This is Part One of AXS/Austin Movie Examiner’s interview of the Executive Producer/Director of “The Prodigal Film,” Michael Walters:
1. Michael, why were you compelled to create “The Prodigal Film” ?
The universal story of the prodigal son, which I adapted into a modern story, has personal appeal to me. Here a young man seeks out a fantasy life without considering the ultimate consequences of his choices. His journey of experiencing the results of poor choices leads him to turn his direction around and find redemption and forgiveness with his father whom he had offended. This story is part of my own personal journey.
Films with compelling redemptive stories of believable characters can enable audiences to see themselves. These experiences can cause them to pause, think, and even change the course of their own lives. In all the turmoil we see in this world, one key act that we are tragically lacking is people asking for and receiving forgiveness. I want to help foster acts of forgiveness and redemption. If this movie can initiate positive transformation of my life and that of my agent when he read the script, I know that we are on to something that can bring significant change for others!
2. What initially drew you to becoming a producer?
For me becoming a producer has not been a dream but a definite calling. I believe there is a distinct difference between the two. I hear many tell me that the reason they have become involved in the movie business has been because it has been a dream. A dream is a product of the imagination and can be either euphoric or nightmarish. A calling is a positive drive toward a specific course of actions that includes a strong conviction of divine guidance and provision.
So in reality we cannot pick or choose our dreams and determine that is our true destiny. It’s only when dreams become visions, and we recognize that we have received God-given gifts that can we have the confidence that we will be equipped to follow a particular path as our “calling.” For me I recognized early on that my calling was to affect people’s lives in positive, motivating ways. I understood that my affinity to be out of the box and even confrontational, if necessary, were aids for me to fulfill that calling.
Because I loved marketing, my passion was creating commercials in the beginning of my career. To date I have produced a few hundred of them. I think this has happened because early on I wanted to have a project completed quickly and to move on to the next one as soon as possible. With commercials I could also measure market impact quickly and analyze what moved audiences. As I have become older, I have gained more patience and the ability to work at a slower pace. However, I still want to move rapidly on a film set.
3. This screenplay requires more than 70 cast and crew. Please tell me about the large-scaled projects you have organized and produced, which have provided you with the experience to produce this epic movie.
That’s a long story, but let me begin by saying I have always been an “out-of-the-box” thinker, focused on customer satisfaction and expectations. I believe this personal attribute, even gift, has been the basis of my passion to reach, engage and bring strong value to audiences.
Understanding the public, design, and marketing have ultimately been keys to many of my successful endeavors, since as early as 12 years old when I spent summers with my grandmother who managed a small outdated motel for a businesswoman. Back then I loved to draw and design. I drew up a plan to revitalize the motel. To my astonishment the owner paid me for the design and built it. Consequently, the operation was renewed.
While I was in college I conceptualized and proposed sweeping changes in marketing and employee compensation for one of the largest manufacturing and retail establishments, Tandy Corp. Over time my proposals gained momentum, were adopted, and profited the corporation immensely. Since college I have had many other experiences in which I have learned invaluable production skills related to management, construction, marketing.
Good producers and writers need to have experienced what they write and produce. I believe my wide range of personal experiences and skills has established a strong foundation for me in producing. Along the way, I have gained skills in the following areas: management, design, construction, institutional financing, and project planning. I have launched television stations and networks. I have designed large projects for the following: massive foundations, the World Bank, the United Nations, municipal systems, and foreign governments. And I have still managed thus far in my career to have over 1100 productions to my credit.
4. What has been your process in casting this movie?
Most films are cast from the top down. However, I decided to tackle it the opposite way. I had previously directed Chanelle Klabunde, Alice Ford, Whitney Perryman, and Maddie Benbenek. I wanted to cast them again, along with Olivia Flowers. So I attached these actors from the get-go and began building from there. I knew what I was looking for in a cast, as I had a formula that I have stuck close to all the way. First, we got actors who were both attractive and believable looking for the role. Secondly, I have cast eye-candy for both men and women. We are after all in a visual industry. Thirdly, I have attached experienced, well-known actors practically in each scene. Fourthly, I wanted to cast several actors who would be “discovered” through my film, because then the film would live on in the media years and even decades ahead.
It did not take long before actors here in Texas began calling me and many began referring their friends. As our Facebook grew, by April actors in L.A and other parts of the country had learned about The Prodigal. I had learned from a well-known talent manager that knowledge of The Prodigal was circulating in a newsletter for L.A casting directors. This opened the door for me to be well received by all of the top talent agencies in L.A., when I began seeking A list talent. It seemed L.A. knew about The Prodigal long before many of the regional talent agents knew because I had not posted on any actor breakdown services. Social media has truly changed the course of casting and The Prodigal has taken advantage of it from its inception.
5. There are many fascinating characters in this movie. How will they appeal to both women and men? How will they appeal to audiences of diverse ethnic cultures?
I have created widely recognized true-to life characters to support the journey of our prodigal son. Some of the characters created were actually based loosely on real people. The prodigal son in this movie in some ways was the former me, and in many ways also resembled another real person. I think overall the prodigal son in this story is very close to the young Captain Kirk character played in the last Star Trek movie. The supporting characters in the movie, all have their tales and distinct and compelling back stories. I intentionally used characters of different ethnic groups and cultures, because these groups and cultures make up our real world. I also have wanted to reach an international audience with this story. We have actors who have originated from a variety of nations. I believe that we have a strong internationally attractive film that will appeal to a world-wide audience.
Stay tuned for Part Two of this interview after the New Year.
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