The most-watched movie on Netflix right now, “Yes Day,” began with a nudge from Crystal Lake native Ben Everard’s wife, Mary.
Mary Everard elbowed her husband to look at a social media post by actress Jennifer Garner about a “yes day” she had spent with her children.
Everard knew he had a movie.
“Jen Garner doing ‘Yes Day’ as a movie?” he said. “That’s the smartest thing I ever heard.”
A 2002 Crystal Lake South graduate now living in Los Angeles, Everard co-founded Grey Matter Productions with Lawrence Grey. The team has produced several films, including the 2019 Netflix film “The Laundromat” starring Meryl Streep and the 2016 supernatural horror film “Lights Out” starring Maria Bello.
With a relatively small budget of $4.9 million, “Lights Out” – Grey Matter Productions’ first film – went on to gross $148 million.
Grey Matter Productions gained the rights to base its latest film on the children’s book “Yes Day!” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, which is about a day when parents have to do anything their kids ask to do.
Grey crossed paths with Garner while involved with the making of the movies “Juno” and “Dude, Where’s My Car?”
The production company called up her team with the idea for “Yes Day,” and “everybody jumped and said, ‘yes,’” Everard said.
The team did its research, quizzing parents on what they encountered when they offered up yes days to their children.
“More often than not, the ask tends to be about time and focus as opposed to something purely material,” Everard said.
“Of course, they’re going to want some junk food and ice cream for breakfast, but it’s not like they want to jump in a Ferrari and drive to Disneyland. It’s not about the money and the pizzazz of it all. It’s about spending some time together as a family.”
And, yes, he and Mary did their own yes day with their children, 7-year-old Harper, 5-year-old Hudson and 2-year-old Harrison. (The two oldest appear as extras in a house party scene near the end of “Yes Day.”)
As part of that day, the family built a huge Lego set.
“You’re on your hands and knees at table level with your kids, and you kind of realize it’s special to just give undivided attention to your kids,” Everard said.
He and his team worked to make the film “Yes Day” as authentic and heartfelt as they could.
Working with Garner, who has done six or seven of her own yes days with her children, as well as screenwriter Justin Malen and director Miguel Arteta, made the whole process a success, Everard said.
“Jen is almost an expert on yes days, and she was with us every step of the way, developing each draft of the script, working hand in hand with the director,” he said. “It was really just aligning yourself with really great people and trying to be authentic to the underlying idea.
“It has a lot of heart at the core of it, and we wanted to capture that and make it fun.”
Fun also was a goal for Ben and Mary Everard’s side project. The couple co-authored the children’s book “Oh, The Places You’ve Been,” a tale about a little girl, Harper Glen, and a penny she finds that opens her world.
Numerous publishers turned down the pair before they found success.
“It was sort of a lesson to our kids: ‘Don’t take no for an answer. Just keep going,’” Everard said.
[Tom Lichtenheld is an award-winning children’s book illustrator and author who lives in Batavia, formerly Geneva. For an interview about his work and his longtime collaboration with the late Amy Krouse Rosenthal, check out the Publishers Weekly story at shawurl.com/3ef7. Their last book, which he completed after her death, was released in the fall of 2020, and is titled “Moo-Moo, I Love You!”]