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Making Movies On A Wing And A Prayer
Monday, November 12--------For Dallas Jenkins, the director and producer of the feature film MIDNIGHT CLEAR, making movies that reflect his Christian values represents both an opportunity and a challenge in the Hollywood film community. “People have got a lot of misconceptions that I am looking to either openly preach or hide Christian messages between the lines”, Jenkins shared at an interview on Sunday afternoon, just prior to the screening of his debut feature MIDNIGHT CLEAR as the Closing Night Film of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. “What’s important to me is telling good stories that a wide audience can relate to and respond to”, Jenkins said. “I’m not interested in just preaching to the converted choir.”
[img_assist|nid=7407|title=|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=140|height=93]Make no mistake about it, MIDNIGHT CLEAR puts its Christian beliefs front and center. The film is even set on Christmas Eve, a time that represents both joy and depression in the community that he sets about to portray in a small Texas town. Using multiple story and character techniques such as in the films SYRIANA and CRASH, Jenkins tells the tale of five strangers whose lives cross paths on that fateful night and are changed by the experience. The best known actor in the cast is Stephen Baldwin, who plays a down-on-his luck father who has just lost his job, is living in his car and is fighting for visitation rights to his children. A drinker and a drifter, Baldwin’s character comes close to ending it all (reflecting the fact that Christmas sees a spike in suicide rates) but decides against it when he is moved by his interaction with two of the other film’s characters, a kindly yet moody gas station owner and a young mother and her son who are still dealing with the tragedy that has left their husband and father a hospitalized catatonic. The literal life-or-death crossroads eventually brings the Baldwin character into the home of another character featured in the film, an elderly woman who is also contemplated suicide, who turns out to be Baldwin’s estranged mother.
Baldwin, who has received acclaim starring in a variety of action and thriller films including THE USUAL SUSPECTS, finds this part and the film very much in line with his newly acquired faith. As has been famously reported, Baldwin has become a born-again Christian, a far cry from his early bad-boy image. “I probably would not take the part in THE USUAL SUSPECTS if it was offered to me today”, he recounted at a Sunday afternoon sit-down. “The violence and non-stop curse words just don’t fit in with the kind of film roles that I know want to take on”, Baldwin commented. “These days, I am looking for films that bring some light and some hope into peoples’ lives, instead of films that reinforce the darkness.”
Director/producer Dallas Jenkins, who adapted the film from a short story written by his father, successful Christian author Jerry Jenkins, whose “Left Behind” series have been major hits in the Christian community, has a unique vision for his future career. “I think that many Christians who work in the media are too focused on sending a message to the core community, and leaving out everyone else”, Jenkins said. “I live in Los Angeles and want to be part of the mainstream Hollywood community, but focus attention on films that offer uplift and hope, and not strictly Christian in tone. My audience is a worldwide, multi-faith audience, who wants to get more just entertainment value out of films, television and other media products”. To this goal, Jenkins has formed Jenkins Entertainment (www.jenkins-entertainment.com), through which he is developing various projects that reflect his artistic and philosophical sensibilities. The film is being released for the Christmas season on DVD by Lionsgate (ironically the same company behind the violent SAW series.......such is Hollywood).
As far as MIDNIGHT CLEAR is concerned, the film’s strong acting, perceptive writing and ultimate positive message of family, community and generosity was responded to by audiences at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, which gave the film a rousing reception. The film won Best First Feature honors at the Cinequest Film Festival, an event known for its edgy indie fare. “I want to succeed on the film festival circuit and in traditional film circles”, Jenkins concluded. “I think that the time is ripe for films that do more than entertain…..films that reach out to their audiences with messages of hope and positive energy, which will stimulate discussion and thought and motivate people to examine their own lives and recognize the common humanity that exists in all people.” In our troubled times, that is a message one cannot hear often enough.
Sandy Mandelberger, Fort Lauderdale FF Dailies Editor
The Bulletin Board
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