The ticket booth hasn’t even opened yet for this inspiring and true story, but already the buzz can be heard.
Eterne Films, in association with Birchwood Pictures, present the feature film, One Heart. Based around a life-changing game of football, One Heart is the amazing story of the players and coaches from two very different schools, and the impact an act of unquestioning compassion can have on a community.
Sonoma Christian Home was blessed to interview Steve Riach, the CEO of Eterne Films and a co-founder of the One Heart Project and we are pleased to now share it with you.
SCH: You’ve said that your film is not a faith-based film, but a film with a values message. Can you tell us more about that?
SR: The movie is really marketed for the general population. There are a few movies made in the last years that are truly inspirational to the general market. Blindside being one, Remember the Titans would be another. There are a handful that are really targeted to the general population that have messages that are truly inspirational, and we feel like our story has that. It has great appeal to the mass audience. It’s a story about compassion; a real sense of unconditional love and compassion and how the very simple display of unconditional compassion brings about a change for both the giver and receiver, and because of that it will resonate with folks everywhere. We’ve definitely targeted the general market audience.
SCH: Has there been a release date set for the film?
SR: As of right now – and we know a lot of things can happen – but right now we’re targeting the Fall of 2012. It needs to be released right before football season. So, sometime in the Fall of 2012.
SCH: Do you see your film – and other films with a values message – being a part of a change in the climate within the film industry?
SR: I hope so. Hopefully this movie will be a part of a change. There’s definitely a change occurring. I think one of the things that has become recognizable, is not just in films being produced, but also in the way the media is discussing those films. There’s obviously a very concerted effort to bring faith-based films to audiences around America, and while we’re not doing that, I think that the acceptance of those films by mainstream studios and mainstream audiences, to a certain degree, indicates that there is a desire for wholesome family-oriented films, and so there are more of them that are being produced today.
Right now, as you and I are talking, we’re coming out of a weekend where a film called Dolphin Tale had the highest grossing box office of any film this past weekend. It is a very, very clean, family-oriented film and I think there’s a hunger and a desire for films like that. I think they resonate with the majority of people around the United States who go to see films, so I think they’re satisfying an appetite that people have, and I hope we’re a part of that, and I hope we’ll be part of something that turns into an avalanche of audiences wanting to see more and more of that.
SCH: It would seem that films like yours, which have a solid, values message, are helping to bridge the gap between mainstream media and faith-based films.
SR: I would agree with you, yes.
SCH: What first got you started in film?
SR: I’ve been in production for over 25 years. I’ve produced television shows, short films, and films that have gone direct to DVD. For the last few years I’ve been looking for a story to tell as a major release, long-form feature film. I’ve had a number of scripts come across my desk, but to me it wasn’t about just making a film. There were several opportunities for me to do that in the last five years or so, but that wasn’t my intention. I really wanted to make the right film. I really wanted to make the film that was not just an entertainment vehicle. Be entertaining, yes, but also be culturally impactful.
I actually was down in the sidelines at the football game that took place between Gainseville State and Grapevine Faith, which is the basis for the movie we’re making. The first time they played I was down on the sidelines and as I watched the game unfold, the pregame and whatnot, I watched it unfold before me and it was literally like watching the scenes of a major motion picture happen before my eyes. And really knew that this was something that needed to be told as a feature film. It felt like God just handed it to me and basically said, “Here you go”.
SCH: Have you cast the film, yet?
SR: We’re right now choosing actors, we’re casting film right now, choosing the director right now. We’ll be shooting the film in a couple of months. To see it go from where it was that night on the football field to where we are today has just been incredible.
Part of what has made it such a privilege to film is that we really did want this to be more than just an entertainment vehicle, what we really wanted to do was to create something that would be culturally impactful. We set up this non-profit that is working alongside this film that had a reach at the back of the film to kids who are incarcerated. We saw that the film could be a mechanism to mobilize the people around the country to get involved in making a difference in the lives of kids in the juvenile system.
