As filmgoers and critics, we often take for granted what goes into the filmmaking process. You typically hear about the “hard work” invested in a project, but those two words really don’t paint a picture of the exhaustive process working on a film can be. From start to finish, it’s your life. Imagine going to work in the morning, probably outside, setting up your area and focusing on it for hours. Then you get a break where you get to rehydrate, but your brain is still wired into your function on the set. Then you spend another round of concentration on your area and you get another break. By now you’ve been focusing on the same thing for around twelve hours. You may still be going for a few end-of-the-evening shots, and then the break-down of your area. This could be well into your eighteenth hour.
Without even factoring in heat, manual labor, and generally being on your feet, have you ever focused intensely on something for eighteen hours straight? Now imagine trying to disconnecting from it for about four hours to get a little rest and doing it again the next day with as much concentration as the day before. Now imagine this pattern for a few weeks. Suffice to say, filmmaking is not glamorous, and it’s certainly not easy. And unless you’re a featured player, i.e. actor/director/producer, you probably don’t get to feel like it’s ultimately your project.
So what compels so many creative, passionate souls to convene on a single story committed to film? That’s a question best left to informal discussion, but the truth is, it happens. And it’s amazing and humbling to watch. We recently attended the final two days of filming of Abel’s Field, an inspirational drama with humor and pain, directed by Gordie Haakstad and starring Kevin Sorbo and Samuel Davis. What can we say? Other than: this experience is one we’re going to be talking about for the rest of our lives. Wow!
Abel’s Field is about a high school student named Seth (Samuel Davis). Seth doesn’t have it easy. His mother dies and his father leaves him and his twin sisters alone. Seth has to work two jobs, go to school, and raise his sisters. He later gets into trouble for a fight and he has to work with the school’s groundskeeper, named Abel (Kevin Sorbo). They can’t stand each other at first, but then they share a deep bond. Abel becomes Seth’s mentor. Seth even gains a love interest. (Who is played by a beautiful girl named Nicole Elliott.) All goes well, until Seth loses his house and his sisters have to live somewhere else. He needs Abel more than ever, but Abel is ready to skip town. Seth discovers that Abel has been running from something, but what could it be? What did he do in his past? What will become of Abel? Also, what will happen to Seth?
The atmosphere on the set was warm and loving. It was like we were all going to give each other a big group hug at any moment! The journalists, cast, and crew all wanted to get to know each other. No one had an ego. We were all in the same boat, Christians in the entertainment industry. We all worked, ate, and hung out together. Every person did his or her part to help this wonderful film move along. We met some people that we will treasure for a lifetime.
Typically on a film shoot the director sets the tone which filters down through the entire production team. Gordie Haakstad is the kind of director you want on a project. In addition to being talented and intelligent, he is also level-headed and respectful of everyone on the team. Considering we watched him work on the last day of a film shoot without ever raising his voice, we were so impressed. On top of that we got to see a few rough cuts of some scenes in the movie. The footage looks fantastic. The characters are well defined and the scenes are poignant. We obviously haven’t seen the whole film, but we can tell Haakstad’s love for the story is infused in the end result. Bravo.
Tore Knos is the film’s producer. Knos was a very humble man whose faith shone through. He was very sweet. He believes in this film so much. Knos and Sarah had the pleasure of talking during lunch and were able to get to know each other. He was very interested in getting to know her and asked lots of questions. What a great man!
Of course no discussion of Abel’s Field would be complete without discussing Kevin Sorbo. As the “name” actor attached to the project he’s invariably going to attract some Hollywood attention. We were made aware that Sorbo had supported Abel’s Field a few years ago before financial setbacks postponed the production. As Knos and Haakstad informed us, Sorbo never gave up on the film, and his commitment is truly admirable.
It was difficult for us to shake hands with the actor who gave us Hercules and Dylan Hunt without getting a little fan-flustered, but Sorbo is just so genuinely charming, funny, and personable we couldn’t help but be drawn into who he is as a human being over who he’s played as an actor. Sorbo lives through his faith, reaching out to teens through a non-profit mentoring program called A World Fit For Kids, and he was a delight to spend several minutes chatting with.
Nicole Elliott played Seth’s beautfiul love interest named Katie. Nicole is a sweet girl with a touch of shyness, which was very cute. We had the pleasure of interviewing her. She’s very smart. Sarah couldn’t help but compliment her eyes and tell her that she looked like Emma Stone! We saw a clip of Elliott’s acting in the film and she came across so well on camera. She oozed confidence. We were impressed by this amazing woman.
Samuel Davis played Seth, who is the star of the film. Davis played this total bad boy in the film, but was the sweetest guy ever! He even asked us if there was anything that he could do for us. We were just about speechless! He’s a gentle man who will address you by name every time he sees you. Never in our lives had we come across such a fine young man. On the last night of filming, we were all eating dinner when Sarah got up to speak to him. She walked over to him and he stood up and greeted her. She told him, “Don’t ever change. You are perfect as you are.” He stretched his arms out for not one, but two hugs! Awwww!
Lovell/Fairchild Communications handled the journalists. They paid for our food, flight, transportation, and hotel. Let us tell you, it was like they rolled out the red carpet for us! They expected us to be hard at work, but they spared no expense for us. They were some of the kindest, most professional people we have ever worked with in the industry. Always ready for a joke or a hug. They take their faith and their work VERY seriously, but not in a rude way. These are some of the hardest working people out there, but they know how to have fun. Good for them!
We had this truly wonderful experience for a few days in the town of Thrall, Texas, population 800. Thrall opened its heart to the cast and crew of Abel’s Field, and then to the film’s journalists, and for that we will always be grateful. We got to watch the school’s actual homecoming game, which was filmed for the movie, whereupon the students held their homecoming dance and then showed up to work on the film later that night and the next day for more filming. All that and they won the game.
So why do so many people devote their time and energy to a film project? We think it’s out of love for each other. Human beings are creatures of story, and Abel’s Field is a good one. You can tell how every single person involved in the film loved the movie, and respected each other, and that’s the real magic of cinema. For an all-too-brief time, we got to share in that love as journalists, and it is our sincere hope when Abel’s Field is released that you, the viewer, will be able to share in that love as well.
Thank you Abel’s Field, thank you Lovell/Fairchild, thank you Thrall, Texas, and thank you God for the blessing of stories.