TV vet makes family friendly film

by Phil Boatwright, posted Wednesday, May 07, 2008 (12 years ago)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)--Although they invariably do well, family films are still in a minority. But it might surprise you to learn of just how many film folk are indeed family friendly. Actor/singer and one time soap star Michael Damian is an example of one of those filmmakers desiring to make a movie the entire family can view together. And wouldn't you just know it, the guy's a Christian.

Together with Janeen, his wife, Damian has written and directed a gentle G-rated film on DVD that is both entertaining and inspiring. "Moondance Alexander" (Fox Home Entertainment) -- based on true experiences Janeen underwent as an awkward, friendless preteen -- tells the story of a 12-year-old and the pinto pony she befriends. Convinced that the horse has champion potential, she enters him in a jumping tournament otherwise reserved for thoroughbreds.

While watching it I remember thinking, "Well, it's no 'National Velvet,' but there's something special about this film." Along with its charming star, newcomer Kay Panabaker ("Nancy Drew," "Summerland"), the beautiful locations (it's shot in pristine Alberta, Canada) and the fact that the storytelling is done with regard for family members of all ages (in other words, it's clean), it also showcases an inspirational message concerning standing by one's convictions despite life's obstacles. And because of its biblical principles such as forgiveness and understanding, I found myself wondering if those responsible for the production might themselves be Christians. So when the studio's publicist suggested I interview the director, I jumped at the chance. And I was glad I did. Here are a few highlights from my conversation with Mr. Damian.

BAPTIST PRESS: "Michael, it's a clean film. Why so clean in an era where just about everything is accepted on screen?"

MICHAEL DAMIAN: "I grew up watching the Disney Sunday Night Movie. That was the highlight of the week. There was always a movie you could watch with the whole family. They seem to be few and far between these days. There's a lot of PG-13 films. I call them hybrid family films. But I don't know how you can really call them family films, because most of them contain something offensive or you have to take the kids out because of toilet humor.

"Mainly we wanted to make a film that inspired people -- something that motivated as well as entertained. We wanted to take viewers on a positive journey.

"We wanted viewers to be able to root for the underdog, because almost everyone at some point in their life is going to be that underdog. You know, where you just have so many things going against you and you need faith to get you through. At the beginning of the film Moondance is seen at the cemetery talking to her father in Heaven. She's looking for support and guidance."

BAPTIST PRESS: "What's the main theme of the film?"

MICHAEL DAMIAN: "Hope, forgiveness and love. The love is presented through the bond of the mother and her daughter, then there's the hope of something wonderful happening, and lastly, she forgives those who treated her poorly. At one point Moondance realizes she's doing to others what they've been doing to her. Though she's a good person, she has to learn that there are certain things she has to work on in her life. One of them is to forgive and not to judge as she's been judged by her peers."

BAPTIST PRESS: "The messages in this film can be found in the Bible."

MICHAEL DAMIAN: "My wife and I are both Christians and we attend church every Sunday. I was raised in a Christian home. My mother and father have been incredible role models and have instilled faith in us. It's incredible how important Christianity has been in my life. I've been blessed with a lot of ups, but everybody has downs. And God has always been there during those tough times. But you know, Christianity is not all about my little world, my universe. It's about reaching out to others, especially to those less fortunate."

BAPTIST PRESS: "It would be nice to see more films that show a regard for family and for God's Word."

MICHAEL DAMIAN: "We're definitely going against the grain in Hollywood with a family film. Financing was not a piece of cake because a lot of people in the industry don't think of family films as cool or edgy. We're OK with that. Fortunately, there are lots of actors in the industry who want to be a part of good family films. Don [Johnson], for instance, read the script and really liked it. He has a family and wanted to make a film he could share with his kids. I know this will sound self-serving, but I hope your readers will support this and other family films. If they do, it will make it easier for filmmakers to get these films made."

Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective on

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