Sept. 24--Friday was a special night at Burleson Premiere Cinemas affording several residents the chance of a lifetime, one they may or may not experience again.
Walking the red carpet into the theater, cast and crew members encountered cheering crowds, paparazzi and interview requests -- all of which made for a life moment the cast members will likely never forget, given that all of them had little to no acting experience before their involvement with "My Son," a locally shot film produced and financed by Burleson's Retta Baptist Church.
The film continues its run at Burleson Premiere Cinemas through next week and possibly longer contingent on box office receipts.
Credit the movie's genesis to RBC Senior Pastor Chuck Kitchens, who stars in and served as executive producer of the film, and church member Jarod O'Flaherty.
Kitchens often employs social media to expand his church's outreach. O'Flaherty previously shot music and informational videos, in addition to a World War II documentary.
Kitchens, upon learning of O'Flaherty's directing and filmmaking skills, decided that a movie marked the next logical step for the church. O'Flaherty, who had never made a full-length drama to that point demurred initially, but eventually agreed.
With no real money to speak of, church members and volunteers raised the film's meager budget. Name actors were simply not an option. So they went local, recruiting church members, additional area residents and a few out-of-state people, many of whom said they never considered acting before this project.
The "unfamiliar opportunity" of acting provided catharsis and healing for Burleson resident Paige Easterling. Easterling lost her husband, Pat, to pancreatic cancer almost two years ago. A friend's suggestion that she get involved with the film sounded odd, Easterling said, but, figuring that God must be up to something, she took a leap of faith and went for it.
"It was very much a learning experience," Easterling said of her first stab at acting. "It was a challenge. Each day got easier, but it was tough at times.
Grandview resident and real estate business owner Kay Trawick has a bit of previous acting experience.
"I was interested and had a desire early on, but never really pursued it because I wanted my family to come first," Trawick said. Her children now grown -- her son works in the entertainment industry and her daughter is involved in theater -- Trawick decided to audition for "My Son."
"It's been a very exciting experience," Trawick said. "It's been fun and interesting to see the project come to fruition after spending a year involved with it."
"My Son" is R rated, making it something of an anomaly for religious or films. The rating centers on one scene of drug use and a few of violence.
Kitchens and O'Flaherty fear the rating, which they believe to be undeserved, may hamper the film. They also argue the scenes are integral to the story line and in no way employed for gratuitous purpose. The film is free of foul language, save the utterance of the word "hell" twice, and any overt sexual or otherwise graphic content.
On the other hand, a church hostage situation figures into the plot as does racism and other real-life topics. "My Son" marks an alternative to many Christian-based films showcasing unfailingly polite characters enunciating in flawless syntax and grammar en route to a happy ending wrap up.
"We wanted to create a film that portrayed real life in the real world," O'Flaherty said.
And they have. The film portrays growth and redemption among some of the characters of a sort and provides a message and inspiration without offering easy answers or a simple black-and-white resolution.
The film's Christian message comes across without beating the audience over the head, making for a film the Christian, the heathen and the in-betweeners can enjoy. Which is probably what Kitchens and O'Flaherty were shooting for.
Low budget aside, "My Son" is impressive in many ways. The editing and music are incredible. One would expect, given that the majority of the actors aren't really actors, a large degree of stilted, halting dialog. And there is some of that, but not as much as you'd think. Most of the "actors" come across fairly natural. Several cast members could actually do this for real if they wanted.
Most involved with the film said during Friday's premiere that they considered the movie a one-off project while others said they might consider acting again should the right role come along.
A couple of plot points strain believability -- the readiness with which certain characters agree to partake in certain schemes, for example -- but the story line flows nicely, and realistically, overall.
More importantly, the movie is entertaining and actually about something, both attributes being rare among most films of late.
It's hard to tell from one showing, but the makers of "My Son" may well have a good old-fashioned sleeper on their hands. With no advertising budget to speak of, word of mouth remains key to the film's success.
Friday's premiere looked promising.
"We're very pleased," Kitchens said. "We planned on using one theater tonight but, because of the crowd, had to use three."
O'Flaherty called the premiere an overwhelming experience.
"The energy and enthusiasm in the crowd tonight was way more than we expected," he said.
The producers are working with an outside company to arrange additional screenings of the film in other areas of the country, Kitchens said, and plans call for an upcoming DVD release.
The film's producers said they hope people give "My Son" a chance and, depending on their disposition don't prejudge it on either the R rating or Christian film label.
"Our film is obviously a Christian film, but not one presented in your face or in a corny way."
For trailers, information and upcoming showings of "My Son," visit www.mysonmovie.com.
(c)2013 the Cleburne Times-Review (Cleburne, Texas)
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