P.J. TRACY IV
Glenwood Herald Editor
GLENWOOD – A message of faith will soon be shown at a theater near you.
Cowboys and Jesus, a one hour, 45 minute modern day retelling of the prodigal son, will be featured at the Carmike City Cinema 10 at 909 Higdon Ferry Road in Hot Springs – which began Jan. 15. The movie will run for at least a week, perhaps longer, depending on attendance.
The movie also features a local angle, having been shot in Arkansas, and featuring local preacher and Centerpoint Schools employee Jimmy Forsythe in a supporting role.
Film director Bo Bullock said that local support of the film will enlarge its possible territory, presenting the opportunity to “turn the movie theater into a church.”
The film also stars Waverly Parsons (New Orleans Fair Grounds racetrack chaplain), Scott McClard (of the “institution” Hot Springs restaurant McClard’s as the “good son Mark”), Scott Mendez (1997 Pro Bull Riding Champion as the prodigal son “Nick”) and Otto Thorwarth, who portrayed jockey Ron Turcotte in the Disney move Secretariat.
After meeting Thorwarth through the Race Track Chaplaincy of America Bullock became involved with Hot Springs based ministry Faith Builders of Men, the two were making a trip back from Waco, Texas when a discussion between the two lead to some divine inspiration.
Bullock, a former racetrack chaplain, said the experience just began to “pour out of us.”
“God gave us the vision – the entire outline — for Cowboys and Jesus based on a song that I wrote,” said Bullock. “I just finished writing a novel, so writing a script seemed a whole lot easier.”
A man of many talents, Bullock also comes from a musical background in production in music industry and as a Texas country artist with the popular radio favorite The Biggest Thing In Texas
“I’ve been writing songs for 25 years, and I told Otto any of the songs I have could be a movie,” Bullock said, when the song “Cowboys and Jesus” was playing in the vehicle he and Thorwarth were traveling in.
He said he began to explain the premise of the song, two boys playing cowboys and Indians on their grandfather’s farm one Sunday morning go to church and “one brother accepts Christ while the other brother falls asleep in the pew ant there begins the split.” And Otto said “That’s kind of like the Prodigal Son” furthered the conversation.
“It was like a light came on in the cab of the truck, and I swear, if you were driving down the highway next to us, I’ll bet you that thing was glowing, it was so thick in the Holy Spirit,” said Bullock. “Between Waco and Hot Springs we had the whole thing, and we spent the next five moths writing it. God provided everything we needed all along the way.”
The film’s story is written around the Hot Springs eatery – where Bullock first met McClard on his first trip to Hot Springs. After a little “booth church,” McClard expressed his desire to act. And, as they say, the rest is history.
“The restaurant, in the move, is as much a character as anything else,” said Bullock, stating that it is the occupation of the family the movie is centered around.
“The two brothers were named McClard because we didn’t want to change the neon [sign],” Bullock quipped.
The film was cast locally in southwest Arkansas via area churches and casting calls around the Hot Springs/Malvern area. Over 75 cast members are in the movie, with hundreds of extras, between scenes featuring a high school football game shot at Russellville High School and rodeo scenes in an arena located in Carthage, Texas.
“It was an incredible turnout of people,” said Bullock. “People have really been supportive; I really can’t tell you how God has blessed us with the relationships we’ve been able to build through this film.”
Bullock went on to speak highly of southwest Arkansas.
“I really want to thank Hot Springs and the surrounding area residents and churches for all their support. They have really supported Faith Builders of Men. I’ve been all over the country, and meeting the people here in this part of Arkansas has been a real joy – I’ve met some really wonderful people here. I believe this is one of the better parts of the country. There’s an eagerness for the people to want to help. People are eager to help you push something, or to make your dreams come true. I have a vision, and when you show somebody in this part of the country that you have a vision, the go, ‘I can get with that.’ That’s valuable … you can’t buy that, you can’t grow that anywhere, either it is instilled in the people or it’s not.”
Bullock met Forsythe in the making of the movie, and has since ministered over the New Year at Amity’s Second Baptist Church, where Forsythe serves as a preacher.
“It’s awesome the way God works and brings people together you wouldn’t dream of in a million years,” Bullock stated.
In creating the movie by following the path of God and the power of prayer, Bullock stated that there have been “miracles” surrounding the movie.