We know that there are about 2.1 million juveniles arrested every year in the united states, 110,000 of them are incarcerated. The reality is that in most cases, this is a forgotten population. There are very few organizations that reach out to these kids. Some are released at the age of 18, having been incarcerated during their formative years, and then they walk out the door of that prison and the gates shut behind them…where do they go? They’ve missed out on the incredibly important foundational aspects for their adulthood. Where do they go?
Most of the time they go back to the neighborhood they came from- where they got into trouble. Back home. Which is why the return arrest rate amongst juvenile offenders in the United States is 70%. 7 out of 10 will be rearrested within 3 years of their release, and most of those within the first six months.
The reason why is that they come out and they have no place to go, number one, and number two, they come out and they have no tangible skill and they’re too old to go back to school. Most of them are a long way from getting their GED, and most of them won’t get hired at a job because they’ve got a felony offense. So they’re pushed into almost a no-win situation. If they are able to get a job, they need transportation to get to the job, and how are they going to get that transportation? If they’re fortunate enough that someone is able to provide transportation for them, then they’ve got a car. Now they need insurance to drive that car, which will cost them an average of $1000 a year and where are they gonna get that $1000? Most of them are on probation or parole and they’ve got some sort of probation or parole expense that might only be $18 a month, but where are they gonna get $18 a month when they don’t have a job?
The 80 juvenile authorities that we work with around the states will tell us that at least 50% of these kids we meet really want a new life; that they really want a second chance. They want to start over, make good choices and have a normal life. Even if it’s just 50%, that’s a massive part of the population. They’d be getting a second chance.
Our heart in the project is that we want the movie to entertain people, we want it to move them, we want it to be a great, great film, critically acclaimed; but we also want the men and women who watch this film to be so moved that they turn to one another and say, “We need to do something to make a difference with these kids”.
Then we’re going to give them something to do, we’re going to mobilize them in the process so they can be a part of the solution.
SCH: Give us a little background information about your foundation, Heart of a Champion.
SR: Heart of a Champion is a public charity that we developed and launched about 14 years ago. It was started by myself, a couple business leaders and of course, team owners and professional athletes who have strong desire to have an impact on the youth culture. And really, at the genesis of everything that we do is a desire to transform culture.
We spent about three and a half years researching with educators around the country, looking at the most challenging situations they were dealing with in the classroom. We felt that the best place to bring transformation on a broad basis would be to go into the public schools. These educators came back and gave us some very specific data about what they were dealing with and the challenges they faced. Then we had general meetings and discussions with the Department of Education in Washington, and after we came back from that, we created this curriculum that is a character or ethics curriculum. launched 11 years ago and we’ve now broadened that scope to include juvenile facilities.
SCH: Are there other programs like yours?
SR: Most programs are targeted to address the symptomatic issues, which is what I think our culture typically does. What I think makes our program different is that it addresses the root cause, and because it addresses the root cause, it’s creating a measurable change that can be sustained. We’re really excited about that.
As far as juvenile facilities, there are a handful of organizations that are reaching out to adult prisoners around the United States and a handful of Christian ministries reaching out to adult prisoners, but there’s really very little being done today for juveniles who are incarcerated. It’s kind of a forgotten population.
SCH: It makes sense to reach them early, so they can avoid being incarcerated adults.
SR: Yes, and we really stumbled into it, honestly. We were not intentional about reaching this population until about five or six years ago. With the success we were having with the curriculum in one of the national programs, we had some county authorities ask about using it in the juvenile facilities and we said “absolutely”. The more we learned about it over the last five years, the more we saw how great the need was, so two and half to three years ago, we really started making a concerted effort to reach into juvenile facilities. That’s how the One Heart initiative was developed.
I think the general perception in our society is that these kids are bad kids, that they’re criminals, they’re getting what they deserve and I’m just glad they don’t live in my neighborhood and date my daughter.
This has been the first part of a 2-part interview with filmmaker Steve Riach. You won’t want to miss the next release, where we’ll delve a little more deeply into his personal story.