Saturday, September 8, 2012
David Ford: Faith in a film
"... I believe a movie can still be great without all the excessive language and sex. That is our mission – to spread the good news through cinematic movies that the whole family can enjoy.”
HALLSVILLE When Hallsville resident David Ford began rolling cameras on his feature film Preacher Man in June, he had no funding, no financial backers in fancy suits and no idea if he could shoot a feature film in three weeks (less than half the time it takes most productions). Still, with a dedicated cast and crew and working for deferred pay, Ford called “action” for the first time.
Preacher Man isn’t Ford’s first journey into film. He’s a well-established actor in Texas and Louisiana. He’s been building his career since he began playing with a family member’s camera in sixth grade.
“At the time, my dream was to become a pro football player,” Ford recalls. “In college, I attained an injury that ended that dream. I had started writing a book in high school that I hoped one day I could somehow turn into a movie... I started concentrating on writing more. Then, one day, I was in a bookstore when I discovered a book on screenwriting. So, at that point, I started learning the craft of screenwriting.
“It was also in college that I got to be an extra on a low-budget film, and I realized that I could act just as good as those actors on set… In 2004, I landed my first role in a low-budget horror film in Dallas. At that point, I knew then that I had found my new passion. I have continued my acting and writing career since and hope to be able to do it full-time in the near future.”
By day, Ford is a special education teacher in East Texas, but he devotes as much time as possible to writing, acting and directing. He has 13 Internet Movie Database (IMDb) credits including television specials, independent films, and the Texas-produced thriller The Merchant. What makes Preacher Man different is the fact that Ford not only wrote the screenplay, he directed and starred in it as well – a process that began months before filming began.
“The idea first came from a character that I created in another script, the character of Dan Flanigan,” said Ford. “One day, I was telling this friend of mine that I had this idea to write a serious drama about a guy who escaped prison and posed as a preacher. He suggested I use the character of Dan Flanigan. I was against it at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was a great idea. So, instead of making this a totally serious film, I decided to use Dan and make it both a comedy and drama, which I call a dramedy. Once I can see a movie in my mind, it only takes about two to three months to get a rough draft, then another month or so to get a final draft.”
With the final draft complete, Ford struggled with what all independent filmmakers struggle with – funding. Finding investors isn’t always easy, and for Ford, who has other screenplays ready to produce, this was no exception.
“We have had no financial backing on this production,” he said. “I personally paid two people out of my pocket – the camera man and the audio man. Those are the two professionals that any indie film needs to have a chance to be successful. We shot this thing on deferred pay and had many sponsors and donations with food, equipment and locations.
“My partner Stuart Miller, who is the executive producer, decided last year to make a movie. But last year, we were seeking an investor, and things fell through one week before production because we turned down ‘dirty money,’ so to speak. We had a chance to make another film with $250,000, but when we learned this money was coming from the [adult film] industry, we turned it down because our films are Christian-based. So, this year Stuart and I decided that we could make a movie on a zero budget if we trusted in God.”
Moving forward, Ford and his team began rounding up volunteers, a willing crew and talent to create his film. For three months they recruited crew. Many were inexperienced but willing to learn. Actors who believed in the concept jumped on board. Once it was time to shoot, Ford admits it was still challenging fulfilling the role of lead actor and director.
“I would have rather hired an experienced director, but we did this film on virtually no budget, and I didn’t want to take the chance of giving an unknown person the task of trying to accomplish my vision,” he said. “It was one of those situations where I thought, ‘If you want it done right, you better do it yourself this time.’
“I had the help of a great director of photography, Anthony Gutierrez, who I decided to give a co-directing credit to since he helped me so much.
One of the biggest challenges was trying to direct and have the time to study my own lines. There were many instances where I was reading over my lines just moments before the camera rolled. I don’t attribute my good memory to this accomplishment either. I truly believe the Lord helped me through each scene because I never struggled with it… I have never played the lead before or directed, and suddenly I was this important guy on set with everybody asking me questions and looking to me for answers.”
Scheduling so much filming in a small window of time was a concern throughout the process, Ford admitted. The film consists of 112 scenes that had to be shot in three weeks, but he said the team was able to accomplish it.
In addition, he admits his character came with one unique challenge. The lead role required the normally clean-cut Ford to don a rather large mullet hairstyle.
“I received many strange stares from people when I was off set,” he joked.
With production wrapped, Ford is still amazed that he and his team were able to pull off such an undertaking.
“It is still hard for me to believe that we shot 112 scenes in three weeks and that we have a feature film in the editing stages,” he said. “We had many challenges along the way, but the Lord showed me that He is able to take care of any problems that arise, and He did.”
Once editing is complete, Ford hopes to hold a premier, submit the film to festivals and eventually find a distribution outlet for Preacher Man on DVD or theatrical release. Regardless of the outcome, he remains thankful to have gotten this far already and has touched many lives in a positive way during the film’s creation process.
Though he said seeing all his characters come to life on camera was exciting, for Ford, the film has meant much more.
“My goal for this film is to inspire both believers and non-believers while at the same time providing some good, family entertainment,” he said. “Most movies with any kind of action are rated R. I believe a movie can still be great without all the excessive language and sex. That is our mission – to spread the good news through cinematic movies that the whole family can enjoy.”
Ford hopes to make more films and, despite the challenges, said breaking into the independent film world isn’t as hard as some think. It just requires a great amount of determination and support.
“The most rewarding thing to me was just to be able to work with the other actors and share with them the vision in helping them to accomplish it,” he said. “I don’t think it is too difficult to break into indie film if a person has the desire and drive to do so. A person must be consistent and not give up when he or she hears the word ‘no.’ You can’t give up on your dreams.”
More information about Preacher Man is available on the film’s Facebook fanpage.
Ford’s credits can be viewed here.