Faith, Media & Culture

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

The heart of Hope. Last weekend, in a David vs. Goliath move, Roadside Attractions, Stealth Tiger Entertainment and Godspeed Pictures released the inspiring stereotype-shattering independent film Where Hope Grows (written and directed by Chris Dowling) in just 276 locations. Despite competition from studio-backed films like Pitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road the film, which I liked, and its limited release the film pulled in a solid 3-day weekend box office total of about $490,000. Not spectacular, but respectable. 

Meanwhile, the film’s Facebook page continues to light up with audience endorsements. No doubt, if you count hearts touched rather than merely box office dollars, Hope comes out ahead. A big reason for that is David DeSanctis whose performance as Produce, the young grocery store employee  with Down syndrome who befriends struggling alcoholic/single father Calvin Campbell (Kristopher Poloha). I recently had the opportunity to speak with David and his parents (Bill DeSanctis and Julie Wallace) as they visited New York to promote the film which enters its second weekend of release tonight (5/22). I think you’ll agree, that David, who has Down syndrome himself, is an impressive guy.  His parents are too.

JWK: Tell me your story. How’d you come to be in this movie?

DAVID DESANCTIS: They (held) an audition for the movie and somehow I beat out 30 other people for the role of Produce. They (said) they wanted somebody with the personality to promote the movie with the media.

JWK: Did you always want to be an actor?

DD:  Yes, I always dreamt of being an actor since I was eleven.

JWK: How old are you now?

DD:  I’m 22. I’m going to be 23 on the first of July.

JWK: Well, I’ve seen the film and you are a good actor.

DD:  Thank you. I had been in a broadcasting show back in high school. I did my own cooking show every month. I made hamburgers, pizza…and a triple-layer chocolate cake.

JWK (to David): Do you have any brothers and sisters?

DD:  I have three sisters (and) one half brother who is my godfather. He is married and has three kids — one boy, two girls. One of them is hitting 10 on the second of July.

JWK: Where do fit in the family group — from oldest to youngest?

DD:  I’m the youngest in the immediate family but I’m an uncle three times to my brother’s kids.

JWK: What was the audition for Where Hope Grows like?

DD:  At first I was nervous but then, after that, it improved a lot. It became magical.

JWK: Who did you audition with?

DD:  Actually, I auditioned on my own.

JWK: How long did the process take?

DD:  I did three DVDs (and) like six auditions.

JWK: How long were you filming the movie?

DD:  24 days.

JWK: Was it fun?

DD:  It was an amazing time.

JWK: What was the thing that surprised you most about making a movie?

DD:  Well, I’ve learned a lot of new things — besides the things that I already knew (from) my broadcasting class in high school.

JWK: Did you get along well with the writer and director, Chris Dowling?

DD:  Yes, I did. Chris Dowling is an amazing person. He and I bonded extremely well.

JWK: How about the other actors? Did you form good relationships with them?

DD:  Yeah.

JWK: Danica McKellar is in the film. Did you know her from The Wonder Years?

DD:  I never watched the show but I’ve heard of it and (from what I’ve heard) there were so many great things about that show.

JWK: What was the most fun thing about doing the movie?

DD:  Just being part of the family of the cast and crew.

JWK: What do you hope people take from the film?

DD:  Faith, hope and love and also to…end the use of the “R” word and shatter the stereotypes. And I’ve shattered many of them.

JWK: What are your plans after this? More movies?

DD:  I know that I want to act for the rest of my life. I also want to become a director…There are (also other) things that I love to do, like pottery, sculpting, stone carving. Those kinds of things.

JWK (to his parents): What was the process like for you guys?

BILL DESANCTIS: We were on the set almost every day he was…I’ll never look at a movie the same because once you see how they’re made — and how hard it is, how long the days are and how many times they have to reshoot scenes — every time I look at an actor or actress now (I’ll know) it’s so hard. It really is.

JWK: May I ask what you do for a living?

BD: I was a teacher all my life. I just retired last year. I was in the classroom for about 27 years.

JWK (to his mother): What was the experience like for you?

JULIE WALLACE: I had a ball. We’re all flying around on David’s coattails right now. We’re enjoying life and getting see all kinds of new places and meeting great people. So, it’s been a pleasure for us. What’s good for my kids is good for us. If they’re happy, we’re happy. That’s the way it’s always been. I’m just glad that David’s getting this opportunity.

JWK: What do you think of the film?

JW: It’s a wonderfully told story with a heartwarming and redeeming kind of message for people’s lives. I just hope a lot of people go see this movie. It will make them feel good.

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

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