Some of Erika McGrath's best decisions started as what she calls a "roll of the dice."
Leaving her tiny hometown of Clyde to pursue a film degree in sprawling New York City was likely the first gamble, McGrath said — a risky, uncertain venture in pursuit of an ambitious dream and fulfilling career.
Now 27, she's returned to the local area to roll the dice one more.
In early August, McGrath and a film crew recorded "Half Life," an independent coming-of-age film set in rural Ohio. It's the first film she's directed. It's currently being edited and is expected to debut in the next few months.
"With an independent film, there aren't any guarantees, all you can do is keep working toward your goal," McGrath said. "Luckily I'm getting the support and affirmation I need along the way to pick up the dice and keep rolling them. I know I'm on the right path for me."
"Half Life" is set during the summer of 1980. It tells the story of Gary, a quiet welder who sets out on a seemingly average day. On his way to a party after work, Gary encounters a series of strangers who alter his plans and cause his life to start breaking open around him.
Ultimately, Gary finds himself unsettled and uncertain about his past and his future, McGrath said.
"We've all come up against a decision that's a turning point in our life," McGrath said. "It's scary, but we know it's brave as well, because we don't know what to expect. This story's bigger than one person but it's told through just one person. Gary is really like all of us."
McGrath is a 2004 Clyde High School graduate. She received a bachelor's degree in film studies and production from Hofstra University in 2008 and began her career working in post-production shortly after.
Though she still resides in New York City, "Half Life" draws much of its inspiration from local roots, McGrath said. As such, she filmed many scenes in downtown Clyde and on rural roads on the outskirts of town. She also named the main character after her father.
McGrath has worked on several other television and film projects, including the NBC television series SMASH and the major motion picture "The Family," also known as "Malavita," which is already in U.S. theaters and is set to hit French theaters Oct. 23.
To McGrath, the small-scale production "Half Life" will always be her most meaningful project.
In addition to being the first film she directed, it is also the product of many generous donations and much local support, McGrath said.
"The people are what make this town and they are what will bring this film to life," McGrath said. "This is a story we can all relate to and I feel so excited to be making it with the support of the community. It could never happen without them."
"Half Life" will ideally premiere at a local theater, such as Paramount Cinema in Fremont.
Dan Stover, one of McGrath's close friends and a classmate at Clyde High School, said he'll be at the debut no matter the time or the place.
Stover, who now lives in Columbus, Ohio, donated funds to support the project in its early stages.
"There's something very special about the area we group up and I don't know if you can really appreciate it as an adolescent until you've already left," Stover said. "You can really feel her level of passion to make this film and it's inspiring, which is why she's garnered so much support. She really wants it to succeed and tell this story."