A few miles south of Baton Rouge along the side of Interstate 10, a homemade, white cross adorned with red hearts, plastic flowers and photographs reminds passing motorists of a fatal accident.
What’s the story behind that cross? And what if that terrible situation and other tragedies could be divinely altered so they never happened?
That is the premise for a short film, “My Choice is Clear,” produced by Reel Kids Productions, a team of local adult and youth actors, directors and producers whose mission is to promote Louisiana talent.
“My Choice” won nine awards at the first Louisiana Independent Filmakers Awards Benefit, organized by the Louisiana Film Academy of Technology, in May at the University of New Orleans.
Filmed entirely around the Baton Rouge area by more than 30 crew and cast members who donated their time and talents, “My Choice” won Best Film in the faith-based category and Audience Choice overall. It is a 30-minute movie that those involved hope will be turned into a full-length feature or a television series, said writer, producer and actor David Coleman Mills.
“The story is about a young boy, (who) once a year goes to different memorials, like crosses on the side of the road and things like that, and has the ability to see the back story that happened and then has the ability go back in time and affect one of them,” Mills explained. “This particular journey is more about how does he determine whose life deserves to be saved more than the others, or even if he has the ability to affect that particular outcome.”
“That’s a lot of pressure,” added Brock Kaufman, 15, who won Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Scott Lamb, the teen who makes the difficult choice to change only one of the story’s three fatal situations.
A seasoned actor with a big smile, the young actor has appeared in a dozen other productions including “Christmas Angel” by Pure Flix, the company that recently released “God Is Not Dead,” and in “Green Lantern,” as a young Jack Jordan, the older brother of Hal Jordan, who becomes the Green Lantern.
“I’ve always liked spreading God’s word, and when he (Mills) called me and told me about the story, I was ecstatic,” Kaufman said. “I thought it was an awesome idea and an awesome story, and I wanted to be a part of it right away.”
The film was originally called “My Cross to Bear,” Mills said, but they discovered in mid-filming another movie with that name is being produced. In one of the last scenes, Kaufman’s character enters a rustic plantation chapel where he experiences his time travel and when he exits to his waiting father, played by Garrett Kruithoff, he tells him, “my choice is clear.”
“When we were filming that scene, and Brock said it, the hair on the back of my neck stood up,” Mills said, and that’s when they decided on that title.
The entire story is wrapped around the God-given gift of time-travel, and several hymns and worship songs are part of the soundtrack.
The film is not yet available to the public, Mills added, because they are still shopping it for a TV series or full-blown production.
Making movies, especially outside of Hollywood, is a tough business, Mills said, but there is a growing market for faith-based stories, as evidenced by the recent “God is Not Dead,” a low-budget film that earned more than $50 million. It was filmed in Baton Rouge, and Mills played a role in it.
“I think people are really getting tired of the same old thing. If you have to use an ‘F word’ to make something funny, it probably really wasn’t that funny,” Mills said. “We started out Reel Kids as good-values based, and now we are pretty much completely faith-based.”
The latest project for Reel Kids is a faith-based film titled “Lunch Money,” about an elementary school bully who encounters “tough love” from a new girl in class. It’s in post production and should be finished this fall.
Brock’s mother Tina Kaufman has been with her son on every step in his acting career.
“As a parent I want him to do good films, and I want to see good films go to the (big) screen and not have to screen out all those (bad) things,” Tina Kaufman said. “When he did ‘Christmas Angel’ with Pure Flix, everybody on the set were good Christians. Then they did ‘God Is Not Dead’ and they sold out theaters, which is a huge message that we want to see good, Christian films.”
The young Kaufman isn’t sure whether his future is in acting; he first has to finish up at Central High School. He writes short stories and movie scripts, plays football and basketball and wants to attend LSU. He and his parents attend the Journey Church.
“Whatever I do, I want to make sure I’m spreading God’s word,” he said. “I don’t want to be participating in anything that goes against my beliefs.”
And the message of the film is?
“You never know when your time is going to come,” Mills said. “Live like it is your last day.”
“Use your God given talents to the best ability you can and always thank him for it,” Brock Kaufman added. “Spread God’s word and help others.”