BFA Member Produces Big Screen Survival Movie in Zanesville, Ohio
I've been a movie aficionado since I was young. Whether it was watching Godzilla stomp Tokyo on our old black and white Zenith on Sunday afternoons, staying up late with friends to shudder at "Chilly Billy" horror movies broadcast out of Pittsburgh, or scraping up just enough spare change to go to the Court Theater in Wheeling, WV to be dazzled by sci-fi flicks such as 2001: A Space Odyssey or Logan's Run, big screen drama has always fascinated me.
My friends and I even used my father's clunky Bell & Howell 8mm camera to make our own (very bad) movies, including a quirky zombie movie that drew sell-out crowds at our grade school. And while I never had the chance to work on a full-length movie, I did work for five years at an NBC affiliate producing ads for TV fare such as Lavern & Shirley, Dukes of Hazzard, and The Muppet Show.
So I was thrilled to find out that a member of Buckeye Firearms Association was in the final stages of producing a survival movie, filmed right here in Ohio.
The Reliant is a family-friendly, edge-of-your seat action film starring Kevin Sorbo of Hercules TV series fame), Brian Bosworth former linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks and a cast member of Three Kings and The Longest Yard), and Eric Roberts (brother of Julia Roberts and known for roles in The Dark Knight and The Expendables).
The movie shows an economic catastrophe that causes widespread rioting and social unrest across the nation, leaving a lovesick 20-year-old girl struggling to care for her siblings in a stretch of woods bordered by lawless anarchy. The plot touches on themes of redemption, family, forgiveness, and faith through crisis. And while it's never mentioned by name, the Second Amendment figures prominently in the actions and attitudes of the main characters.
The movie's writer and producer, Dr. Patrick Johnston, sent me the following promo footage and agreed to a short interview recently.
Where did you get the idea for The Reliant?
As an author of ten novels, I have long desired to impact the culture for faith and for freedom. When I went to a film festival in Texas, I felt called to try my hand at screenwriting. My first screenplay is an epic siege warfare story - a true story of the greatest come-from-behind victory in world history, when 30,000 besieged Germans defeated the Roman Empire for faith and for liberty in 1501, saving the Reformation from certain demise.
When Stephen Kendrick, producer of War Room, Courageous, etc., whom I met at the film festival, read a summary of my story When Swords Heal, he said that he loved it but it was a $25 million movie and I wasn't going to get that kind of investment as a first-time filmmaker. Start smaller.
I wrote The Reliant within six weeks of that conversation.
My goal was first and foremost to honor God and defend the principles of liberty, including the right to keep and bear arms, and secondly, to wildly entertain. Entertainment for its own sake is like a marshmallow snack, enjoyable but not nutritious. Entertainment, however, can be a powerful tool in the hands of those who want to educate and inspire others, and cinema is arguably one of the most powerful ways to influence the culture today.
What does the title mean?
The first title of the movie was The Y for two reasons: one of the pivotal scenes in the movie take place at "The Y Bridge" in Zanesville, Ohio, and another at a trail in the woods behind my property me and my kids have called "The Y." Secondly, I wanted to investigate meaningful and honest answers to the question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?"
It was Paul Munger, our director, who proposed the change of title to The Reliant. It resonated with so many who were familiar with the story. After the dollar collapses and tragedy strikes the five siblings in this movie, they come off as very self-reliant trying to survive in the woods on the outskirts of a burning, looted city. Their father, being a "prepper" and a gun enthusiast, prepared them as well as he could. However, ultimately they had to be reliant on God to survive the trials coming their way.
Why did you choose to set the action in your hometown of Zanesville, Ohio?
Kevin Sorbo said he was amazed at how much we were able to do with as little money as we had. It is because I spent two years working on finding great, free locations to film, building a team, and perfecting the story. Zanesville is where I live, and so to keep cost down we used my city, my house, my woods, my weapons, and my survival gear. I also gathered great locations in surrounding areas, many of which belong to patients of mine. (I am a family physician in Dresden, Ohio, ten minutes north of Zanesville.)
Because of my circle of influence as a physician and a public speaker in the community, I was able to secure some great deals for lodging and brought together a committed team of volunteers, paid professionals, and investors. We also filmed in Warsaw and Coshocton, and one pickup scene with Brian Bosworth and the Benham Brothers at Morrow Mountain State Park in North Carolina.
This movie includes themes of both faith and self-defense. Some critics might think these are mutually exclusive. I would disagree, but what do you think?
The Second Amendment didn't create the right to keep and bear arms. It existed as a natural right long before our nation was even founded. Our forefathers for the most part shared a biblical, Christian worldview, and the moral principles in the Scriptures informed their thinking on God-given rights. In Luke 22, Jesus told His disciples to sell something to buy a sword, and to take it on their journeys. In First Samuel 13, we see that disarmament was an indication that the government had become tyrannical and may be resisted.
