First, introduce yourself and your role with Stand Your Ground.
I am an actor, director, and writer for both stage and screen. Originally, I was only set to write the screenplay for Stand Your Ground, but as I grew more attached to the subject and the people involved, it seemed inevitable that I continue with the project. So I cleared my schedule and moved in.
How did you get involved with the movie?
I was having some success with two plays I had written, which had a strong southern flavor. Some folks on the west coast had advised me to turn one of them into a screenplay and I had just finished that script. This compelled me to search for some real, local event that I could turn into a film. I was torn between two books and Jackie’s was one of them. About that time, an associate of Jackie’s, who knew of my work, contacted me about this same project. Talk about a sign!
How did you select the actors for the movie?
I teach a film acting class near Atlanta. Several of my students actually ended up landing roles and giving compelling performances in the film. Also, Cheryl Harris and I own Studio 27 Casting, so we are in touch with actors and agents throughout the south. We pulled and auditioned every actor we could find and chose the best of the best. The cast is very interesting; a mixture of extraordinarily talented newcomers as well as old pros.
What was the greatest challenge with filming?
The greatest challenge to the filming was saying goodbye. There was such a spirit among the cast, that we wept openly on the last day of filming. The 300 people who had played courtroom observers had become family as well. We had lived through something extraordinary and it was a beautiful and satisfying journey, but oh, so tough to say goodbye. Those who have attended previews of the film have often mentioned the believable bond between the characters on the screen; it comes across.
What is your favorite scene in the movie?
Tough question! That’s like asking me to name my favorite child! I will say that most people who guess, think I would choose one of the big, dramatic scene, or action sequences, like the recreation of the shooting on that awful, dark night. But I tend to be drawn more toward the quiet scenes. Little J.J. telling his dad, on the day before the verdict, that he didn’t need to be afraid, because of what Jesus had told him….well, that rips my heart out every time. And Jackie, standing at the open window, wondering if the mother of the dead boy is somewhere, sitting up, looking at the same sky, is incredibly moving to me. Beautiful performances captured forever.
What has been the response so far to the movie?
Just what we hoped and prayed for – it’s a movie that everyone relates to. It’s about the human condition. The audience seems to live it, along with the characters in the story. And one goal accomplished: It’s entertainment! I love it when I hear the audience members talk about how they held onto their seats, choked back tears, gasped in surprise, or burst out laughing. It’s just an entertaining film.
Tell us about the upcoming theater screenings.
We are a low-budget film in terms of financing but not in terms of quality. Because of this, we will depend upon word of mouth to get this movie out to the world. On January 17, we open in 15 cities for a limited run. You can find information about this at http://www.standyourgroundmovie.com/ We urge everyone to go see it on that weekend, and – run, don’t walk – to get everyone you know to go out and see it! This is how little movies become big ones. The public has the power and the public that has seen this film so far absolutely loves it.
What is your goal for the movie?
To expand the parameters of so-called Faith-Based Films. This is just a good film. It’s for everyone to see and enjoy. We want to reach the world with entertainment, and have them walk away with greater faith, hope, and peace. And maybe feeling a little better about the world and themselves.