Guts, Faith, and Finding ‘The Ultimate Life’

“We can’t be naive that we think Hollywood is now doing more Christian movies. No, Hollywood is doing more movies that sell tickets. At the same time, if we support it, they will keep doing it.” -Rick Eldridge

Ask people on the film set of “The Ultimate Life” how they look to bring God into Hollywood? They will explain that it’s writing an inspirational story that is undergirded in faith and excellence.

"I think we need to be very, very careful [and] to do things with excellence. I want to make sure that the stories that are told are told with excellence, so they reach a broader based audience,” said executive producer Rick Eldridge, who owns Reel Works studios in Charlotte, N.C.

Derived from Jim Stovall’s successful novels, the film is the prequel and sequel to “The Ultimate Gift”. Jason Stevens (Logan Bartholomew) receives an inheritance from his grandfather Red Stevens and is running a multi-million dollar foundation. Jason finds himself in a court battle with his dysfunctional family demanding money. He receives Red’s journal to discover the taste of poverty, hard work, and how being a workaholic can destroy relationships. Bill Cobbs, Peter Fonda and Drew Waters join the cast with Lee Meriwether.

Michael Landon Jr. directing one of his actors (brown coat)

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In Winston-Salem North Carolina, the winds picked up and a chill runs down your back on a cattle farm roughly about 10 minutes from downtown where director Michael Landon Jr. is filming. A summer scene was set in 36-degree weather, where actors appeared to be building fences in the Texas heat. To make it look like they were under a hot Texas sun sweating, water was sprayed on their shirts for authenticity. Waters, who plays Red (ages 34-43), was brushed with a mixture of food-dye and laundry detergent. Melted chocolate (I heard) was used to darken his face for the “striking oil” scene the following day. He said tree-tea oil did the trick for removal, by the way. Extras wore straw hats, worn-out jeans, and their faces where muddied with dirt.

With props, costumes, and makeup, masking reality, the underline theme is to not solely whisk people away in Red or Jason Stevens’ life, but offer movie goers a plot with substance. Eldridge said he doesn’t make Christian movies; he makes movies from a Christian point of view.

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