Making an Impact in Hollywood, Part One
Craig von Buseck
- The new film, Hometown Legend, from Jenkins Entertainment
opens in theaters in Louisville, Nashville, St. Paul/Minneapolis,
and Colorado Springs on Friday, April 19th. Jenkins Entertainment
has signed a distribution deal with Warner Brothers, and they
will release the movie to video/DVD in August, 2002.
The movie has received positive reviews from prominent critics
like Michael Medved (calling it "entertaining and uplifting in
the tradition of 'Remember the Titans' and 'Hoosiers'"), and Holly
McClure ("a great family film!"). It has also been endorsed by
the president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Dal Shealy,
who said the movie "touched his heart."
CBN.com Producer, Craig von Buseck, recently sat down Dallas
Jenkins, the producer of the film, James Anderson, the director,
and Jars of Clay's Dan Haseltine, who composed the movie's sound
track. They talked about the making of this movie -- and the impact
that Christians are having in Hollywood today.
Craig von Buseck: Tell me how you all came together on
Anderson (Director): Dallas and I would talk on the phone
and we just began to realize that we had a very similar vision
of the things we wanted to do. We were interested in doing things
that would positively affect the mainstream market for the cause
of Christ. Specifically, how can we make movies that change the
way Christianity is represented, and the way that certain things
that Christianity upholds as core beliefs, such as marriage, and
family, and love, and those kinds of things? And we started to
realize that we have a very similar vision.
We got together for lunch and he was telling me about this little
movie project that he had, and I just fell in love with it. We
ended up forming an informal partnership. I'd call him and I'd
say, "I was thinking about that one scene in there, and I don't
know who's going to direct your movie, but you should think about
doing something like this." That's how we ended up being partners.
And Dallas knew Dan.
Dallas Jenkins (Producer): I figured that since I had
never produced a movie before it would probably be best to find
a director who had never directed before (laughs), and a composer
who had never composed a movie before. If I surrounded myself
with too much experience then they would tell me what to do, so
I thought that if I could surround myself with people who were
just as inexperienced as I was, then I could still be the dictator.
Dan Haseltine (Composer): Dallas has always had a problem
with authority (laughs).
Dallas Jenkins: This is a way to control my minions (laughs).
Craig von Buseck: So ignorance is bliss?
Dallas Jenkins: For a little while (laughs).
Early on, Dan was actually one of the first extras that we added
to the project. James was also a big Jars of Clay fan, like I
was, so that excited us. And then we were able to shoot a music
video with Jars on the set of the film. And all three of us have
a very similar goal -- Dan with his music, and us with the movie
-- it is very similar in trying to do stuff that the mainstream
market will also appreciate. Regardless of whether we had a lot
of experience we had very similar passions that allowed us to
James Anderson: I think that passion sometimes carries
a lot of weight in ignorance. So we were very passionate and ignorant,
and we just kind of charged forward. We did some great things,
and we did some dumb things.
Craig von Buseck: When did this all start?
Dallas Jenkins: About two years ago, my father, Jerry
Jenkins, and I started this company. I received a script through
a friend, and they were looking for financing. So we decided to
provide the financing, and this would be our first big picture.
There were two writers, and we got the script from them. The next
step was bringing James on, and then we actually moved very quickly
for an independent film. We were able to shoot within seven months.
We finished the film in March of 2001.
Craig von Buseck: How was the process of bringing on actors?
Were you able to find people that clicked really well?
Anderson: Yes and no. We have real success stories where people
walked in and we knew that unless they give a really awful reading
that this person has the part. With other people it was really
interesting to see how things just kind of fell away, and we were
left with this nugget of a person that we really loved, and it
was very clear that they were meant to have the role.
When we first started casting, we were out in LA, and Dallas
was in Louisville, where he was living at the time. I had everything
videotaped, and I would Fed-Ex him the videotapes every night.
Every night I'd call him and say, "O.K., I just got done, and
the guy from Home Improvement, and Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker,
read for me today." It was really unique. This was my first time
ever casting a movie.
Dallas Jenkins: The auditions were the fun part, realizing
that whoever you choose is going to be in your movie and then
trying to convince Dan that he couldn't play the lead (laughs).
James Anderson: We told him he had to cut his hair.
Dan Haseltine: I just wanted to be the coach, but they
told me I was too young (laughs). I told them, "I can play old."
I thought that if we turned it into a musical, maybe I could be
a singing coach (laughs).
