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Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

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From Vampires: Out for Blood to Abel’s Field.  So, it turns out Anne Rice isn’t the only one who can make the transition from spinning vampire tales to Christian-themed material.  Tore Knos, the producer of Abel’s Field, has made the journey as well. The result is a heartfelt and high-quality faith-based film (reviewed here yesterday) that tells the story a special friendship between two outsiders. Seth McArdle (Samuel Davis) is a high school student who, due to his mother’s death and father’s abandonment, must rear for his young twin sisters while trying to earn enough money to keep the bank from repossessing their house. Abel Adamson (Kevin Sorbo) is the enigmatic school grounds keeper charged with keeping the football field in game-ready condition. As their story unfolds, Seth makes a decision that could alter his future forever while Abel faces the consequences of a decision he made years earlier.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Tore Knos about what exactly brought him to Abel’s Field and where he goes from here.

JWK: How did you come up with the concept for Abel’s Field?

TORE KNOS: The kernel of the idea came from trying to put a biblical narrative into a contemporary setting. I’ve always been really fascinated with the story of Cain and Abel and so I had approached the screenwriter Aron Flasher with the idea of seeing how we could make it work. I really have to give him a lot of credit because took that idea and kind of ran with it. I knew that I really wanted it in a high school setting and he came back to me with a first draft — a lot of which is what you see on the screen.

JWK: What do you hope the audience takes away from the movie?

TK: I think first and foremost I hope our audience is entertained. Really, without that sort of basic guiding principle, everything is really hard to achieve. On top of that, of course, I think we really wanted our audience to feel a sense of hope in this idea of finding hope in unlikely places. 

JWK: You’re a personal friend of Aron Flasher, the writer. How did you two meet?

TK: Aron and I met (during) freshman year of film school at USC. He was in the screenwriting program and I was in the producing program and we hit it off on a personal level and it turns out he can really write. So, that worked out nicely.

JWK: Being personal friends, did that help the creative process — or, in some ways, make it more difficult?

TK: You know it could have been really difficult if we weren’t seeing eye to eye. Fortunately, I felt like we were always on the same page. And the other great thing about knowing each other personally is that filmmaking — as you know — is such a long, difficult journey…He really put a lot of faith in me as a producer…Years went by and he never lost faith and that is something that, I’m sure, is in equal parts professional and personal.

JWK: How long was the journey of getting this movie made?

TK: I was actually (recently) talking to a pastor in Marietta, Georgia who I had met right after I decided to pursue this film and he told me that we met in October 2006, so that would have been…six (or) seven years. (That was) a little longer than I expected it to be.

JWK: It’s probably a good thing that we usually don’t usually realize how difficult or long a project will be before we start it. If we did, we probably wouldn’t start anything.

TK: I love that quote, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

JWK: Looking up your credits on IMDB, I find your transition from horror movies to a faith-based film like this to be interesting. What was it like to switch gears like that?

TK: Now that we have the movie on screen, I couldn’t be happier. The hard part is that the low budget horror genre is an easy sell. It stinks that it’s that way but a faith-based high school film — you know, family drama –you don’t see a lot of those movies out there. As a result, the buyers tend to feel that there isn’t a demand. It’s always a tricky position for me as a producer because you’re then trying to assure people as you’re shopping the project around that…people really do want to see these types of films. It was trickier than I thought it was gonna be. It ultimately took (about) seven years to get…into the marketplace. I think ultimately I’m really happy that I’m making these types of films.

JWK: Do you feel that there’s a resistance to faith-based films in Hollywood — that maybe they don’t get their appeal because they don’t want to get their appeal? After all, there’s plenty of box office evidence that clearly suggests there is a demand.

TK: You know, that’s a really good question. I understand you’ve spent some time in LA too. My personal feeling is that it’s not so much a resistance to faith-based films as it is a lack of awareness of the market. Los Angeles and New York are very, very different than San Antonio, Birmingham or Marietta, Georgia where I grew up. And the appetite for specific types of films are inevitably going to be different but, for some reason, that hasn’t quite translated to LA and New York. I’m not sure why because, you’re right, there is box office evidence.

JWK: You made Abel’s Field in Texas. I think at least one of your previous films (The Keeper) was probably shot in the state as well. Is there a reason for that?

TK: I think, while we had scouted many different states, what really brought us to Texas was the authenticity. The story of Abel’s Field is set in Texas and, as you watch the movie, all the characters — even the minor characters you see on screen — have sort of a really organic Texas quality to them.

JWK: What was it like working with Kevin Sorbo and how did he come aboard?

TK: Kevin is fantastic, just a total pro. I had been a fan of his for some time. I had Abel’s Field and was having lunch with a friend of mine who is Kevin’s agent. He pitched Kevin and we were just about (at) the point in which we were going to start taking the script out. No one else had really read it yet. So, Kevin’s agent read the script, loved it and passed it on to Kevin and I got a call from Kevin within weeks and (he said) “Let’s make this movie.” And, to Kevin’s credit, that was, I would say,  maybe…two years before we started shooting and he stuck with us every step of the way.

JWK: So, he was committed to the film as well.

TK: Very committed to the film. Especially for somebody with his body of work — he’s done maybe 500 or 600 hours of TV (and tons of) movies — for him to see potential in the project, it really meant a lot to me.

JWK: How was Samuel Davis chosen for the part of the struggling teen Kevin’s character befriends.

TK: We got so lucky with Samuel who is just a fantastic actor, a great actor…We were gonna cast out of LA and our casting director, Vicky Boone, who had just come off casting Tree of Life, the Brad Pitt film, said she thought she could cast the character of Seth out of Texas. And, sure enough, when Samuel came into read he blew us away.  He’s a young actor, just finishing school at the University of Texas and, I think, has a huge career ahead of him.

JWK: He reminds me of Patrick Swayze.

TK: That’s interesting because I always say…he reminds me of a young Harrison Ford (in) American Graffiti. He’s kind of got that swagger but, you’re right, I think Swayze’s probably a better comparison.

JWK: What’s next for you? What kind of film would you like to make next?

TK: I’m actively looking for movies for the whole family. I’ve got a couple of scripts in development and it’s sort of surreal to finally have Abel’s Field  in public and in the marketplace as I’ve lived with it for seven years…It’s exciting.

JWK: Anything else you’d like to say?

TK: One of the things I’m most proud of with Abel’s Field is that this is a film for the entire family. That’s a hard thing to pull off…I really feel like Abel’s Field is the type of film that, on a Saturday night, you could bring the whole family around, grab some popcorn and enjoy the movie together. Everybody will take something different out of the film. If I can do that again in my career and keep making family films, I’ll be a very happy producer.

Note: Abel’s Field is widely available at retailers such as Walmart and Target and via digital rental or download on iTunes. You can also buy it online at Amazon or ChristianCinema.com.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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