What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?
My friend and executive producer, John Bardis, attended the Clinton Global Initiative. It was while he was there that he got an idea to turn the story of Charles Mully into a film. He had been a supporter of Mully Children’s Family for a few years, and thought the world needed to know of the miraculous events happening there. It was then that he reached out to me, asking if I would be interested in heading up the film. He sent me a copy of the book Father to the Fatherless. Without hesitation, I agreed to come on board the project and direct it.
How do you relate to your characters or subjects?
Charles Mully is a man with vision. He has steadfast commitment to that vision, and pushes through controversy when most would find it easiest to give up. This is a quality I try to implement and use in my craft of filmmaking. I believe telling stories through the medium of film can greatly impact the globe. If I can be fortunate enough to have a handful of films under my best as powerful as MULLY before I leave this earth, I will die knowing I fulfilled my purpose of illuminating hope that can cause change and impact the world for the better. Charles and his wife, Esther, are so remarkable that I can only hope to achieve something in the ballpark of what they are accomplishing. The greatest quality Charles and I share is the desire to inspire. To give dreams to those who have had them ripped from them. Charles gives everything to his calling, and when I approach my work I do the same. I worked relentlessly until I felt like there wasn’t a stone unturned in all aspects from production, to the edit, the score, everything. My core team, James Moll, Elissa Shay, Lukas Behnken, Justin Morrison, Richard Card, Alex Mackenzie and Benjamin Wallfisch, my team at Tunnel Post and my executive producers John and Judy Bardis supported my efforts and that kind of relentless approach by everyone gave me the satisfaction of knowing we left it all out there, it’s done and we did it the best way it could have been done as a team. As the director of the film, that kind of effort, vision and leadership is something I can only hope to have in common with a man I have such regard for like Charles Mully.
What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?
The edit of the film changed the most. James Moll, my friend and mentor in the doc space, really came in and helped me craft this story into what became the final cut. I learned so much from him. I spent many months locked in the edit room with James, Elissa Shay, my creative producer, and my editor, Alex Mackenzie, carving it down to 81 minutes. It was the most challenging but fun part of the film’s evolution for me.
What influenced the visual style of your film?
I knew that we wouldn’t have any archive footage from a certain period of Charles Mully’s life. He was abandoned in a hut in the middle of Kenya and I knew I wanted to show that kind of desolation to the audience. So, I decided to shoot the memories of Charles in what some people classify as re-enactments. I wanted to make sure these felt as authentic as possible and cinematic, so I looked at and referenced my favorite films, rather than my favorite documentaries which used this form of storytelling, and that was my base for approaching these scenes.
What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?
I think the most courageous decision was when I auditioned all the men on location in Kenya to play Charles Mully. I couldn’t find the right actor to play Charles. So one morning, over breakfast, my team and I sat with Charles and we asked him to play himself in the recreations of his younger life. Charles is 65 years old but he looks 40 years old, so I saw an opportunity for him to play himself. It could have been disastrous but I knew Charles would be the best, and sure enough, he was a great actor. It’s more difficult than most people would think to play yourself, and he was brilliant. After months of filming, when we wrapped the shoot, he came over to me with tears in his eyes and hugged me, and in that moment I knew what he was saying. Charles is a man of great vision and drive, and I was fortunate and blessed that he trusted my vision and came on bored to support the film and this story all the way.
Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?
We found ourselves in some very precocious and dangerous situations in Kenya while filming. It’s the wild west in certain parts of the country. We would travel many miles, with very expensive camera equipment in the car and we were very blessed the van didn’t break down or we ran into the wrong people. We did have our moments though. While filming in downtown Nairobi we were surrounded by the Kenyan army and at the end of the shoot one of cinematographers, Richard Card, was taken to jail until we paid his bail. I’m still not sure why he as taken into custody, other than the system knew they could get money from him because he looked like a target.
What risks does your story take?
The story doesn’t shy away from the truth. The subject of my film has devoted his life to following God and the calling he feels God has on it. I could have avoided that but God is a major unseen character in the film that guides the story, because that’s what guides Charles and Esther Mully. I tell it the way it is. There are many miracles that have happened. Many people might think the miracles aren’t real, but they are because I saw them with my own eyes and after seeing it all with my own eyes, I felt empowered to keep it 100% honest and not be in fear in any way.
How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?
Be bold, have no fear and give everything you have, because if you do it right, it’s going to take a lot out of you but in that relentless approach is where greatness exists.