Tragedy Inspires Change

Jul 9, 2019

Bobby Lewis

In star-studded Hollywood, Bobby Lewis hustled but had success. After being there about three years, tragedy hit his family. His mom, dad and younger sister were killed in a car accident.

Bobby Lewis, assistant professor in the department of media, journalism and film at Missouri State University, shares how this experience brought about magnificent change.

"In that moment, the stars were sort of removed from my eyes. The things that I valued in filmmaking and pop culture, they just went away. None of that seemed to hold up anymore, and I wanted to embrace the things that my Dad had sort of just lived his life by example," Lewis said.

He made a choice to pick up and move away from the industry. He wanted to explore his connection with teaching – something he had always enjoyed and something that connected him with his father.

As a filmmaker, he produces observational documentaries. In this genre, there's no preconception or script: it's a journey of discovery, he says. And he realized that he didn't have to be part of the Hollywood community in order to make the type of work that he was interested in. So, he's telling a story about his family.

"It's one of the films that, it has all the ingredients to do something big, because there's this terrible accident, and my niece was in the car," he said. "She survived the accident. It has a lot of qualities, of course, from a storytelling point of view, to do something that you could take advantage of those moments. And I'm not really sure how the accident's going to play out in the film. So, really, it's taken me a while to just come to terms with the fact that I've felt like I could really do it justice."

In addition to the treasure trove of archived footage and photos, he also has his mom and dad's shared cell phone. On it, his mother had documented her final trip to Hawaii to visit one of her daughters, just weeks before the accident.

"She took this phone to Hawaii on her trip, and she documented everything," he said. "She did it for me. She did it for my sister, Jenny, and my sister Carolyn, who passed away, so that we could basically go on this trip with her."

His sister has coordinated a marathon in the family's honor, which will be held July 14th, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Lewis will visit for this race, using their phone as a roadmap, and to capture more footage for the documentary.