DAMASCUS ROAD TO RELEASE PASTOR BIOPIC SET IN SEGREGATED SOUTH
Damascus Road Productions and Uptone Pictures, in association with SaltShaker Media, have completed production of a feature based on a former racist-turned-pastor in the American South in the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
The story is set in the late 1960s and follows the life of Pastor Paul Holderfield, whose strained friendship with his black neighbor helped prompt a radical about-face as he navigated the pitfalls of racism, poverty and alcoholism.
“This story is just as timely in 2021 as it was in 1967,” said Ryan O’Quinn, who is attached to play Holderfield and will also produce under his Damascus Road banner. “In many ways not much has changed, but I believe now more than ever, we have an audience that is willing to listen to racial issues, and that is the first step to real change.”
Paul Holderfield, Jr. who still lives in North Little Rock and now pastors his father’s church said, “Through this film my dad’s story will live on long after I am gone.
What started as a handshake between two men may have been a catalyst for racial reconciliation in our cities and revival in our churches.”
The church and their homeless ministry have distributed millions of meals in Little Rock’s inner city as well as over 100,000 individually-packaged meals since the Covid pandemic forced a shutdown of their regular food pantry service.
‘“Deeds not Words” was my high school motto back in Chicago”, said actor Josef Cannon who plays the man whose hand Holderfield refused to shake following the Little Rock Crisis in 1957 when students were initially prevented from entering a segregated school. “After his transformation, Paul Holderfield Sr. allowed his deeds to show where his heart was. In 2020 I’ve seen many others do the same and it gives us hope.”
The script was penned by Vitya Stevens and Matthew Reithmayr directs. Michael Davis, Ryan O’Quinn, Taylor Cole and Heather O’Quinn are producers. Nick Logan exec produces under his SaltShaker Media banner.
Click on any Polaroid to learn more about a specific cast member.
STILLS FROM THE FILM
A MOMENT WITH THE DIRECTOR, MATTHEW REITHMAYR
Matthew, what initially interested you in this project?
"I love stories about redemption, forgiveness. When I first learned about Paul Holderfield and the journey that his life had taken him on, I knew I needed to help tell this story.
Paul was a bigoted, smoking, drinking firefighter. He was a decent husband and father but, compared to his earlier days as a Golden Glove boxer, he was nothing exceptional, especially in 1967 North Little Rock, Arkansas. He could have very easily and comfortably carried on being exactly who he was but, instead, God touched him, and changed him radically.
His transformation affected his wife, his children and his community, and continues to have an impact on the world. It’s the kind of thing that only God can pull off. Telling the story of Paul’s transformation in God’s hands and to help celebrate all that his legacy is the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m already marveling at the lives that God is touching since we started production."
Why is this such an important story to tell in today’s climate?
"It’s no surprise that race is still a huge hot-button issue right now. The similarities that we see to what was going on in 1967 are incredible. It saddens me that there’s still such a divide.
Paul’s Promise is a story that illustrates the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., when he said, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” It’s only through Paul’s humility, change and repentance, that the racial sins he committed in his past are remedied.
Another important aspect of this story is to illustrate that people are capable of change. We’ve reached this point in society where people are being judged on their words and actions from 5, 10, 20 or more years ago. We seem to have forgotten that people are fallible, that we all mistakes, and that real, genuine redemption is possible. Paul Holderfield changed his life, and then changed his community, in part by starting the first integrated church in the area. His actions spurred real change in his family and in the lives of the people around him.
Paul’s legacy is one of service, unity, brotherhood, and loving one another regardless of skin color or the size of one’s pocketbook. It took years to build that reputation and overcome the hurts and wrongs of his past. While we don’t need to forget the wrongs that people have committed, it’s important to recognize true change and the restoring powering of God in our lives."
Being a first time director, is there anything you learned from this film that you will take with you throughout the remainder of your career?
"I’ve been blessed with a community of people who have lots of experience in the industry and did a great job helping me prepare for the experience. I was able to put a lot of their advice into practice and see the fruits of it.
One big lesson that I took away from Paul’s Promise is that the journey has to be the priority. Lots of screenplays never get finished, lots of finished screenplays never get shot, lots of productions are never completed, lots of finished movies never see distribution. There are so many roadblocks in movie-making. If the goal is to make a movie and make a windfall of money, than your chances of success are slim. My goal as a director is to tell the story the best that I can and then to grow as a person and as a professional by taking lessons away from the experience of movie-making.
A second big lesson is connected to that: your goal has to be bigger than the project. There are only a handful of directors that have impacted the world of movie-making. So many more are forgotten soon after their picture rolls by during the In Memorium video during the Oscars. My goal being bigger than the project means that I work hard to better the lives of the people that I’m working with on set.
Some productions stir up so much tension and some directors strike fear into the hearts of the people in their care. Things are always going to go wrong when you’re making movies but, at the end of the day, we’re not curing cancer.
I work hard to get to know my crew, to help out when I can, and to lead with humor. Not only does it make for a better, smoother work environment but, hopefully, I’m helping people love what they do. A huge win for me is hearing people say something akin to 'this crew isn’t like any other crew I’ve been on.'"