Some of you know that a few years ago I worked with several friends on a feature film. These two friends–Johnny Meier and David Stone–came to personal faith in Christ as young filmmakers and were powerfully nudged by the Spirit to change their lifestyle. This leading of the Spirit led them to make some faithful choices about what they would do and why. They were introduced to me through my nephew and soon became good friends. They both came to Chicago a few years ago to make a film about my life and the work of ACT3. You can see that film on our website, in a three-minute version or the longer thirty-minute version.
Johnny and David were working on their first inspirational film at the time we met, or at least they were working on the script and the early stages of anticipated production. As they scripted their film they had the need for an actor who would be a minister. This led them to cast me in a role in their film. Over the last two years I have said little or nothing about this film: One Hit From Home. It was released in a nearby special showing in Naperville (IL) where the producers and directors premiered the film in a Chicago area theater. That evening was a lot of fun. Family and friends joined me and shared the joy of seeing the work my friends did and enjoying my small part in it. I knew this was not going to be a major theatrical success but I also confess that being cast in a film role was an item on my bucket list, given my love for film.
Since this film was released in 2011 several friends have written to tell me that they were watching a Christian film and to their complete surprise I showed up in the last third of this film as a minister giving counsel to the lead character. They were surprised to be watching in their home and then, low and behold, I was on their screen. This recently prompted me to see if One Hit From Home was available through other movie outlets. I discovered that you can rent the film at RedBox and that it is now available on Netflix video streaming. I also think Walmart sold the DVD for a good price but I’m not sure if it is still available in their stores. I know you can purchase it online from several sources.
The film’s central message is about faith. More particularly it is about the trials that challenge one’s faith and create deep darkness. The backdrop to the story is baseball, which of course fit well with my personal interests. Baseball superstar Jimmy Easton (David Stone at right in photo) returns home, after signing a dream contract with a major league team, to face a very different future because of a devastating knee injury that cuts short a promising career. At this point Jimmy has faced two life-shattering losses in his very young life. In searching for a new purpose in life, Jimmy faces some really dark memories from his past and he tries to make peace with the world that he left behind. Jimmy’s life takes a new direction when he is involuntarily thrust back into the world of baseball. Not as a player, but as the coach of an underachieving college team struggling to rise above mediocrity. He isn’t given much choice about coaching this team since a judge determines his choice is to coach this team or do jail time. Coach Jimmy’s rocky relationship with Brandon Elliot (Johnny Meier), the team’s only star, forces both of them to deal with their similarly checkered pasts. One Hit from Home is a unique sports drama that runs for 98 minutes. It explores the unpredictability of life and reminds us that we can find hope in the midst of broken dreams through a deep faith that is willing to accept the darkness and still pursue the light.
Reading reviews of the movie last week was an interesting experience. Many Christians, not surprisingly, loved it. Some reviewers referred to the acting as subpar. A few mocked the film. I know the criticism about the acting applies to me. I am not an actor but the role I did play was true to my life thus I did it with full-hearted credibility.
I would offer several of my own thoughts since I am a film critic and love the guys who made this film.
- This film is somewhat predictable but not entirely so. It ends where most similar films end but the way that it gets there has more credibility than some rather simplistic Christians films that I would call more formulaic. For example, the Bible is not quoted over and over in this film. There is one actual reference, or quotation of a verse, in the entire film.
- The problem of evil and bad things happening to Christians is not treated by simply passing over them with a “happy-clappy” sort of cheerful faith response. This is where my part comes into the film. The script I followed was, I think, well crafted. I was able to do it with a deep awareness of doing something I believed in personally.
- Considering the small budget that my friends had to work with, and this being their first film, makes the end result all the more amazing. As a result of this one feature film my friends have new prospects to do more faith films. I believe these guys will continue to grow as filmmakers and as serious Christians involved in making art. Dave and Johnny continue to help me with several ACT3 Network projects and remain very special friends. Recently Dave filmed some stuff for me that you can see on our website.
- Being on a movie set and filming a feature is both fun and intense. My three-plus minutes in this film took about 4-5 hours to shoot. Then there were voice do-overs and other items that were corrected in post-production as I was able to work with the producer on these items. Seeing what went into making a film up close was a lifetime thrill.
I hope you will watch One Hit From Home when you get the time to do so. I would love to hear your response, good or bad. I’d be lying if I didn’t stress that I’d love to hear “good” response.
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Wonderful for you John. Film production is a very intense process. In fact, I’m not sure there is any other enterprise so comprehensive as making a film. I’ve watched the process myself–my son has been making films since he was in sixth grade. Last night he received an invite to Biola’s film school, and will hear from USC and UCLA in a few months. I’m encouraged to see artists like your friends using their artistic skills to push the art form, while wrestling honestly with the deepest issues of faith.
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