A year ago

George JohnsonA year ago, George Johnson didn’t have a job.

I’m not sure he as a job yet.

He looked, I know that. But when you live in rural Indiana and the thing you know best is how to shoot video, there aren’t lots of jobs. And when you have four kids and family around, moving to the coast isn’t exactly an option.

On the other hand, George has a feature-length movie which, a year ago, wasn’t even on his mind.

It wasn’t on his mind while the weather got colder last fall. Other movies were on his mind, movies close to financing, movies that fell apart when the economy fell apart. It wasn’t on his mind while his family was finding out that they could pretend that they were camping, in their house, in the cold.

I knew George was looking for work. I didn’t know how tight things were.

A couple weeks before Christmas 2008, I was talking with George after church. I knew that some people had helped him out. He was being George, positive thoughtful. He was talking about how things were really tight, about learning to sing in a dark house, and about how much he appreciated help.

Somewhat out of the blue, I said “What’s the movie?”

“What do you mean?”

“What’s the movie?”

“I don’t know. Which one are you thinking of?”

“What is the movie you are writing out of this?”

George looked at me and got all energized. “I’m eight pages into a script. I want to get it done by next Christmas. It’s called Homeless for the Holidays.”

A couple weeks later, he had a copy for me.

A week later he said, “don’t bother finishing that one, I’ve already rewritten it a couple times and have a draft out for companies to look at.”

A couple weeks later he said, “We decided to just do it. We realized if waited til we got money, we’d wait for years, so we decided to it. And since then, money has come to pay our bills. And a friend has a RED camera that he wants to use for a project.” I loaned him a Flip for vlogging.

There were casting calls and location shots ar our church and a $1.000,000 movie being shot for $20,000. There were stories about George editing all night and all day. And then the sneak preview was scheduled for a Monday in October, two weeks before the opening. Early Saturday morning, two days before, George posted a video saying that in the conversation from standard definition to high def, the movie had become “discombobulated.” I believe it’s a technical term. He had to start editing again. On Sunday morning, as we were playing a trailer for the movie, I looked in front of me and saw George, movie discombobulated, sitting in church. We saw each other for a minute afterward. He smiled.

That Monday night they showed the standard def version. On October 16, the final edit opened in Auburn, IN. On the 17th, it opened in Fort Wayne. It ran a couple weeks both places. It’s being screened some other places as well. George is working with marketing to chains as much as he can.

Homeless for the Holidays is about a advertising guy (and family) who loses his job, is blackballed, and approaches Christmas by watching his power be shut off. As happens by the end of most movies,  the dad finds a job, but not until the family has lost their house, accepted charity from an 8-year-old, and wrestled with Christmas.

It could be a completely fictional story, made in his spare time, by an unemployed camera guy and some friends. Or this all could be a completely True story about a guy who did what he thought God wanted him to do.

I just know that a year ago, George didn’t have a job. And a couple weeks ago I sat in a theatre and watched his movie. It looked like a real movie. And I cried. And wondered about leaps of faith. The ones George took because he had nothing to lose. The ones I don’t.

If, of course, you happen to run a theater chain, George might like to hear from you.

Homeless for the Holidays (IMDB)



One response to “A year ago

  1. Bryan Villarin

    Hmm. How can we get this to California? =/