GF: What drove you to embark on this project?
DLS: Well it’s a long story. Do you want the short version?
GF: I guess the Reader’s Digest would be good.
DLS: I’ve been a fan of Rich’s since I was 13. I was drawn to his music, but more importantly to his life. I think God really used Rich’s story and his life and his words, not just the lyrics to his music but often Rich would go on these lengthy rants in his concerts or interviews. He really had a deep impact on me in a very profound way. I think on a lot of people. Especially in my personal faith, at times when I was most likely to walk away from the faith, hitting rock bottom, God used a few people that I knew and then two that I didn’t know. One was Brennan Manning and the other was Rich Mullins. He really exemplified a faith that wasn’t afraid to be authentic about their flaws, troubles and brokenness. At least in my small little worldview (at the time, growing up in Indiana) I didn’t really see that a lot with the Christians that I knew. I saw people projecting an image of being perfect, flawless, and really having their act together. Rich and Brennan Manning represented something else, something that was honest and true.
All these years later, by God’s grace, I’ve had the opportunity to make projects and movies. I was never really looking to make a movie about Rich Mullins. Rich was just my personal hero. But I had a fellow filmmaker friend when I got to LA, before we had really done anything; he always talked to me about getting the rights to make a movie about Rich Mullins. Now, at the time, I didn’t even know if I wanted to direct movies or if I would even be in movies. He saying this was such an arbitrary statement to me, but it always stuck. For a lot of years I worked with a ministry that I helped start called, “The Color Green.” We would do sketch comedy and preach the gospel all around the country. Then after that, I was speaking at a church in Indianapolis and found out that Dave Mullins (Rich’s brother) was one of the pastors at this church. And I just kind of went for it.
6 months before that, I had a 3 disc set that a buddy had burned for me of Rich Mullins interviews which I had worn out. I had sort of started imagining what a movie about Rich Mullins would look like, not with real intention like this was something that I was going to set out to do. The first time I thought “What if?” was when I found out I was going to meet Dave Mullins. We went out to lunch and I asked him (a funny story in and of itself). I was allowed to make the movie as of July of 2010.
GF: I too am one of the people touched by Rich’s life and music. I’m real excited about this movie. A friend of mine kind of has mixed feelings about it. I know you work hard to faithfully portray character. Rich was such an interesting person. How hard did you have to work to do just his life justice on the film?
That’s a great question. Well, it took us three years if that answers anything. We hear that often, that people have reservations or mixed feelings and I completely understand. I think that with my story and background that a lot of us have experienced movies that have Christian content that are really made poorly. So there’s probably this aghast feeling of, “Oh, no. What’s this gonna be like?” That’s one side of the mixed feelings, and the other one, I’m guessing is because Rich was such an authentic character and definitely multi-dimensional there’s probably a real caution that comes up like, “Oh I hope whitewash out his story.” It was quite a journey. When we agreed to make the movie, Dave Mullins and I sat down and we talked about a few things, which was kind of our road map. One was we aren’t investigative journalists. We’re not the National Enquirer. We’re not here to dig up dirt and show the world. And on the flip side we were really determined not to make him out to be some saint that he wasn’t. Given the 8 month research process, we knew this movie probably won’t be gritty enough for some and will be too gritty for others. I think when you deal with anyone’s brokenness there are some question marks. If you don’t show the brokenness of his life, how are you going to show God’s grace in his life as well? I think a rule of thumb for us is like The Bible. If you read The Bible it’s filled with grittiness as well and it doesn’t sugarcoat sin or brokenness.
I, like you and others, was a huge fan so I’d read “An Arrow Pointing to Heaven” and listened to a million of his concerts and interviews, but I didn’t want to make an assumption that I knew him just because I was a fan. I talked with a few key people who kind of opened up a lot of doors to a lot of people who knew him really well, family, friends, and other artists. So when you set out to do something like this you really just listen versus making preconceived notions of what you want it to be. How do you fit a whole life in two hours? Not an easy thing to do. God just showed us a lot of grace showed us what the story should be. So I totally get it. And this movie may be or may not be what you want it to be, but I guess you had to be there to understand the whys of how it turned out the way it did.
GF: I appreciate that. I was a fan and got to meet Rich at a concert once. I remember the day he passed away vividly. I sang some of his songs around a campfire at a camp he used to frequent. So I’m obviously going to run out and see this the first chance I get (the World Premiere), but my last question is: Why should people go see this film, maybe people who don’t have the same motivation that I have?
With any art, I think it’s, “How does this speak to you?” I think I can better answer that question with what I hope it does do. I think it’s a great story about God’s love for us. One of the things that we wanted this movie to be when we set out was a movie for people who know about Jesus but have been broken by religiosity or legalism or whatever and won’t enter in the doors of a church. Or for folks who are hiding in the shadows of the church. What I mean by that is they are in the body of Christ, but they are afraid because of their community to open up about their sins and struggles. Like Rich’s own lyric, “I love you more than your mask.” They are still wearing their mask of perfection. I think or hope that it’s a movie for broken people, for ragamuffins. Often we say it’s a movie about a ragamuffin, for ragamuffins, made by ragamuffins. I think it really could be a ministry tool that is for that neighbor you have that has really screwed up his life or been screwed up by others. For those who would never enter the doors of a church, we hope it would be a conversation starter about God’s love.
WORLD PREMIERE INFO (The Orpheum Theatre, Wichita, KS, Jan. 09, 2014):
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