James Anderson: This actually was a very unique aspect
of this. We targeted immediately a couple of people that are Christians
who are working in the mainstream in music, or TV, or in movies,
that you could open Entertainment Weekly and they're talking
about their faith. Those are the kind of people that we wanted
to align ourselves with. So we immediately started to put together
Dan Haseltine: In talking with Dallas, when they were
going through the casting process, they were looking for people
that exemplified the concept that as a Christian let your excellence
be your protest. Let the work that you do be so excellent that
these people can speak about their faith, because what they do
carries enough credibility in their particular field as an actor
or an actress. To a cynical world, or a watching world, that would
try to discount what their abilities are because of their faith,
these were people that you could really connect with.
Craig von Buseck: That's really an interesting concept.
In casting this, did you go for the person who was best for the
part, or the Christian who was best for the part?
Anderson: Dallas always said, "We're going to find the best
actors in all of Los Angeles. I don't care if they just wandered
in off the street and they give the best reading of the part."
The second criteria was that this needs to be someone that we
feel like we can spend time with on the set -- this was going
to be like a family to us.
Dallas Jenkins: One cool part about this project was that
our actors and crew members were introduced to Jars of Clay, and
to Dan's music, and were able to say, "This music is so great.
What else can I get from them?" And we'd give them their CDs,
and they would see our faith, and we would pray in front of them.
They saw through our example what Christianity was about. If that's
the only influence we have through this movie, that's enough --
that the family that we developed on the set was able to see Christlike
behavior. To us, that's just as important as the audience that
sees the film.
James Anderson: I specifically felt like that was going
to be my mission field. Creatively, there shouldn't be any difference
between Dallas and I, and any producer or director in Hollywood.
It was how we handled the ups and downs, the highs and lows, that
was going to really set us apart and make a distinction. That's
really why I felt this was a huge part of our mission field. Do
they know that we love and care for them? Do we really show them
that? How do we handle supreme disappointment? Making a low budget,
independent film is just asking for trouble. I think heartbreak
is the right word. And when they see you experience real heartbreak,
all eyes turn to you. And they ask how are you going to handle
Craig von Buseck: Give me an example.
James Anderson: We lost roughly four days of film that
was x-rayed and ruined. Low budget features just don't recover
from that kind of stuff. We were able scrap things together and
figure that out. But I was standing with our director of photography,
who is not a Christian, who worked very closely with me and Dallas
-- he was with me when I got the call saying that we had lost
all these days. That's the moment where you realize you have to
fly all the actors back in, and everyone looks at you and wonders
how are you going to handle this.
Dallas Jenkins: It's easy to have a good example when
things are going well, but those are moments where you say, are
we going to stand and yell at somebody, or are we going to simply
show people how to recover from problems and move on?
Anderson: Dallas and I had several opportunities where things
would happen and we would say, "We're going to kneel right down
here, because this is where the problems need to be lifted up."
And we would say to them, we're going to pray right now, you're
more than welcome to join us. More often than not those people
would kneel right down with us on the football field. We had a
running joke that our Executive, Executive Producer was in the
sky, and it's hard to have a better policy than that.
I think that they bought into it because these people saw that
Dallas and I were real people and that we truly cared about them.
Craig von Buseck: How did you bring Dan in on the film?
Dallas Jenkins: Dan and I met about three years ago at
a CBA convention, and became close friends right away. We always
wanted to work together.
Dan Haseltine: Dallas sent me a script. We've had many
conversations about culture. He and I are both students of culture
-- watching the way it moves, and the way Christianity in many
ways has ceased to have a really strong voice in the entertainment
industry, at least a voice that is relevant. In college I sat
around with other guys and asked, "How come Christian music doesn't
sound like mainstream music? What is the missing element that
is keeping it from having relevance? And from that we formed Jars
Dallas was having a similar conversation. Why do a lot of Christian
movies not look like movies? Why do they not have good acting?
Why don't they have good music? What's the problem? What's missing?
I was really excited about that, because it was a question that
needed to be asked. Especially in this time when Christian film
is getting more of a name. It's getting more of a reputation.
It would be nice to see that that reputation was based on excellence,
and not on mediocrity. And I think the trend was mediocrity.
Dallas' asking me to be a part of this project was exciting,
because I felt like what we were doing was making a movie that
was relevant. It was a movie based on a really great story, with
really good actors. It had the potential to be the benchmark for
films done by Christians. Dallas' approach to not making movies
that were specifically for a Christian marketplace was exciting
For all those reasons, knowing that they had a perspective that
was beyond just the four walls of the church, and beyond just
living up to expectations of Christians, but really living up
to expectations of critics and the mainstream world, if you will,
I think that's exciting, and that really shows a good direction
Making an Impact in Hollywood, Part Two
More from Craig von
Buseck on CBN.com
Legend Out on DVD/VHS
your copy of Jerry Jenkin's companion novel, Hometown Legend
out Jenkins Entertainment Online
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