Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Flower Mound director embarks on newest family film
The faith-based I am ... Gabriel just finished production, with a goal of an April 2012 release.
With relentless heat and a struggling economy serving as a backdrop, Texans may relate to the theme of Mike Norris' new film.
The director hopes the message of faith reaches his audience as well.
Norris, a Flower Mound resident, is wrapping up production of his most recent film, I am ... Gabriel, a story of a crippling Texas town and a mysterious young boy named Gabriel who has come to help. The people of Promise, Texas are split on their feelings of Gabriel, not knowing whether he is an answered prayer or a false prophet.
The movie, which is being shot in Justin and stars John Schneider and Dean Cain, is the latest in a line of faith-based films Norris has directed in an attempt to blend Christian hope with quality entertainment.
The quality is covered by Norris' selection of some well-known actors. Cain has appeared in roles such as Clark Kent/Superman in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and as Rick in four episodes of Beverly Hills 90210. He plays Sheriff Brody.
Schneider is well-known for playing Bo Duke in the original The Dukes of Hazzard series in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Schneider plays "Doc," the town's longtime and beloved doctor.
The movie also stars 12-year-old Gavin Casalegno, as Gabe. I Am ... Gabriel is his first big role appearance. Dallas actor Elise Baughman and Carey Scott, who play a couple who take in Gabe, and Jenn Gotzon, who plays a local reporter, also star in the movie.
"The way the market is, you need to have actors that are recognizable by many fans," Norris said. "These actors have an established track record. John is an icon. He played Bo Duke on a great TV series. His part is someone who is middle-aged and dying. I thought that would give a different dynamic than if it was an old man who was dying.
"Dean plays the antagonist who has lost his faith," Norris said. "We looked at a number of people for that, but he got it, and he understood it. They're both so professional. Between the two, they have thousands of hours of episode TV and films."
Norris said the actors also understood the message of faith he wanted to convey in the movie.
"In the movie, this is a small town that is dying," Norris said. "A young boy shows up, and things start to change. Dean's character only sees the negative, and John's character only sees the positive. Then there is Carey Scott, who takes everything in and sees the good and the bad. So you see things through three perspectives, and I find that interesting."
Norris has a long history in the film business, being the son of action film and TV star Chuck Norris. He began his career in the action film market and continued to develop his skills as a writer, director, producer and actor. Once he began directing the TV series Walker, Texas Ranger, he realized there were few family-based films he could share with his family. So he set out to create some.
His first Christian-based film was Bells of Innocence, which was released in 2003. Since then, he has also released others such as Birdie and Bogey and Maggie's Passage.
"I want to do faith-based films that deliver a message within the story," Norris said. "Not an in-your-face Christian film but a film that crosses over into the mainstream."
Looking ahead, Norris is already thinking of a future movie about a blind piano prodigy, tentatively called "Blind Faith." He is also in the early stages of a faith-based horror movie.
Schneider said he enjoys working in faith-based films but said it has to be done the right way to be effective.
"There are a lot of faith-based movies that are done prematurely," Schneider said. "It's like taking a cake out of the oven before it's done. I try to get involved in movies that are well-thought out and where the story is well told. Our job is to tell a good story, and if that also sends a message, then great."
Schneider said movies, especially faith-based films, that don't have a good story behind them are rarely successful. He said I Am ... Gabriel does have that strong story.
"I play a doctor who is sick and is in need of healing and understanding," Schneider said. "I get to witness a miraculous recovery, and that gives me hope. I really liked the subject matter. I try to do movies that are entertaining and well-written so that when you watch it, it's a good experience."
The movie is expected to be released in April 2012, though distribution information has not been determined.
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