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Erica Galindo
Celebrating Food, Faith and Family
Last edited on: May 23, 2015.

Where Hope Grows is a family film with faith elements now playing in theaters!  Winner of the 2014 Dallas International Film Festival and the Heartland Film Festival, this movie is sure to touch hearts and inspire audiences. Sonoma Christian Home was happy for the opportunity to talk with the film’s Writer/Director, Chris Dowling. SCH Editor at Large Dawn Gregg reports.


SCH: There are a lot of layers to this story. Where does it all start?

CD: I’m so fascinated with the idea of child-like faith. It sounds like it would be an easy thing to tackle but when you actually sit down and get analytical about it, it’s a hard thing to put together. I wanted to have a guy be introduced to the idea of child-like faith and then follow his journey. Then I thought, “Okay who is the bearer of this faith?” I thought it would be interesting to have that character have Down Syndrome.

Someone who the world might look at and say, “Okay, maybe he’s not smart enough to realize he’s missing out on everything.” But, the guy who supposedly has everything begins to wonder if maybe he’s the one missing out. There are a lot of other themes addressed, like alcohol abuse, bullying, and the father–daughter relationship. It’s been very humbling and overwhelming to see and hear the reactions from people who are finding relatable things in the film. The characters feel very real to them. It’s powerful to hear that. It’s cool.

faith and family movies for mid-may

Director/screenwriter Chris Dowling with co-stars David DeSanctis “(Produce”) and Brooke Burns (“Amy Boone”) on break from shooting Roadside Attractions’ “Where Hope Grows”; Photo Courtesy of Tom LeGoff.

SCH: Did your faith grow during the production of this movie, maybe in a more child-like manner?

CD: It definitely evolved. I definitely found myself relying on God. We were stepping out in faith. We had a bit task at hand and the right people were involved and there was the right vibe on set. It was a cool experience and I walked out of it feeling like I had confirmation. God was absolutely helping us out.

SCH: Did you feel the approval of the Father?

CD: For sure. Yeah.

SCH: This is David DeSanctis’s first experience with acting. What was your experience directing him?

CD: I didn’t have any experience with Down Syndrome or special needs. Walking into it, my wife was like, “Maybe you should read these books or check out these websites, you know, to prepare.” I said, “I’m gonna treat David like a dude and if that doesn’t work I’ll move to Plan B. Plan B was gonna be me doing some real quick catch up studying. When I first met with David, I sat across form him and as I slid the script across the table it occurred to me that I had no idea if he could read or not. I said, “Can you read all that?” His answer was, “Dawling.” And he licked his fingers (as if to say, let me show you how it’s done) and he dove right in. He had the script practically memorized by then.

David DeSanctis and Writer/Director Chris Dowling seen at Los Angeles Premiere of Roadside Attractions/Godspeed Pictures 'Where Hope Grows'; Photo Courtesy of AP Images.

David DeSanctis and Writer/Director Chris Dowling seen at Los Angeles Premiere of Roadside Attractions/Godspeed Pictures ‘Where Hope Grows’; Photo Courtesy of AP Images.

SCH: That’s pretty amazing. And, I’m sure it was a nice surprise.

CD: He was our X Factor. I know I had a great personality with him. He’s got a star quality that transcends anything. He’s a dude and he’s a stud and he’s a star. One thing I did as a director was use what inspires David in his real life to our advantage. David’s into music. I had him make a Playlist for Produce and we had a song for each scene. We would have a Dance Party whenever we needed inspiration.

SCH: David certainly makes one re-think any pre-conceived ideas they might have.

CD: I really do feel as if we are inundated with these out of date ill-conceived stereotypes as a society. I know I was. I would say the “r” word. It wasn’t malicious. It was done out of ignorance. People just don’t know. This story is about a man, Calvin, who takes a journey to get to know an individual, Produce. I want people to realize that Down Syndrome doesn’t define a person. Down Syndrome does not define David.

SCH: Does Produce have a real name?

CD: Ultimately, I was really comfortable with him going by his nickname. If I’m doing a film and my character doesn’t have Down syndrome and let’s say his name is, “Eyeball,” I don’t need to know his real name. If I’m gonna accept that for an actor without Down Syndrome, I’m gonna accept that for an actor with Down Syndrome. I’m treating this guy like a dude. I don’t need to know his name. He’s given himself this name, Produce. That’s all I need to know. This section of the market is his domain. He is the expert in this place.

Director/screenwriter Chris Dowling with Kristoffer Polaha (“Calvin Campbell”) on break from shooting; Photo Courtesy of Tom Geoff.

Director/screenwriter Chris Dowling with Kristoffer Polaha (“Calvin Campbell”) on break from shooting; Photo Courtesy of Tom LeGoff.

SCH: I understand you filmed on location in Kentucky. How was that?

