Sunday, October 26, 2014

My First Feature Length Movie!

I genuinely feel that change is just around the corner.  I think it is no understatement to say that these past few years have definitely had their ups-and-downs for me.  Medical and financial woes, coupled with the destruction that nature can wring, it's probably been some of the more difficult things I've ever had to go through in life.  With that said, this period in life has also been extremely good to me, for I discovered the Red Barn and met Joy O'Neal, the Executive Director of the Red Barn.

The Red Barn is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in Leeds, Alabama, that specializes in horse related therapy for children and adults with physical and cognitive disabilities, as well as those with special circumstances.  A few years back I was hired by Joy to make a short three minute video for the Red Barn.  In the process of my first meeting with Joy, she told me that she had always wanted a documentary made about the Red Barn.  To make a long story short, here we are two years later, and we are less than a month away from the premiere of the finished film.

Produced by my parents, Rick & Sheila Sutton, and directed by me, this film really has been a passion project for us all.  At first, I thought we'd just make a 20 minute documentary that we'd do in a couple of months and that would be that, though as I got more involved out at the Red Barn, and learned more of the story, particularly behind its inspirations, I knew not even 40 minutes could fully cover it.  The documentary is now a feature length film, running 80 minutes in length.

Through the process of making this film, I feel as if I have received therapy as well.  Emotional, psychological, and spiritual.  I don't think I am necessarily the same person now as the one who started out making this film, and in many ways I think that's what all good films are supposed to do for those who make them.  The truth of the matter is, there are a lot of better avenues to make money through than making films.  If I didn't get something out of the process, I wouldn't be doing it, I'd go get an ordinary 9-to-5 job somewhere.  It wasn't until I got deep into the process of making this particular film that I realized why I do this.

Films are a way for me to heal on an emotional, psychological, and spiritual level.  No film is worth making if you cannot connect on one of those levels with the story in some way shape or form, and that's why I sometimes shelve a project after years of work, because I just can never find that reason for me to tell that particular story.  So not only does making films help me in a therapeutic way, it also allows me to take words that have been placed in me by God, and hopefully provide therapy to someone else through that story.  Whether it just makes someone feel good, or it means something to someone on a deeper level that causes them to think, all of my favorite films are therapy when I watch them, and hopefully this film about therapy will provide some to others.

So I do feel that change is just around the corner.  Now, that's not to say that there hasn't been push back from unseen enemies, because there has been, a lot.  Of course, that push back only further cements this feeling inside of me that something good is going to come of this documentary for myself and many others, because if it were not a threat to the Enemy, why would he try to create self doubt, arguments, and stress?  I've always felt that making movies is what I was placed on this Earth to do.  Whether or not this is the film that jumpstarts my career as a blockbuster filmmaker, or simply gets me enough notoriety to raise money for my next film, I know that after the premiere on November the 23rd, my life will never be the same from that point on.

Maybe that sounds corny as all get out, but sometimes being corny is okay.  Being sentimental and emotional is fantastic.  We don't always have to be cynical and closed off.  Films don't always have to be vulgar to be art or to simply be entertaining.  And so hopefully we have made a film that will be something that is positive and affecting, and proves, without a shadow of a doubt, that there is always a plan bigger that is no one's business but God's to see.

As I said, we're still nearly a month away from the premiere (which is being held at my dream theater, the historic Alabama Theatre in downtown Birmingham, AL), but I cannot say enough how thankful I am to have had the Red Barn in my life.  From Joy to everyone who works there, you guys have all helped make these changes in my life possible, like you do for your students every day of every week.  Then there's my parents, who I would have never gotten this far with this film without.  I doubt myself all the time, and I am not always the most outgoing person, and with their help I feel, that while I am not completely there, I am getting better at those things.  And finally, there is Anita and John Cowart, two fantastic people that I never got to meet, but feel as if I know so well.  To make this short and sweet, if it weren't for them, there would be no film.  Enjoy the trailer for the film, and I will keep everyone updated as we go along.