The Grace Card, Christian Film, Starring Gary Native
There is a new Christian movie opening nationwide this Friday, with Valparaiso and Portage was chosen as two locations for the national release.
Some area residents were invited to a preview of The Grace Card in Portage a couple of months ago. The tickets were issued through friends of the star, a Gary native.
The title is based on a passage from Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace you have been saved …”
The story centers around Mac McDonald, played by Miller Beach native Michael Joiner. He is a career police officer who loses a son in an accident and descends into 17 years of bitterness and pain and, ultimately, a faith in a higher power.
At his lowest ebb, he is partnered with another policeman who happens to be a part-time pastor at a small church but needs his policeman’s job to support his family.
Together they find a way to build trust and, eventually, the older cop accepts God back into his life. The message is to never overestimate the power of God’s love.
Academy Award-winner Louis Gossett Jr. Is in the Cast with main players Joiner and Michael Higgenbottom.
It is a first-time effort for Memphis director David Evans. He had previously produced large-scale nusicals for his home church, Calvary.
He talks about his move to film.
“If you ask my wife, my true passion is acting and producing,” he said. “First in high school and college, then creating the passion plays. Most people want to make a difference somehow.
“I want to make a difference as a Christian. True joy comes with seeing what the passion plays or this move will do to change lives, to show hope, to show people a new door to peace. Or in the case of ‘The Grace Card,’ to find forgiveness.
His real-life job, as an optometrist, led hiom to this story.
“As a doctor, you’re also a counselor of sorts. People share stories. I’ve got patients who are on the Memphis police force, and I learned things that helped the story,” he said.
“They helped me see their world, and I wanted to take that and maybe help people see the world as it really is—a world where grace exists.”
His personal preference – stories that grab people by the heart “ – the fact his dad was a minister and his family had known an officer who was also a minister, made it believable to him from the start.
“It occurred to me, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to show this real life struggle in this real place? To show faith at work in family life, race issues, work issues?’ ”
His new hometown of Memphis seemed a natural backdrop
“I couldn’t imagine the story set anywhere else, as so many Civil Rights-related incidents have occurred in Memphis,” he said. “And I’ve always been around that. That’s where my heart is. There are so many landmarks, the Pyramid, the river. Even the score has a bluesy feel to it.
“Nothing in this story makes you feel that it’s all just bright colors, a pretty portrait that couldn’t really happen,” Evans said. “This is real, gritty, true. It’s a realistic portrayal of everyday life. Everyone—regardless of background, income, social status, beliefs—deals every day with problems. Every day. Everyone. That’s part of the power behind it.”
But, he said, it is not a preachy film. “I have to say again, it’s a real-life story with action, conflict, and faith in the midst of challenges everyone can relate to,” he said.
Academy Award-winner Louis Gossett Jr. plays the role of a mentor. Evans said the pitch was easy.
“I was encouraged by some other faith-based filmmakers who said, ‘You really need to get a name actor in your movie.’ Most roles were filled, but not the mentor role. Lou Gossett came to mind.
“Then I looked at his Web site and discovered his commitment to using his position to end racism. I thought, ‘This has be a God thing.’
“I tracked down his agent in 24 hours and, initially, there was no interest. But I asked him to at least look at the screenplay because I thought it hit at the center of what Lou is trying to do with his life. Two days later the agent called back and said, ‘I think he’s going to like this.’ And I can truly say about Lou’s performance, he nailed it.”
Once under way, he reached out to every church in Memphis for people to fill the scenes. He started with 300 volunteers who worked with him on the Calvary stage productions, but then accepted anyone who wanted to auditions.