boy who learns to live within his abilities,” Joy said.
Joy said she wanted to finish college and the movie while she can still see. “I have a degenerative eye disease that causes blindness,” Joy said. “I have had four cornea transplants.”
She inherited the eye disease from her mother, who is blind.
Life experiences have been an influence on Joy’s movie, “The Orchard Baby.”
The story is woven with characters Joy knows in real life including her mother, 91, her best friend, who is 86, and another friend. “I also have a friend who grew up in the orchards,” Joy said.
“It’s a fictional story based on a few true events,” she said.
The story is about a woman who is born in an orchard and her cynical, hostile son, according to Joy. The theme of the film is redemption and the story covers two generations. “The Orchard Baby” travels the roads of time through the civil rights era and includes love, tragedy and personal triumph.
She said her experience in interior design, antiques and clothing have been essential to the movie.
Scenes from the movie have been filmed across northwest Alabama. A few scenes were filmed in the heart of Athens at the Limestone County Courthouse.
Joy was ecstatic when the group completed the movie’s wedding scene last weekend in Muscle Shoals. “Look what we did,” she said. “Despite our ailments, hunger, time restraints and at times, lack of participants — with our faith we produced one of the prettiest wedding scenes ever.”
The soundtrack for the film features local musicians as well as international musicians from Ireland and England.
Joy said the movie includes a number of “beautiful faces” and volunteers who have worked relentless hours helping with the project including an autistic actor that Joy said has been a pleasure to work with.
“The Orchard Baby” will be released in spring 2014.
“I have never been one to allow my lack of vision or my lack of money to stop me from working hard,” Joy said. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me — And it was so.”