Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.
Noteworthy email. So, I opened my inbox one day and found this message:
Well we have completed several phases of our film and wanted to have you look at our website.
Indeed, my clumsy elbow and Judy’s head did cross paths at the Variety Family Entertainment & Faith-Based Media Summit earlier this year in Beverly Hills. After my profuse apology, Judy — a casting agent by day — told me about her passion project, a script she had written called Boonville Redemption. Her script was given Five Doves by The Dove Foundation which declared that it “would make a great movie.” Her script was also awarded with the Best Screenplay honor at the San Pedro International Film Festival.
So, with the hope that our bodily collision may have been more than what the skeptics might call “a cosmic accident,” I recently spoke with Judy and Boonville Redemption director Don Schroeder about the amazing road they’ve traveled so far to get their little movie with a big heart made. They still need help though. So, if any of you powers that be are reading this, feel free to contact them via the contact page on the film’s website.
JWK: What’s Boonville Redemption about?
JUDY BELSHE-TOERNBLOM: The basic core of the film is giving people hope about God‘s grace. We all think we’ve made the final mistake (but) no matter how many mistakes we make…we can still go to God with our problems, with our issues and our fears and His grace is there for us…The story is about a little girl who is trying to find out happened to her dad. She was born out of wedlock in the late 1800’s and that was a big no-no in those days. She discovers that the town has also kept (its) own secrets…The redemption in the film is not just for her. It’s for the whole town.
JWK: How did the story come to you?
JBT: It started with a vacation. My husband and I went up the coast and I never like to come back the same (route). I’m always looking for new things to look at and I discovered this funny name of a town called Boonville. When I looked into it and I discovered that there’s an interesting history about that town and the settlers that came there. They spoke a language (called) “Boontling” that they had created for themselves and their own circle of people there in the Anderson Valley. That began to spur me on with this story. I just loved the whole essence and the wonderful colorful characters. Then, as I began to get into the film more, I realized that there was a message that I wanted to put (out) through this film and that was showing people how practical and how loving God is (and) how Christianity doesn’t have to be just about religious rites. It’s really about a relationship, your personal walk with God. That (idea) infiltrates the story of how these people find their way back to God.
JWK: And, Don, what is it about Judy’s story that led you to decide to come on board and direct it?
DON SCHROEDER: That’s easy. Judy’s script. I’ve worked with Judy for (about) 20 years…We’ve worked together quite a number of times over those years. Last December she called me and asked “How’d you like to direct a feature film?” I said, “Well, okay, can I see the script?” I read it and it was terrific. You really can’t ask for more than the kind of drama that she’s written. It has moments of levity, good humor and a tremendous amount of character development. The characters she’s drawn are really terrific. So, that’s what attracted me to it. Of course, it’s a positive message for Christian audiences.
JWK: Now, Judy, I know that your day job is as a casting director? What sort of projects have you worked on?
JBT: Right now, I’m working on a Disney project. It’s an educational Disney thing. I do a lot of industrials and commercials…I’ve got like 35 years (of experience) and a five-page resume.
JWK: How about you, Don? What are some of your previous projects?
DS: I’ve been a filmmaker for more than 35 years now. I’ve done — I don’t know — probably two or three-hundred films altogether but this is my first feature film. I’ve won all sorts of awards (including) a National Emmy award for documentaries. I make documentaries, informational films and public service announcements, that sort of thing. I’ve been doing that for a long, long time. I’ve been an executive producer of Lutheran Television. I’ve won some Angel Awards. I directed Rhonda Fleming and Robert Mitchum in a TV special.
JWK: What is your goal in terms of this film? Do you hope to release it theatrically, on DVD or on television?
DS: We’re not sure about that. It depends on how it comes out really. We plan to shoot it next June, so it won’t be finished until probably about a year from now …I think it would make a good Hallmark film.
JBT: We’re also still looking for the funding.
JWK: What kind of budget are you looking at?
DS: It looks to be around the $750,000 range.
JWK: So, we’re talking about a TV movie-sized budget.
DS: Yeah, but we’re open to theatrical. Stranger things have happened. I think Fireproof cost $500,000. I think it grossed like $35 million. So, you never know.
JWK: What do you need to get this film made?
JBT: The bottom line is we need the rest of the money. We have a lot of very real characters that will lend themselves to celebrity casting…We’ve got some good parts for that. Basically, like anything, when you boil it all down we need the financing. We plan to do (the crowd-funding site) indiegogo to raise money toward the film…Private investors are the best.
JWK: How much casting have you done already?
DS: We have about seven parts filled. There’s something like 32 parts altogether in the movie. There’s plenty left to do.
JWK: I notice on your website that you’re doing a talent search to fill some of the child roles.
JBT: We are. We put it out there for three of the kids and two very small roles for two adults. The kids parts are so vital and so colorful that we don’t want to limit ourselves to just Los Angeles talent. We want to see who’s out there.
JWK: How can people enter this talent search?
JBT: Basically, they can go the website at BoonvilleRedemption.com and click on the contest link. The form is right there for them to download along with the release and send it to us. They audition on YouTube and then they send us the link and the release to see their stuff. We’re going to then take all of these auditions and we’ll be presenting them to casting directors and producers in the business and they’re going to pick their top ones. Out of their top ones, Don and myself and the producers will pick our kids…It’s really for people that don’t have agents but always thought that maybe they’d want to throw their hat in the ring.
DS: We thought we’d spread the grace around.
JWK: If someone reads this and feels like they have the ability and desire to help you get this film financed and made, how should they contact you?
JBT: There’s actually a contact page with our direct email on the website. We can send them our proposal
JWK: Looking ahead to after you get this movie made, is there a sequel or a TV series? Or is there just, perhaps, another story in your head? What comes next?
JBT: This would be a great TV series. It’s very Andy Griffith meets Little House on the Prairie.
DS: As far as other projects, we thought it would be smart to get this one done first.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11