Film Lays Bare Trauma that Can Change Life

COLUMBIANA, Ohio – For film director Adam Michael and actor Makayla McIntosh, the making of “Shredded” was personal.

The two have gone through life-changing health challenges and the many emotions that accompany them. The characters in “Shredded” are loosely based on Michael and McIntosh and take similar journeys that lead to acceptance and healing.

The film will get its world premiere April 27 at Main Street Theater in Columbiana.

Michael is a cancer survivor, while McIntosh suffered a devastating bicycle accident that ended her career as a professional dancer.

The Youngstown-based Michael wrote the screenplay but collaborated with McIntosh to convey the key moments and themes.

“It’s about trauma, pain, friendship and hope,” Michael says.

The story revolves around the characters Riley and Logan, a young woman and a young man who meet at a surfing camp. Each realizes the other is going through a life-changing ordeal and they eventually open up to each other.

McIntosh plays Riley while Columbus-based actor Anthony Dain plays Logan.

To a degree, McIntosh is playing herself, and Michael is directing an actor who is portraying himself.

“It’s about two people who meet in a surfing class in Rockaway Beach [New York],” Michael says. “Both are running away from their lives. Through conversations over a week’s time, they open up to each other for the first time, and allow the process of healing to begin.”

In real life, Michael kept his health struggle to himself. He never talked about it, and most people who he worked with never knew he was battling cancer.

He says the idea for the film grew from his professional relationship with McIntosh.

The two first worked together in Michael’s 2022 short film “Theater 4” and struck up a friendship. “We saw eye to eye,” Michael says.

It was at that time that McIntosh revealed her story to him. “She was a professional dancer who suffered a horrible injury that took away her ability to dance,” Michael says. “I had breast cancer, and it was traumatic. We both had suffered these traumas that made us look at the world differently.”

McIntosh was the one who suggested making their stories into a film.

Anthony Dain, Makayla McIntosh and Adam Michael pose for a photo on Rockaway Beach, NY, during their film shoot.

“I was hesitant at first,” Michael says. “I never even talked about it.”

After thinking it over, he decided it was a good idea and wrote the screenplay.

Writing it was an intense process for Michael.

“It was tough to write and to edit,” he says. “I’m really proud of it.”

Filming took place last year. The cast and crew spent a week in the spring shooting in Rockaway Beach, where McIntosh has an apartment. Other scenes were shot at various places in the Mahoning Valley, including Nova Coffee in downtown Warren and the medical office of Boardman pediatrician Dr. John Cox.

The film, which has a running time of 1:47, has elicited positive responses from test audiences, Michael says. It runs the gamut of emotions.

“There is anger and arguments,” Michael says. “She’s bitter. He hides everything behind humor but on the inside is very scared and angry.”

In addition to McIntosh and Dain, three supporting actors from New York are in the film: Danielle Braund, Cat Yudain and Jacque Horton II.

Michael not only directs but is the  cinematographer. First assistant director is Susanne McDonald, and second assistant director is Faith Boardman.

McIntosh – who is a Newton Falls native – says much of the Riley character is based on her life, but not everything.

Changes were made to make the character less like her but more relatable to a general audience. The overarching goal was to communicate the film’s critical moments in the most effective way while adhering to the film’s budget.

Still, McIntosh found playing the role to be insightful.

“It’s been six-plus years since the accident, so I’m not really playing myself,” she says. “It’s a past version of myself. It’s not where I am at now. It is Deja vu-ish in a way. It was interesting to see how much I had changed.”

Art can be an outlet for resolving trauma, and McIntosh says making the film was cathartic.

In real life, McIntosh never took a surfing class where she met a kindred spirit. But she had been a surfer before the accident and used the activity to help in her recovery.

McIntosh’s accident occurred while her career was taking off. She was living in New York City and was in the process of auditioning for a role in the Broadway production of the smash hit “The Phantom of the Opera” when it happened.

She vividly remembers the moment.

“I was at the peak of my career,” she says. “I was going to a callback [for a role in ‘Phantom’] and that happened. It was so devastating. I had worked my whole life for that moment. I was thinking in the ambulance, ‘There has to be a reason this happened… this can’t be the end.’”

Dancing had always been at the center of McIntosh’s life, but she realized that she was also a storyteller.

“That was the through-line for everything I did,” she says. So she overcame the setback by transitioning into acting.

McIntosh hopes the film helps others get through tough times.

When she was going through the worst of her ordeal, she shared her feelings on social media and made connections with people who were also struggling.

“So many people have said to me they are also going through a life change and don’t know how to move on, or find meaning,” she says. “With this film, we want people to know they are not alone.”

Michael’s new movie is the latest in a flurry of releases by Valley-based filmmakers in the past year.

The filmmakers are a loose-knit group who frequently work together on each other’s projects and have their premieres at Main Street Theater.

Michael, for example, was the first assistant director on “Gemini,” a film by Columbiana’s Nicole Ice that premiered in February. The list of films also includes “The Abiding Nail” by William Victor Schotten and “Angel Mine” by Josh Menning, both released last year.

Another constant is the group’s dedication to making quality films that focus on personal relationships.

“We talk to each other a lot and work on scripts together,” Michael says. “We are building a film community.”

The community, he says, is eager to be part of the movement, and likes to lend its help.

“When we say we are making a film, [property owners] offer locations to us [for filming] because they want to be part of it,” Michael says. “People want this to happen. They are so excited.”

The world premiere of “Shredded” will start at 6 p.m. April 27 at Main Street Theater. For tickets, go to

Pictured at top: Adam Michael, left, directs actors Anthony Dain and Makayla McIntosh on the set of “Shredded.”