Thursday, October 17, 2013
Seasons of Gray, religious movie filmed in Dallas, under fire over title
Some in the faith-based community say it's too similar to sexually-charged book Fifty Shades of Grey.
DALLAS Paul and Sarah Stehlik Jr. devoted almost a decade to turning Seasons of Gray, a faith-based, made-in-Texas movie, into a reality.
But now that the film, produced with support from Watermark Community Church in Dallas, is opening in theaters Friday, some people have suggested making one significant change: the title.
It’s mighty similar, after all, to a certain best-selling book of erotica.
Paul, who directed and produced Seasons of Gray, which puts a contemporary spin on the biblical story of Joseph, has chosen to stand pat.
“I am not concerned that people might say, ‘This must have to do with Fifty Shades of Grey,’ and decide not to see it,” he says. “But maybe some will say, ‘I heard about Shades of Grey. I want to see that,’ and they’ll see our movie, get a completely different story and, for some, it will be a nice surprise.”
Adds Sarah, who wrote the screenplay: “We’ve been working on this film for so long. It’s been Seasons of Gray for seven or eight years. The timing is interesting, with those books becoming so popular. But we never really considered changing the title.”
“We like to think of it as free publicity,” says Paul, a graduate of L.D. Bell High School in Hurst whose other directing credits include a documentary about the Old 97’s, the Dallas rock-country band.
The film is distributed by EchoLight Studios, the Dallas-based film company whose CEO is 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum.
The Stehliks talked about Seasons of Gray this week by phone from the African nation of Rwanda, where they’re on a three-year trip that combines filmmaking with ministry.
The Dallas Morning News: Todd Wagner, senior pastor at Watermark, has said Seasons of Gray doesn’t represent an effort by the church to get into the movie business. Do you feel the same way?
Paul: Yes. Our goal was to reach people and to give them the chance to connect with this story in a way that they never have before. Our goal was not to create a franchise or a studio for career advancement in the movie industry. Our goal was simply to tell an inspiring story about forgiveness and reconciliation.
Where in Texas did you shoot the movie?
Paul: A lot of it we filmed in Dallas. The prison portion was filmed in Waco. The cattle ranch portion was filmed in Saint Jo. It was shot completely in Texas during the summer of 2010 over the span of six weeks. In addition to being able to hire professional actors and a professional crew, we were fortunate to have about $1 million worth of goods and services and volunteer hours donated to the film. That’s how we were able to achieve a rather high production level on a smaller budget.
Are you disappointed, after so many years of working on the film, that you won’t be here to see it open in theaters?
Sarah: It is a little surreal to watch this going on from the other side of the world, through Facebook posts and through emails from back home. It would be nice to show up in the theater on the first night with everybody. Maybe we would have been disappointed a few years ago, but we’re at peace now with letting go of any feelings of ownership we might have over it.
David Martindale is an Arlington freelance writer.