Miracle in East Texas, a new film starring Kevin Sorbo, John Ratzenberger, and Lou Gossett, Jr., will screen on opening night, July 17, at the Anthem Film Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. Anthem, part of the libertarian themed FreedomFest conference, will include 30 films, eight post-screening discussions, and six panels in four days. The conference and film festival, with this year’s theme “The Wild West,” take place at the Paris Las Vegas.
Con-Men and Miracles
Written by screenwriter Dan Gordon, known for The Hurricane (Denzel Washington), Wyatt Earp (Kevin Costner), Let There Be Light (Kevin Sorbo), and Passenger 57 (Wesley Snipes), the film is based on a true story about Depression era middle-America.
Miracle in East Texas introduces us to Doc Boyd, played by Kevin Sorbo, and Dad Everett, played by John Ratzenberger, a pair of con men working a dry-oil-well grift. They’ve pulled it off successfully half-a-dozen times in Oklahoma. When they descend on the small Texas town of Cornville to try their scheme again, the unthinkable happens, and unleashes a series of miracles from the dead East Texas soil.
A Talented Couple
The film was a husband-and-wife joint effort, with the Sorbos both acting, Kevin directing, and Sam producing. I spoke with them prior to Anthem, where they will attend the screening and teach a master class for filmmakers.
This is the second film that you and your wife have worked on with screenwriter Dan Gordon. What brought the three of you together, and could there be another film in the future?
KEVIN: We really enjoyed the entire process on Let There Be Light so much that when another opportunity arose to work together, we approached Dan to see if there were any of his scripts that might work for our budget and desires, and he had a great one, ready to go!
Hollywood almost has a sub-genre of con man films – Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Grifters, The Sting. Does Miracle in East Texas fit in here, or is it different somehow?
SAM: This film is very much in line with The Sting, except it is inspired by a true story, and it’s an incredible story, at that! The fact that it also combines comedy and a little romance doesn’t hurt, either. We had so much fun on set!
The story is set in East Texas, but you filmed in Alberta, Canada. What went into that decision?
SAM: Basically, we had relationships up there that just made it make sense to shoot there. Also, the incentives for filmmakers that are provided by the government are excellent enticements, especially because they also promise easy recovery of the rebates. Because of our existing contacts, we were able to mount the production in little more than two weeks of prep time! One scout a few weeks before shooting, and we were in business.
I understand you went to fans on Twitter for validation of your title and poster choices. How did that work out and would you recommend that to other filmmakers?
KEVIN: We enjoy the feedback and interaction with the fans, and we do recommend it. They are your first audience, and their opinions are really important.
Filming lasted two months. Was that faster or slower than you expected? Anything serendipitous happen?
KEVIN: It was such an easy shoot! We were blessed by great weather and wonderful hosts – the locations were beautiful, and the people were gracious and enthusiastic about the project. The most serendipitous thing that happened was that we had targeted several of our cast members in the US, but due to various developments, three of our cast had to drop out just before signing their contracts.
SAM: As we’ve indicated, we mounted this film on a very limited schedule. So, we ended up having to cast those parts locally – that caused us a great deal of anxiety! Could we find actors who could really carry off the parts? The answer was a resounding “Yes!” We are thrilled with the results, frankly.
Looking at the film now, is there anything you wish you had done differently?
KEVIN: No regrets! No mulligans!
You’ve taken the film to World-Fest Houston, the International Christian Film and Music Festival, and now Anthem. Do you have plans for a wider release yet?
SAM: Yes. It’s under wraps for now, pending finalizing our deals.
What brought you to Anthem?
KEVIN: It just was a perfect fit for us, for this film! The film tells the story of two entrepreneuring scoundrels, who make the biggest oil strike in the world, for real. It’s a western in that it takes place in Texas, keeping it in the theme of this year’s Anthem Film Festival, [which is] The Wild West, and it’s got a pro-business theme as well!
Is there anything else you want your fans and other potential viewers to know about the film?
KEVIN: Absolutely. The independent filmmaker relies on word of mouth and the support of the film-goers to remain in business. More than ever, with Hollywood turning out blockbuster after blockbuster, that each seem to use up all the oxygen in the marketplace, the small indies need help in reaching their potential.
We were just on a United flight to Israel. United must be featured in the upcoming Spiderman movie because the eye masks and other things were all branded Spiderman fare, and the safety video featured Spiderman himself web-slinging people around, and some other cast members in kind-of flight-related scenes. It was pretty odd, but of course, effective. I can’t even begin to guess what their marketing budget was – even if it’s just a quid pro quo exchange, we can’t compete with that. We don’t compare to the big-budget special effects and over-the-top action sequences, but we hope our films resonate longer in our audiences’ hearts.
SAM: We make human story films. They don’t cost as much, but our aim is for you to leave the theater having experienced some emotions, feeling uplifted, maybe even with a slightly new perspective on life.
So, come watch the movie, and if you enjoy it, help us to spread the word and grow interest in the film. Our success makes it possible for us to turn around and make more, and your participation in this free-market equation is vital!
And if you haven’t seen Let There Be Light, go see it today.