One of the hot topics in the nation today is immigration. So, perhaps there has never been a better time for Affirm Film’s new movie All Saints to tell the inspiring true story of a group of refugees. The Karen, from Southeast Asia, are trying to make a new life in America. But only a handful of them speak English and the only way they can provide a living for themselves is as farmers. When a small church takes these immigrants into their congregation, the church’s brand new pastor, tasked with selling off and closing down the church, instead seeks a way to rescue the church and its newest members.
Starring John Corbett as real-life pastor Michael Spurlock, All Saints is a heart-warming and, at times, heartbreaking film. It doesn’t shy away from the questions, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and “I prayed for it to happen, why didn’t God grant my prayer?” The movie’s true story also affirms the faith of those willing to accept and love those who are totally unlike themselves.
The film marks the first collaboration between veteran director Steve Gomer and screenwriter Steve Armour for Rich Peluso’s Affirm Films.
Director Steve Gomer got his start in the New York City theater world, working with such luminaries as Joe Papp and Joseph Chaikin. That led to a venture into film, where he won the Filmmakers Trophy at the Sundance Film Festival. He became a feature film director before then moving into a career as a highly sought television director with over 60 episodes of various shows. “I’ve always been interested in a clergy person’s life and was active in our synagogue so I looked for something to do with a clergyman,” he says, A newspaper article about real-life pastor Michael Suprlock and the Karen people of Burma led to his going back and forth to Tennessee to spend lots of time with the congregation to research the story.
Screenwriter Steve Armour was a professional musician for many years in New York. But his love of writing led him to USC film school. “Steve [Gomer] read a couple of my scripts and liked them, and when he discovered that was a Southerner, and that my father had been a minister, and that I had experience traveling the world and interacting with other cultures, in particular Asian cultures, he thought I would be perfect for this story. I loved it from the start. It has all the elements of great screen drama: conflict, no clear right or wrong, flawed heroes striving against the odds, and most importantly, lots of stuff to look at!”
Screenwriter Steve Armour talks about the work involved in adapting a true story:
“The principle challenge in any true story is arranging the messy facts of real life into a coherent narrative without compromising the essential truth of what happened. It’s relatively easy to turn facts into simple morality play or melodrama. But sifting through mountains of conflicting memories from a dozen people spanning years to find a clear, emotional story arc is the dramatist’s challenge. It was certainly mine on this project. I had to compress the time scale and combine some events and some characters — and I chose to symbolize a few events and people, rather than depict them factually. But I believe we reached a kind of pure emotional truth about what happened at All Saints that is very affecting, very emotional, precisely because it IS so true.”
Screenwriter Steve Armour addresses the difficulty in “show, don’t tell”:
“Writing for the screen always, always, always means writing visually, finding a way to move the audience through what it sees. We were creating a story about a man who, without actually intending it, creates a community. And in the end, he can’t be a part of that community. So I looked for a way to show Michael outside of the community he helped create, while appreciating the love and vibrancy within it. Between what I wrote, what Steve Gomer visualized and brought to life, what Eduardo Mayen lit and shot, and what John Corbett and the others performed and our composers Conni Ellisor and John Mock scored, I think we will really move people. I’m very proud of it.”
Director Steve Gomer on why “All Saints” matters:
“I want people to enjoy the picture and be moved by the story. We are all immigrants and refugees and when communities come together to learn from and help one another amazing things can happen. Both groups of congregants, Anglo and Karen, had their lives changed. I hope people can be inspired by the picture.”
All Saints opens nationwide on August 25, 2017
Get tips on adapting a true story in our on-demand webinar
A Guide to Writing the True Story Screenplay