Did you know in the Bible it was not a crime to use lethal force on someone who invaded your home? These are immutable moral principles inscribed into the U.S. Constitution in the Second Amendment. We don't even mention the Second Amendment in our story, yet one of our executive producers and most generous investors is Tim Schmidt, CEO of the U.S. Concealed Carry Association. He realized the winsome and subtle way we can take back the culture employing this kind of meaningful entertainment that upholds our God-given rights. We lovers of liberty need to stop just preaching to the choir with our websites and documentaries and we must begin to creatively and winsomely impact the culture to preserve freedom for the next generation.
Is The Reliant in any way influenced by the 1984 movie Red Dawn?
One of the actors we reached out to early on compared our movie to Red Dawn after he read the script. Our story is truly unique, however, in that nothing like this has been done before as far as I know. In Red Dawn, a foreign government invades and begins to deprive Americans of freedom and of their firearms. That is not near as likely a scenario as in our movie, when it is our government that ultimately becomes tyrannical.
In order to put a halt to the gang warfare in the streets, the looting and the rioting in the wake of the collapse of the dollar, the federal government offers food and security in exchange for our guns. It doesn't take much of an imagination for us to see that happening. An immoral people who are hungry and suffering from anarchy in the streets will cry for cages to keep them safe. But as Ben Franklin said, "Those who give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Much of the action centers on young people trying to survive in a world gone mad. Why is that important?
If we don't teach our youth about guns, the public schools will. If we don't educate them about the relationship between crime and the right to keep and bear arms, the media will. If we don't teach them about our inalienable God-given rights, when crisis strikes the feds will beguile them to sacrifice those rights. A democracy is only as valid as their support of God-given rights, and we have seen throughout history when the democratic consensus sees fit to exploit a minority or persecute dissidents, it takes courageous defiance to resist and preserve freedom.
Have we prepared our children to be thus courageously defiant, or will they live as fear-filled victims? Will they take the path of least resistance and join the looters to feed themselves, or will they protect the innocent and uphold justice? We must be intentional if we ever hope to prepare our posterity for what may very well be coming.
You're a father of 10. And I assume you're a gun owner. So what have you taught your kids about firearms, self defense, hunting, and other activities?
When our kids have mastered airsoft guns and bee-bee guns, we get them a Ruger 10-22. It's a family tradition. We train them on gun safety and accuracy with their Ruger until it's natural to them, and then soon move onto our Glock 9's and AR-15s. Most of my older kids are more accurate with handguns than I am. I made the mistake of starting off shooting high caliber handguns, so it takes a dozen rounds before my groups tighten, thanks to a flinching habit.
Did you use real guns in the movie or props? Did you use a firearm consultant or someone to help with keeping the action realistic?
Every one of the dozen guns used in the making of our movie were real except one. Since we are a SAG production (Screen Actors Guild), no live ammo was employed on our sets. Just too dangerous, especially with the bad habits actors develop with prop guns on sets. It drove me crazy the way they generally lacked muzzle awareness. I brought on a professional gun trainer and a friend of mine, Brandon Myers, who assumed responsibility for every weapon on the set and ensured the gun-handling was realistic. To keep costs down, most of the weapons employed in the film are mine. (The Remington 700 .308 caliber rifle that Bosworth's character uses in the movie is actually our "secret perk" on our crowdfunding campaign at TheReliantMovie.com.)
There's a thirst for family films, but Hollywood doesn't seem to understand that. Why do you think there's such a disconnect?
Interestingly, when you look at the statistics, the more nudity, obscenity, and sexual content there is in a movie, the less money it makes! "The Annual Report to the Entertainment Industry by Movieguide," which looks at all movies going back decades, found this statistic without exception. Hollywood puts filth in movies not because it is necessary to be more profitable, but because they are ideologues who promote filth. The good news for family-friendly filmmakers is we have an audience of movie-goers who long for movies with inspiring themes and without nudity and profanity, and they have helped faith-based movies profit hundreds of millions of dollars!
Will there be a movie premiere here in Ohio? If so, where and when?
There will definitely be a movie premier, but when and where largely depends on our heretofore unsigned distribution deal. We will conclude post-production in September (right after the recording of our score concludes at the prestigious Abbey Road Studios in London!). Then we will field offers from distributors and sign with someone, Lord willing. Tickets to the premier, a signed copy of The Reliant novel, a DVD when it releases - these are some of the perks available to those who'd like to help us with some unexpected post-production costs. Check out our teaser and invest in our movie at TheReliantMovie.com. "Like" us on Facebook and we'll keep in touch with you on our progress. Thank you, and thanks to Buckeye Firearms for taking an interest in our movie. We've already got plans for The Reliant 2, so keep us in your prayers.
Dean Rieck is Executive Director of Buckeye Firearms Association, a former competitive shooter, NRA Patron Member, #1 NRA Recruiter for 2013, business owner and partner with Second Call Defense.