DS:We were very proud and pleased to receive the Dove Family Approved seal. Boonville Redemption also received Dove’s ‘Faith Friendly’ seal. We set out to make a faith and family friendly film, so receiving these awards affirms our original intent. What’s even more gratifying is seeing family audiences enjoy the film. They are swept away by the story. We’ve even seen them standing up and cheering at the end of the film.
NJ: In working with the cast of a period piece, what were some of the most important elements of onscreen behavior that you wanted your actors to keep in mind?
DS: Because Boonville Redemption is set in 1906 California, when it was still the wild west, one of the things that some of our cast members had to learn was how to drive a team of horses. They spent a day with our wranglers learning how to handle the reins and talk to the horses so they would stop and go on command. We also had to brief the rest of the cast and crew on how to behave around horses. They were all movie-trained horses, but they are still animals and unpredictable. Fortunately, everyone behaved as they should—horses and people alike.
NJ: Is developing a period piece more difficult as a director or do you find it easier?
DS: In many ways, a period Western is more fun than shooting a film that is set here and now. The Western world is very physical. Just think about everything we do nowadays that runs on electricity. In 1906 when our story is set, there wasn’t any electricity, so everything ran on people or animal power. In those days, survival took a lot of work—food had to be grown and harvested, homes and shops had to be built from scratch, transportation involved dirt roads and temperamental horses, communication was face-to-face. For a director, that means many more things for the actors to do and the camera to capture. We learn more about people from what they do rather than what they say, so in a period film there are many more ways for a director to reveal character with behavior instead of relying just on dialogue.
NJ: Why did you choose to take on the story of Boonville Redemption?
DS: For me and for our investors it was the script. Judy Belshe-Toernblom had written a screenplay that you couldn’t put down once you started reading it. It is rich with characters and tells a moving story of grace and forgiveness from the point of view of a 13 year-old girl who is on a quest to find her real father. No one in town will tell her what happened to him and it is her courage and determination that reveals the truth. So it was the screenplay, and a chance to direct my first feature film after making about 300 other films in my forty year career.
NJ: Which character(s) were you most eager to work with?
DS: There are many well-developed characters in this story, so it is difficult to single out any one in particular. Along with 13 year-old Melinda who is on a quest to find out what happened to her real father, there is also her abusive stepfather driven by greed and jealousy, her heartbroken mother who turns to superstition to assuage the guilt she feels over the terrible choices she made in the past, and Melinda’s ailing grandmother who shows the girl the love and acceptance she has craved all her life. Then add a town “watcher” who carries a lit lantern day and night because he’s terrified of the dark, a newly-immigrated Italian family struggling to make a living from their homegrown vineyards, a native-American couple surviving on their traditional skills and hard work, an African-American family eking out a living on odd jobs and grit, and a town doctor who has been in Boonville so long he knows everyone’s story. Throw in a terrible secret that involves all of them, and a unique language spoken only by those that live in the town’s valley, and you have the makings of a great story.
NJ:After the initial reading of the script with the entire cast describe how you felt.
DS: Frankly, I was enormously gratified to have such a great cast to work with. The screenwriter, Judy Belshe-Toernblom, has been a casting director for 35 years, so she was able to find an extraordinary ensemble of thirty great actors to fill the parts of all these fascinating characters. Add to that the star power of Pat Boone—a living legend, Ed Asner—a seven-time Emmy winner, and Diane Ladd—a three-time Oscar and Emmy nominee, and as a director your have to be extremely grateful.
NJ:You are well known for your writing and directing the one-hour PBS documentary, No Greater Love, about the miracle of organ donation. Do you have a favorite genre of film or do you produce what you feel is relevant for the society no matter the genre?
DS: I love making documentaries because the crew is so small and the creative decisions are immediate. You don’t have time to check with anyone because events are unfolding in front of you, so it really stimulates you creatively. Plus, with documentaries, you can attack social issues head on. For example, the year after No Greater Love was broadcast on PBS, organ donations increased 5 percent in the U.S. It’s not often that you get to save lives with TV, so there’s a lot to be said for making documentaries.
At the same time, it is quite satisfying to be in command of a cast & crew of a hundred people telling a story that you hope will captivate an audience and awaken them to important aspects of human relationships. For example, I think we all live in regret for things we’ve done foolishly in the past, so being able to show people that it is possible to shed that guilt and find hope in grace and forgiveness as we did in Boonville Redemption is terrifically gratifying.
It has always been my goal as a filmmaker to support and promote the Christian values of loving kindness and forgiveness that are crucial to successful in life. I am extremely grateful that I have been able to move toward that goal with my films.
Don Schroeder has been a writer, producer, and director for more than forty years and his films have won dozens of awards around the world including a national Emmy for writing and directing the one-hour PBS documentary, No Greater Love, about the miracle of organ donation. As Executive Producer of Envoy Productions, Don produced and directed the TV special, Waiting for the Windstarring Robert Mitchum which won a Gold Angel award, and two of his other specials won Silver Angel awards. Don was also a co-founder and Executive Producer of Mentor Media where he produced and directed award-winning documentaries and educational films. To learn more about Boonville Redemption visit the film’s website and social media pages.