At film festivals, it's easy to marvel at what independent moviemakers can pull off. With no studio, no guarantees and little money, they make things that are sometimes as good as the big films ... and sometims ("Searching For Sonny," for instance) better.
"Heaven's Rain" is clearly an accomplishmnt. On a tight budget, it has solid stars -- including a superb supporting performance by Taryn Manning -- and even some scenes filmed in the Brazilian rainforest, with native kids in supporting roles.
Unlike many indie films, however, it's easy to find ... or semi-easy. GMC (formerly Gospel Music Channel) helped finish it and premieres it Sunday and Monday. GMC is in 52 million homes so far, mostly via satellite or digital cable; here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
Brooks Douglass remembers that first
time he saw forgiveness.
He was 5 and had just made a mistake, a
big one; his dad somehow restrained himself. “He was a really
loving man, an affectionate man,” he said.
Then – almost three decades later –
it was Douglass who showed restraint: He was meeting Glenn Ake, one
of the two men who had killed his parents and had left him and his
sister for dead.
That's a key part of “Heaven's Rain.”
Made on an independent-movie budget, it has Hollywood stars (Mike
Vogel, Taryn Manning), international locations and a debut on the GMC
cable channel. “I did not know that GMC existed as a network,”
Douglass said. “But I'm awfully pleased that it does.”
Many people don't know the former
Gospel Music Channel, but it has 52 million homes and is linking with
Magic Johnson on the upcoming Aspire channel. GMC has music
(including the Dove Awards on April 24), reruns and movies; it often
makes its own films, but not this time. “We came in at the tail end
and have been working on editing and scoring the film,” said Brad
Siegel, the GMC founder.
The rest was nudged along by Douglass,
who has always been a self-starter. One example: “I was about to
graduate from law school in Oklahoma, couldn't find a job, and I did
what an awful lot of people do who can't find a job: run for
He was 27 then, the youngest person
ever elected to Oklahoma's state senate. He did three four-year terms
(not seeking a fourth) and pushed through victims'-rights
legislation. Then, while working as a mortgage banker, he did
“Heaven's Rain” as co-writer, co-producer and co-star, playing
his own dad.
This was a remarkable clergyman and
author, Douglass said, “the most tireless worker I'd ever seen. I
remember seeing the light on at 3 or 3:30 a.m., when he was working.
Then he would be up at 6:30.”
He had just finished a doctoral thesis
when Brooks, 5, and his younger sister Leslie turned the 200-some
pages into decorative snowflakes. “My mother told me it took about
three weeks to retype it. She said ..., 'I'm still surprised you
lived through the night.'”
Later that year, the family began a
four-year Brazilian mission along the Amazon. “I hated it when we
got there and then I loved it and didn't want to leave …. There was
extreme poverty, … but it was all about playing music together and
His dad (Richard) became pastor of a
3,000-member Oklahoma City church. In 1979, two robbers shot all four
Douglasses. The parents died; Brooks, 16, drove Leslie, 12, to the
They recovered physically, but he
found himself drifting into anger and away from his sister. Much
later – after being a Green Berey and a law student – he began
to deal with victims' rights.
Back t\in 1979, Douglass said, the
family had to pay $500 for Leslie's rape-exam kit and $115 to
retrieve the car he'd driven her in. Later, his legislation would
Then he moved to California and took a
screenwriting class. His teacher, Paul Brown (a former “Quantum
Leap” writer), wrote “Heaven's Rain” with him and said the next
step was to go to studios. “I said, 'Can't we just make it
It was a near-impossible step that they
pulled off. They raised the money and hired stars; Vogel (who went on
to do “The Help” and “Pan Am”) played Brooks; Taryn Manning
(a critics' favorite from “8 Mile” and “Hustle & Flow”)
is Leslie. Brown directed, including a Brazil week during which three
cameras failed. “When a 35-mm camera breaks,” Douglass said, “you
don't just go to the mall.”
GMC supervised cuts and helped add a
rich music track that includes The Who, Randy Newman, Wendy Page,
Manning and, as a nightclub singer, Leslie Douglass. “Other than in
my two weddings, this was the only time she's sung” since the
shooting, her brother said. It was one small step in a healing
process that has taken decades.
– “Heaven's Rain,” 7 p.m. Sunday;
repeats at 9 and 11 p.m.; also, 9 p.m. Monday
– GMC (formerly Gospel Music
Channel); generally via satellite or digital cable