Premiere for local film Saving Winston
In the vein of local music, arts and entertainment we are glad to debut our first local film related interview at hurdcore.com as we discuss the upcoming premiere of Saving Winston with director Shane Hawks. Saving Winston is a family-friendly drama about a troubled teen that finds redemption through her faith in God and the rehabilitation of a rescue horse. The film was shot and produced locally in Eugene, Oregon and will premiere Friday, October 21st at First Baptist Church of Eugene (3550 Fox Meadow Road).
When you attended school at the U of O, did you set out with the goal of getting into movies?
Shane Hawks – Director I’ve always loved movies. When I was 8 years old, I found out that there was a person called the director who made the movies. From that point on I knew what I wanted to do. I graduated from Oregon with a degree in Telecommunications and Film and for almost 20 years I’ve been pursuing this dream.
Do you remember the first film(s) that peaked your interest in pursing film as a career path?
SH Two films definitely had the biggest influence on me. For my 8th birthday I saw Star Wars for the first time in the theater in 1977. It of course had a huge influence. But when I was 12, I watched 2001, just on my family’s TV with commercial breaks and everything. This was when the light really turned on, I finally realized that films could also be works of art.
Your first films are in the horror genre, what about your process makes your perspective in this domain unique?
SH My early projects where all very surreal and “artsy” horror films. They never really found an audience, mainly because they were too “artsy” for the horror crowd and too horrific for the art house crowd. But I did learn how to make films on a small/micro budget.
The core of the story of “Saving Winston” intertwines the lives of a troubled teen girl and a rescue horse, how much of the background for the story is based upon real characters/experiences?
SH Jodi Johnson wrote the screenplay and she had experience as an actual horse trainer. So as we were working on new drafts of the script, I was encouraging her to put in as much of her real horse training knowledge as possible. That type of experience is priceless for a script. As far as the interpersonal relationships go, I believe Jodi based the ideas loosely on a few experiences she had, but probably 90% was created.
How did you come across the script and at what point did it become clear that this was a movie you wanted to be involved with?
SH This is a very long answer, so I’ll do my best to give you the shortest version possible. My wife and I were living in L.A. and my last film “Naomi” (which we put all our own money into) did nothing to improve my filmmaking career. I figured I would never make another film again. So when I hit rock bottom, God was there for me. I came to the realization that if I ever had the chance to make another film, it would only be for His glory. And not 3 weeks later, an old friend of mine who is also an aspiring script writer, Jodi Johnson, contacted me to let me know she was finishing a new Christian screenplay. That was 3 years ago and the script was Saving Winston.
Who are the key players in getting this movie off the ground?
SH Jodi, not only because of the screenplay, but also because she had contacts with people that owned horses and horse stables (all used in the film). My wife, Carrie who also served as a producer. Without her support and faith, Saving Winston would have probably just stayed on the page. Our investors who believed in our abilities enough and the message we were promoting to get involved. Victoria Emmons and the realism she brought to Ashley’s character. The list can go on and on. This might sound cheesy, but the biggest player was the Lord. This was my 4th film and I know what can happen to derail an independent film from ever being completed. We had countless miracles happen that not only allowed this project to be completed, but to also succeed.
“Saving Winston” is a family friendly film which is a little bit of a step away from your previous films which are notably darker, what is most important to you when writing, directing and/or producing a film?
SH When you make low budget films, you have to wear a lot of different hats. I’ve been lucky and learned how to not only write, direct, and produce, but also shoot, edit, and (for my earlier films) do special make-up effects as well. But I always felt that if I could only choose one, it would be to direct. I really feel that is my strength.
There is a certain stigma that comes with “Christian Films” which many writers, actors, directors and producers are making great strides to overturn, what have you seen in regards to the obstacles that positive movies face in the current entertainment climate?
SH I really feel the tone of Christian films is the biggest obstacle to overcome when trying to reach a bigger audience. It seems a lot of people feel Christian movies are just silly. Because my past films dealt with serious subject matters, I did my best to keep the tone of Saving Winston serious and as realistic as possible. It does have a happy ending but we didn’t shy away from the realism of a troubled teen’s journey.
As a writer-director, who/what do you see as some of the greatest impacts in the world of independent films with a positive message?
SH It’s almost impossible to not mention the Kendrick Brothers and what they have done to elevate the independent Christian market. I would also like to mention Terrence Malick and his new film Tree of Life. It is truly a masterpiece and a must see for anyone who considers themselves a film lover.
Whether films or any other line of business, budget is always a concern. What do you believe are the key lessons you have learned in making a quality low budget film that carries a positive message?
SH Use new technology. Just a few years ago, the equipment I used would have cost over $250,000. Today you can get a great HD camera and editing system for around $10,000. It’s still expensive, but not out of reach. I shot Saving Winston with the Canon 5D camera and it produces some of the best looking HD images I’ve seen. For the first time in film history, technology has leveled the playing field. So now it’s one’s own creativity that is the biggest obstacle.
The premier for “Saving Winston” is this Friday at 7pm at First Baptist Church of Eugene, where else can those interested see or purchase this film?
SH This is the only local screening we are planning at this point, but if successful, we may have others. Saving Winston was released on DVD early this month. It is available right now on amazon.com and most other Christian and Non-Christian websites that sell DVDs. For more information, please visit www.savingwinston.com
What other projects do you have in the works and when can we expect to see your work on the screen again?
SH We have a few ideas in the works right now. I’m working with Jodi on a new script called The Eddy Line. It’s a story of redemption that takes place in the world of recreational rafting and kayaking. We hope to shoot it on the Rogue River. But at this point, we’re not quite sure where the Lord will lead us next.
Saving Winston from Pure Flix Entertainment starring Victoria Emmons, Meghan McCabe-Habrat and Austin Kearney is directed by Shane Hawks, written by Jodi Johnson and co-produced by Jodi Johnson and Carrie Hawks. Find out more about the movie and how to get a copy at www.savingwinston.com