The short film "Branches" will last just six minutes from beginning to final credits, but writer Rick Hansberry plans to include all of the emotional pull and story-telling of a feature-length film.
"A good story has a beginning, middle and an end. A short film has a beginning, middle and end, but it's a condensed version," he said. "What you can do in six minutes, you can do in 30 minutes or 90 minutes. You're telling a simple story to convey an emotional message."
While Hansberry can't cite just one piece of inspiration for "Branches," he did draw from his experiences of visiting Christmas tree farms with his young children.
"It's always been something that is special to me, and we always take our kids Christmas tree shopping," he said. "You go out, you cut down your own tree, and then you have a cup of hot chocolate and head home. It's a tradition that's been very important to our family. I could stand there the whole day and watch the kids and the families at the tree farm."
The most powerful message from "Branches" may be that while many things in life stay the same, we never know when things will change. Hansberry learned this lesson first-hand when his mother passed away two years ago. He was touched to realize that his friends from childhood were still a part of his life, though they had drifted so far apart.
"When she passed away, my friends came to her funeral even though I hadn't kept touch with them. But they came, for me and my family, and to pay respects to my mom. It made me realize that friendships go beyond a missed month or year of phone calls.
"I made a personal pact to never lose touch with them again. We get together every few months and talk about our families and our lives," he added. "Those bonds are forever there. They're really strong. They overcame those years of absence so quickly."
This experience led him back to "Branches," which was written in 2002. He realized that the script's message would still resonate with audiences nearly a decade later.
"Holiday films should have something more than Christmas trees. I wanted it to mean something," he said. "We are all part of that same core, much as the branches come from that same core. We all shoot off indifferent directions, but we're all held together by that common bond."
Hansberry hopes to have an impact on the people who watch his short film and share this spirit of timeless friendship.
"I hope that they'll pick up the phone and call a friend that they've lost touch with," he said. "There's a certain feeling of history and capturing the memories of years gone by. These friends are a part of who you are today."