Monday, November 16, 2009
Sarah's Choice: Humble Tears
Today, "Sarah's Choice" is being released on DVD.
One day perhaps I will write about how the film came into being but not today.
Today is simply a day to enjoy.
It's a faith-based film. Therefore, some people will love it. Other people will hate it. I expect that.
Personally, I am very proud of this little film. I think it will prove to be one of the best and most effective independent films in the genre. I believe the actors were able to find the characters behind the words. Too many faith-based films are simply message-driven polemics, but I think we managed to deliver some genuine human moment here and there.
I have seen this film with live theater audiences in Baltimore, Boston and Pittsburgh. The people seemed genuinely moved by it. People cried. Men and Women.
That's very humbling.
As a filmmaker, your goal is to get a reaction out of an audience. You want to sweep them out of their seats and take them on a journey. My first feature film, "21 Eyes," was a mystery, and a rather esoteric one at that. It was hard to tell exactly how deeply engaged the audience was in the mystery. The only way we could tell for sure how involved they were was by their laughter. The director Lee Bonner and I gauged the success of each festival screening by where they laughed. Some of the jokes were so subtle and woven into the narrative that they would be missed by someone who wasn't keenly involved in the story. Every time they laughed we knew we had gotten through to them.
If all I ever managed to do was make an audience laugh that would have been enough. Who could set out to make someone cry? That seems rather arrogant. And unattainable.
The first thing I wrote that made people cry was a still unproduced horror screenplay called "A Call of Love." Two of my test readers told me they cried while reading that dark tragedy. I was shocked. And no one cried again until "Hidden Secrets." People were sobbing at a screening in Pittsburgh.
"Sarah's Choice" is a film fraught with emotion. Tim Ratajczak and I hoped it would engage people on an emotional level, but, we didn't try to manipulate. I remember seeing a film about a dog in the theaters a few years ago. It brought some tears to my eyes, but I truly resented it because I felt the filmmakers were throwing everything but the kitchen sink at me to get that response. I don't think we did that with "Hidden Secrets" or "Sarah's Choice." We didn't try to manipulate. We simply tried to tell the tale the best we could.
But were we responsible? No. I don't think so.
Film audiences are self-selective. People tend to know what a film is about before they see it. And, if they cry, it isn't necessarily the skill of the writers, producers, actors or director. It is usually because of something inside the person who cries. The film simply reawakens something that already existed inside of them. I know this because I talked to a number of people after each screening, and they all seemed to have a tale to tell which was just as moving as the film.
That said, I am still very thankful to everyone involved in the film from all the folks at PureFlix, executive producer John Molli, director Chad Kapper, and all the actors including Rebecca St. James, Julian Bailey, Andrea Logan White, Brad Stine, Staci Keanan, Autumn Paul and Sean Sedgwick.
And let's not forget Master Ethan White.
(Photo: My wife, Deborah Murphy, my star Rebecca St. James, and America's favorite Fat Man.)