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JUDY MOODY AND THE NOT BUMMER SUMMER

About The Production
In 2000, the world first met Judy Moody, the amusingly mercurial heroine of Megan McDonald's bestselling book series. Since then, the adventurous tyke has inspired eight additional books and the series has sold a phenomenal 14 million copies in 23 languages. Now Judy is poised to make her big screen debut in Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer.

Author McDonald is still pinching herself over seeing her creation come to cinematic life. McDonald began her career as a children's librarian, but transitioned into writing when her fanciful stories became popular with parents and kids. "I wanted to tell some funny stories about growing up with my sisters,” she says. "I am Judy Moody in a way, but she's grown way beyond the initial things that I based her on. She's really taken on her own personality.

"When you first see Judy with her messy hair and her colorful wardrobe, you know this is a creative, imaginative child,” adds McDonald. "She has a lot of ups and downs, like we all do, and the books are about the things that happen every day. You don't always win the spelling bee. You go to the pet contest and something goes wrong when your cat tries to make toast.”

Producer Sarah Siegel-Magness of Smokewood Entertainment first encountered Judy when her daughter brought the books home as required reading for her third grade class. Siegel-Magness was captivated by the series' humorous and imaginative take on life in elementary school and saw the independent character as a positive role model for both girls and boys.

"The books entertained my daughter and me at the same time, which I thought was the perfect mix for a family film,” says Siegel-Magness. "I was a strong, independent kid myself. I never had all the magical things kids have nowadays. Life was about going in the backyard and jumping on the trampoline or playing with other kids. That's what's so fantastic about Judy Moody. She doesn't have magical powers. It is so important to teach children how to have real fun.”

At the time, Siegel-Magness and her partner and husband Gary Magness were in the middle of production on the acclaimed 2009 film Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, which won two Academy Awards® and was nominated for four more, including Best Picture. A children's movie might not have seemed the most obvious choice for their next project, but, says Siegel-Magness, "For me, it's all about the story. I don't gravitate toward any one particular genre. I like a compelling story that makes me laugh and cry and go through a whole range of emotions. I like a story I can feel passionate about telling.”

The producer was won over by Judy's optimism, love of family and ability to learn lessons from her mischievous adventures, and believed those qualities would resonate with film audiences and fit Smokewood's commitment to making films with positive messages. But competition to win the rights to the enormously popular book series was fierce. "It took a lot of patience to get the option,” says Bobbi Sue Luther, executive producer for Smokewood Entertainment. "It was a labor of love for Sarah because she cared so much about this little girl. Sarah is the mother of this movie, and the rest of us all feel like we're the nannies.”

Executive producer Andrew Sugerman agrees. "Sarah was the real force behind getting this movie made,” he says. "She wanted to make sure that what children love about reading these books is what audiences are going to love about seeing this movie.”

Candlewick Press, publisher of the Judy Moody series, was approached by a number of producers, including some with major studio backing, about making the books into a movie. But, like Judy, Siegel-Magness was determined to take home the prize. She had to convince them that Smokewood would translate Judy Moody's unique look, vocabulary and style authentically for the screen. "It was a difficult process because they wanted to make sure that the character was taken care of properly,” she says. "It took a year and a lot of heartache, because I was so passionate about this project.”

Eventually, the producer was able to arrange a meeting with McDonald to discuss her ideas for the film. "Within five minutes of meeting Sarah, I knew she was the one,” says McDonald. "No one else had such passion. She had a strong, clear vision of why she loved these characters and how she wanted the film to come together.”

McDonald was brought on to write the screenplay. Given that it was her first feature script, the author asked the producers to consider bringing on a more experienced co-writer from the worlds of film or television. In fact, she had someone specific in mind: her childhood best friend, Kathy Waugh, who had written for several award-winning children's programs. Siegel-Magness agreed, and together they got to work developing the concept for a new story.

"We drew inspiration from the existing books without repeating actual storylines,” Siegel-Magness says. "We used important pieces of the books to develop the character, where she lives, and who her parents and her friends are.”

The writers decided to take Judy out of the classroom, which figures prominently in the books, and into a summer vacation adventure. Judy challenges her three best friends, Rocky, Amy Namey and Frank Who-Eats-Paste Pearl to a thrill-point race for the most mega-rare, NOT bummer summer ever. But Rocky and Amy are already planning to go away for the summer, and Judy feels left behind with just Frank and her little brother Stink to help her accumulate thrill points.

Many familiar faces from the books appear in the film, joined by an intriguing new character, an adult who matches Judy's imagination and zest for life. "Mom and Dad go away and Judy's Aunt Opal comes to stay,” says McDonald. "We spent a good deal of time developing that character and writing a whole backstory for Aunt Opal. She's very artistic and a little bit outside the box, but not wacky. She sparkles with energy.”

John Schultz is a director with a knack for getting excellent performances from young performers and a history of directing family films that are equally entertaining for children and adults. "He was the first person I wanted to speak with,” says Siegel-Magness. "I love his boyish charm and I knew he was the perfect person for this movie. He's such a great communicator and he really is just a big kid.”

Schultz and Siegel-Magness connected immediately. "It's almost as if we're one brain,” she says. "We always seemed to be on the same path. Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer is a female-driven movie and when John came in, he brought in action where we wouldn't have seen it. That action has made the movie more dynamic and we have John to thank for that.”

Schultz says he wanted the movie to be "funny and bright and exciting. It's a fun blast of summer, but at its heart, it's about Judy coming to the realization that she doesn't need to chart the summer all out like a homework assignment to have the best vacation ever. Judy learns to enjoy what's happening now and live in the moment.”

It took three years for Siegel-Magness to fulfill her dream of bringing Judy Moody to the big screen. "When we set out on this journey, our goal was to make a timeless family film that would resonate with girls, boys, moms and dads in equal measure,” she says. "We tried to make a film that stayed true to fans of the book series, but also make it accessible enough for new fans.

"I hope kids take away that it's not about the thrill points,” adds the producer. "It's about the experiences you have trying to get them. It's not about win

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