CD: Kentucky was fantastic to us. We had the red carpet treatment in Louisville. We shot a huge stadium scene and 500 locals showed up on a cold and rainy day to fill seats. We had hospital scenes and grocery store scenes. We shot for four days in a supermarket while it was operating. They asked people to be quiet while shopping and turned off the register dings. When I called, “CUT,” customers would run in and pick out their fruits and vegetables.

SCH: So supportive.

CD: SO supportive.

SCH: Do you have a favorite scene in the film?

CD: It’s when Calvin is talking with Katie, his daughter towards the end. They are having a heart to heart and he’s trying to make amends. The last two times I’ve seen the film, and I’ve seen it hundreds of times, I just started crying. I have two daughters and I asked myself, “Am I crying because of the whole father-daughter dynamic or am I crying because I am the daughter and my Father/God is talking to me?”

Writer/Director Chris Dowling and wife seen at Los Angeles Premiere of Roadside Attractions/Godspeed Pictures 'Where Hope Grows'; Photo Courtesy of AP Images.

Writer/Director Chris Dowling and Wife seen at Los Angeles Premiere of Roadside Attractions/Godspeed Pictures ‘Where Hope Grows’; Photo Courtesy of AP Images.

SCH: So now you are at the point where you are publicizing the film.   Getting the word out.

CD: Yes. Recently, David and I spoke at a church in front of 20,000 plus people. Never in my wildest dreams when I wrote this script did I think I would be talking in front of such a crowd. You hope that you make something that touches people and that your work has an impact of some sort. When you see it played out…well, it’s gone beyond my expectations. Obviously God is rock & rolling something. This is bigger than I could have ever conceived. It’s awesome.

SCH: I want to applaud you for the authenticity you brought to the screen. This film deals with faith issues, but I think it will do well with secular audiences due to it’s authenticity.

CD: That means a lot. That was my goal starting out. During the first meeting I said to everyone, “Hey, if this comes off as anything even remotely cheesy or it doesn’t feel real and authentic, then we have failed completely.”

SCH: That mentality paid off. You did well.

CD: Faith films can be somewhat exclusive. Meaning if you aren’t already on the team, you probably aren’t going to get excited about the film. For me, my goal was to be inclusive and we can go on a faith journey with an audience who might not be on that same faith journey. “Faith-based” is a marketing term. It’s a double-edged sword. If that’s what motivates some believers to go see a film, then absolutely it’s a term we should use. It’s faith based for sure in that sense. But, when you’re talking about a film that has cross over appeal and non-believers say, “Hey, that’s a good film that has faith interwoven organically into it,” that’s the sort of thing I want to hang my hat on.

It’s a line I walk. I like the term, “faith – adjacent.”

SCH: I think we need to encourage the church to embrace films like this. So many have hypersensitivities.

CD: Exactly. Some people are initially afraid of this film. A lot of faith films show a world as we wish it was and they don’t portray life how it really is.


Viewers will be challenged and inspired by the authentic telling of this redemptive story. Messages of faith, hope, and love are what audiences will carry away from Where Hope Grows.

One Response

  1. Diana

    I m not suppose to be alive. If you are a true Christian and mother, you should be outraged at what has been done to me!! You can not be an authentic christian organization as long as you are associated with Chris Dowling and his cousin, my messed up daughter, Carrie Stett. Chris has a lot of ugly baggage that starts with his mother and father. If he was honest he should tell the truth and NOT be promoting Carrie Stett, his cousin. Years ago Carrie Stett was living with Chris in Hollywood and Chris’ mother called him angry at a letter Carrie had written her to express how hurt Carrie was at how his mother, Cheryl treated Carrie growing up. Cheryl got so angry she called Chris in Hollywood who then physically threatened Carrie. He is tall and she is petite. Carrie ran out at 2 am afraid to go back and called us in Texas crying. Chris was a bully and does whatever his mother wants. They will probably lie about it now as there is big effort to cover up mass abuse done to me, an innocent Mom. My husband is sociopath and I found he had been up making up lies about me behind my back for decades to twist everything in my life to blame me, to isolate me. It goes back to a priest abuse incident with Carrie’s coach and a crooked priest that covered up the coach sex abuse and blamed me and Carrie as trouble makers for coming forward. Carrie came home telling of the graphic sex things he wanted the girls to say. The pastor and principal covered it up and turned the girls and Moms against us. I did nothing wrong but finding out my husband had been making up lies and sabotaging my life to distract and silence me about the crooked priest for the Sisters of Charity at Catholic hospital he was executive. My husband sabotaged every bit of my life hiding and getting rid of money, lying behind my back to turn everyone against me so I was isolated, silenced, distracted under his control for years. He managed the bills, mail, investments and more. His job was executive working for crooked Sisters of Charity where he was over pastoral care, psychiatry, new construction and more. I am finding that behind my back he lied to my children twisting events in their lives to make me out a trouble maker and the one at fault when I was not!! He protected the crooked priest and pedophile coach. Chris was a spoiled brat and when they would come to Shreveport, Carrie would feel hurt because Chris could do anything mean or wrong and his mom, Cheryl, would always blame my children. Chris did not have to take responsibility!! Carrie had those feelings as an adult and finally wrote a letter to Cheryl expressing her hurt feelings. Cheryl got ANGRY and called unchristian Chris who threatened Carrie. But now after my husbands sabotage of my life has played out and I am finding the lies, he apparently convinced Carrie that somehow I was at fault as he was portraying me as mentally ill and abusing him. BUT HE WAS/IS the abuser. To my face he doted on me and said our kids needed to stop abusing me and he told this to a PTSD expert. The expert told my husband to tell Carrie to STOP it as using someones PTSD on purpose to trigger them means someone wants you to kill yourself. He was trying to kill me and there is more. I have PTSD from my own kids abuses on top of my husband colluding with crooked psychiatrist in 1990 that he was executive over and they had their own scandal to cover up, so he worked with these crooks to deem me mentally ill therefore not credible about the priest abuse story and whatever else he was twisting behind my back. They tried to lock me up for two years. He was not even there for most of the conversations but he twisted everything to convince our kids to leave me out of their lives. IT IS DISGUSTING THAT MY OWN CHILDREN WILL BELIEVE THE LIES OF ONE PARENT AND NOT EVEN ASK YOU IF WHAT THE DAD IS SAYING IS TRUE. MY OWN CHILDREN ASSUMED THIS SOCIOPATH WAS TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT THEIR INNOCENT MOM. They gave me NO respect or dignity or value of my life.
    If you are going to say you are Christian then please tell the entire truth and be sure who you are working with.
    Please, my husband tried to kill me, I have lots of evidence and they ALL tried to and still want me silenced. They try to make me out not credible by saying Im crazy. But this is red flag because people who are abusers always discredit their victims making them out mentally ill/crazy!!! IF YOU ARE TRULY CHRISTIAN YOU WILL NOT SILENCE ME EITHER. PLEASE INTERVIEW ME.

