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Located in: West Linn, Oregon
Submitted: June 10, 2009
Tell us a little about yourself. First and foremost, I am a believer. I was brought up in a Christian home. The affirmation of my faith happened in college when Josh McDowell published 'Evidence That Demands a Verdict" and spoke at the University of Oregon. I have always had a love for film making. When I was little, I would take my parent's 8mm film camera and make short animations. I worked for Nike after graduating from the University of Oregon and started my own production company in 1988. I produced programming for PBS and have worked with many nationally recognized companies throughout the country in film & television. I have a wonderful wife and we are celebrating 30 years of marriage June 30, 2009. We have two lovely daughters in their 20's and a wonderful granddaughter. God blessed us with a son late in our life and Douglas was with us 7 years. While returning home from a friends house, he was accidentally struck by a neighbors SUV and died. I was out of town on a business trip and my wife was by his side. This started a new phase in our lives. A new journey that would include "Train Master"
What was your motivation behind this project? Train Master originally began as a life goal. I had been producing programming for 20 years and like many of my associates, I wanted to produce a feature film during my career. I had a completed script sitting on the shelf but knew it was much too complex to be a first film project. My son Douglas loved trains with a passion. We often traveled to the freight yards. On one of those trips, we stopped next to a running diesel engine. Douglas said he would like to climb in that engine and take his friends on board. I asked him what would happen if they hit the wrong switches and it rolled out of the freight yard with no one knowing. He said he didn't know and that became the seed for Train Master. We began filming Train Master which included capturing the implosion of a nuclear cooling tower. Shortly after we began filming, our son died in the auto accident. Production was put on hold as our family attempted to regroup. As Train Master was inspired by Douglas, there was now a new motivation for the project. It became both a personal and professional journey. We did some re-writing on the script and we incorporated more of his DNA into the story. We used many of his personal items as props in the movie. For example in the classroom scene we used all of his school artwork because we filmed in the summer and the classrooms were stripped clean. The biggest production element to honor his memory comes in the closing credits. It includes footage of Douglas on trains and with our family. Our daughter Jamie wrote and recorded the song to remember him by. It is one way we know Douglas will be remembered forever and that brings great joy to our family.
What do you hope folks will gain from this project? Train Master is not just a family adventure. It is about damaged relationships and those relationships being restored. We wanted a movie that was excellent in its production values and one the entire family could watch. We knew we had a hit when we began hearing that children were watching the movie over and over. It was a risk not having a 'known talent' that our audience would immediately connect with. We purposely used local talent and most of the children and cast had never been in a feature film. It has opened up conversations about heaven once the children realize the background behind the movie. We hope families will realize the importance of their relationships with both family and friends. It was a huge affirmation of the family qualities of Train Master to receive the Dove Foundation Seal of Approval. "The children in this movie along with the viewers learn many lessons such as the importance of listening to the adults and staying out of trouble. Also, that being sly and conniving brings nothing good and tends to hurt others. Also the important lesson that honesty and kindness can take you further than stealing and bad behavior. This DVD has suspense and action that the entire family will enjoy. This movie has been happily awarded our Dove "Family-Approved" Seal."
How were you personally impacted by working on this project? First and foremost, Train Master was created to honor and memorialize our son's life. He impacted many people during his short life. His faith and belief at an early age were evident to many. When a parent loses a child, one concern is that their child will eventually be forgotten. Our family is very close and my wife and daughters loved Douglas deeply. We wanted the world to know who this wonderful boy was. While Train Master is not a personal documentary about his life, it does reflect many of his qualities and love of life. When the distributor sent me a completed DVD ready for retail, I placed it in our player and hit play. When I saw the opening menu and began watching the opening scene, I broke down and cried for several minutes. I raised my arms in the air and yelled, "We did it Douglas".
Who are your influences, sources of inspiration or favorite authors / artists? My family is my major source of inspiration. It would have been easy for each member of my family to lose their faith and belief in God. Guilt, depression, denial and anger have the potential to dominate and destroy your life after the tragedy we experienced. While we experienced those emotions, we also allowed grace, forgiveness and love to flow through our lives. I am a huge Ron Howard fan. While he doesn't create 'Christian Movies', many of his films have redeeming values that can begin life conversations. I don't believe you have to create a "Christian Movie" to impact our culture. Train Master was filmed by a largely non-believing crew. We often heard throughout filming that "there's something different about this shoot". We have developed many relationships with crew members and have been engaged in their lives.
Anything else you'd like readers / listeners to know: Over the last three years since our son's death, it has been very evident God has a plan for us. He has a plan for your life. Even in your darkest moments, He is there for you. Ephesians 2:10 (New International Version) 'For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.' Take time to rent or buy Train Master and spend an enjoyable evening together as a family... and give your kids an extra hug or two.
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