He recalled the stories of two actors who met on the set and will marry in June, as well as via the power of prayer; a female who was troubled with heart issues was able to find a positive medical solution just weeks later, and is now healthy and about to be married as well; and a friend of Bullock’s, who had recently had open heart surgery and was facing yet another round under the knife, was then medically cleared after a round of tests following a prayer session.
“Those are the kinds of things that happened – God’s had His hands all over this move, and has blessed us so much just to be a part of it.”
The film itself took around eight months to complete filming, along with another six months or so in post production to complete the final product.
The film has already made its maiden showing at Malvern, which Bullock described as an “awesome” experience.
“God did exceedingly above all we could thing or imagine. There’s no doubt about that,” Bullock stated definitively.
Besides Malvern, the film also did test runs in Oak Grove, La., Holly, Co. and Hudson Oaks, Texas. In those locations, the film sold out seven of its nine showings.
“Not that our movie is so great – I do think it is well made, I think people enjoy the story – but what I’m excited about I the hunger that the audience are showing for the things of God … how hungry people are to receive something from God,” Bullock said humbly. “It’s a special move … has a special quality to it.”
“It’s for people to want to see a good wholesome message type movie,” added Forsythe.
Bullock said the movie has a message of “forgiveness, redemption and salvation,” with a backdrop of high school football and rodeo.
Additionally, according the Forsythe, the local angle is a selling point for the film.
“I think it’s key too that it’s in Hot Springs, McClard’s Barbecue, but it’s all local folks that are in this with local landmarks, it’s just neat to see you towns on the big screen, it’s neat to see local people on the big screen.”
Forsythe, who has known Thorwarth almost his entire life after befriending him in kindergarten, said that his role in the move – as father of the two sons — came about through a simple phone call.
“Otto called me and said they were casting for the movie an there was a possibility that there might be something for me, if I had ever thought about [acting]. My response was, no, I had never thought about that.”
After meeting and reading through a few lines, they were indeed able to work him in for a part as restaurant owner Henry McClard.
“It was fun, very interesting” Forsythe said about the experience. “You come out with a lot more respect of what goes into [making] movies, because that didn’t just happen in five minutes, you are talking about an afternoon for one little scene. It causes you to have a much deeper respect.”
Forsythe confessed that he might have been bitten by the acting bug. “If the Lord led that way, hey yeah,” he quipped about continuing his acting career. “I got to hear [Bullock] say probably a million times, ‘that was perfect, let’s do it one more time.’”
“They nicknamed me Pharaoh,” Bullock laughed. “They said I was like a slave driver – more bricks, no straw. That was the joke on the set for the whole movie.”
However, despite the fun in making it, the film does ultimately have a serious destination.
“It’s an opportunity to reach mass audiences for Christ, and that opportunity might now always be there. It seems like the window of opportunity to be able to talk to people openly about Christ is not as readily available as it has always been, so we want to take advantage of it. We don’t want people to support just our film, but other faith based films as well.
The film will released to DVD after the theatrical release has run its course, “hopefully” by this summer according to Bullock.
However, Bullock hopes that the theatrical release is a long one.
“We are very excited about our relationship with Carmike, because they are the largest exhibitor of films in the country – so that could make an incredible reach for us,” said Bullock.
Bullock, via his Jireh Distribution LLC film company, looks to make more films in the future.
“This is just the beginning of something – in fact, another movie is in the planning stages.
But, according to Bullock, one step at a time.
“We want to encourage church and civic groups, church vans and buses – bring all your good folks,” Forsythe said. “We really want local churches involved – the local aspect is what will grab people’s attention.”
“Bring you friends, bring your relatives, heck, bring your enemies – they need it worse than anybody,” Bullock added. “Not everybody will go to church, but a lot of folks will to see a movie, and it’s an incredible tool for your buddy who says ‘can’t find a church I’m comfortable in.’ Well, this church has popcorn. A lot of people will go see a movie that has high school football and rodeo in it, so it’s a tool people can use to show their friends something they may not have seen before.”
To see trailers of the film, people can visit www.facebook.com/CowboysJesusTheMovie.
For more theater information, showtimes and early ticket sales, please visit www.carmike.com/ShowTimes/City/Hot%20Springs/AR or call 501-623-1615.
“If there’s anything I can say I want more than anything, it’s for God to get the glory for what he’s done and that people would have and intimate relationship with him. More than anything, that what I want those reading this to know,” Bullock concluded.