    THE Chris Dowling I knew was NOT a christian and neither are his parents. His mother and I use to be very close. She confided in me for years that she could not take anymore of my brother, Donall’s abuses. She was depressed and suicidal and eventually saw a psychiatrist. Chris was a mess and turned out is ADHD. But Cheryl has a physical disability, deformaty so she is dependent on my brother. She talked of wanting a divorce because he was so selfish and self absorbed and she could not take anymore. But if she left him, she would be force to move in with her Shreveport parents in undesirable home. She had to make a choice and hope that Donall would change. So she turned on me when I stood up for myself and her to my brother, Donall’s, condescending rude treatment. So to stay with Donall, Cheryl had to kiss his rear and do what he wanted or else she would be in nursing home or her parents at that time. But appears my sociopath husband made up lies about me behind my back and twisted this story to turn my kids against me so they would then bond with my abusiver brother and his lying wife, Cheryl. Chris knows he is a fake. I CAN NOT STAND FAKE CHRISTIANS. I AM VICTIM OF PRIEST ABUSE AND THE CROOKED CATHOLIC PRIEST AT ST. JOSEPH IN SHREVEPORT WHO COVERED UP COACH SEX ABUSE. Carrie came home telling of sexual things the coach was making them say to earn their positions. I checked with another Mom and we reported it to the now crooked pastor and principal. They covered it up and said my daughter and I were troubles maker and my daughter should never have told me. This was insult to injury to tell child to not report sex abuse and for a crooked Catholic priest to cover it up. He was crooked and I found story where he helped a pedophile priest get out of prison 10 yrs early then the pedophile priest quickly molested a little boy. The crooked pastor, Clayton, blamed the victims Mom just as he had done to me years before. But my husband twisted and lied about this to brainwash Carrie Stett…. authentic liar/story teller just as Chris is. Interesting how people with bad in their lives like to live in hypocrisy.
    Please do not silence me. Please interview me as well. I am their victim and they each are part of the tragic corrupt dirty vicious story to destroy an innocent Moms life. I have lost everything do to my husband’s lies and abuses. I lost my children, grandkids, money, home, everything. I was stay at home Mom and lived for my kids. My husband was about himself! he got rid of my millions and is hiding millions. You need to hear how he got my own children to try to help him have me locked up before a fraud divorce so he could lie to the judge using a fake asset list. Carrie Stett has done some of the most VILE EVIL to her innocent Mom. While she did her Kleenix videos of a hero dog named Chance, she gave her own innocent Mom no CHANCE and treated her Mom like a dog!!! A therapist said its insanity to blame me for the priest/coach scandal. I did nothing wrong. Its insanity because her dad is a crook who tried to destroy his wife to help the Catholic Church cover up priest coach sex scandal of St. Joseph that had powerful founding members. MASSIVE MASSIVE SCANDAL TO BE TOLD!!
    I am not going to stop until Carrie Stett finally gets a soul, a conscience and starts to tell AUTHENTIC STORIES. SHE IS AUTHENTIC LIAR STORY TELLER.


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