Monday, March 3, 2014

Interview with David Leo Schultz, The Man Behind The Rich Mullins Movie, Ragamuffin
Over the last year or so I had questions regarding the movie Ragamuffin The Rich Mullins Story. I had friends and people I knew who were involved with Rich over the years. Some on a close level.  I wanted to ask David Leo Schultz one of those questions, pointedly and didn't know if I would ever get that chance to address some of the controversy.  I was blessed to finally get to ask some questions of David, the director, screenwriter and man behind the movie, albeit not the way I wanted but I was pleased that he answered even some of the hard questions I asked him.  There have been some harsh things said about the film, and the lack of involvement of some people in the process.  Most of those in the past from people who knew Rich closely, I gave several of those individuals an opportunity to respond to the responses of David, as of this posting, only a few of those people responded.  The one person I wanted to know their thoughts of the most did not respond.  I will gladly post their response if they provide it at a later date but after waiting some time, I am deciding to go ahead and post the interview for The Virtual Pew and Hollywood Jesus.  While I would like to have heard specifically more of the complaints addressed by some of those having issues with the film, I have tried to take my journalistic responsibilities seriously, along with my responsibility as a follower of Jesus. I actually think David's response to the first question, citing Matthew 18 is a valid response on his part.  As to what is truth regarding what some have said and what is said in this interview, I cannot answer that, what I can answer though, is opportunities for response were provided.  I still value all of those involved, many who worked with Rich, managed him, played music with him.  I also found value in the movie where my original thoughts and views can be seen at the following links.  That said, here is the interview I did with David Leo Schultz, the man behind the movie Ragamuffin. 

My original review of Ragamuffin at Hollywood Jesus 

Mike Furches, (MF): David here are the questions I was going to ask.  I was excited about finally getting to speak to you after numerous attempts but will be honest, a little disappointing here in having to send in my questions in advance like this. 

www.mosaicwichita.comDavid Leo Schultz, (DLS): Sorry Mike. I'm holding on for dear life over here. I'm hoping to get out to Wichita and meet up with Jim Smith in May, maybe we could get a coffee or a beer when I'm in town.

MF: Here are my questions though, and if possible for follow up appreciated.  By the way, while some of the questions will be pointed, if you noticed my review of the film outside of several issues was actually very positive, it is seldom I give a  movie a review of over 7 on a scale of 1 - 10, for the potential value of this film and the impact it could have on many I gave it a 9 and mentioned you personally quite highly. 

DLS: Mike thank you for the kind review. I appreciate that.  My responses to your questions below.

MF: Now the questions:  One of the controversies that keeps coming up from those who knew  Rich, some who worked with him, band mates, and even his long time manager Gay Quisenberry is they were either not contacted at all regarding the research for the film, or had very minimal contact.  Can you tell us some as to your reasoning for this, and how the story line was actually developed?

DLS: I'd be happy to respond.  First, I'd encourage anyone that has a problem with me can contact me directly. Especially if they are a brother or sister in Christ. That's a Matthew 18 thing. First go to the brother ya know...Things like this can quickly fall down the slope of he said, she said, and gossip/slander issues can easily rise. So we should be cautious here. Secondly, let me say that when I was 9 years old my cousin committed suicide. He was 28. He was like a father to me. If someone one day came to me and said they wanted to make a movie about my cousin, how I would respond might even depend on the day they asked. One day I might say sure, the other day I might say no. I don't think it's a bad thing or a good thing, but more of a personal thing. I'll start with Gay & David (Beaker) Strasser. They were two of the first I reached out to. I never received a response back from Beaker. Eventually Julie, his wife reached out via facebook. We've been very friendly through facebook. Someone sent me one of her facebook posts saying that we reached out for them to be involved, and they declined. Before I met the ragamuffin band I had already reached out to Gay, and then after meeting Jimmy Abegg he encouraged me to reach out again to Gay. I did, and she did respond this time, but also declined to be involved. There were quite a few people I sent messages to, but never heard back. Regarding his band mates through the years, he had many. I'm sure there are some I don't even know about, but if you mean the ragamuffins, I had the priveledge and the honor to meet all of them.  Actually if you ever get a chance to see the doc we made (Rich Mullins: A Ragamuffin's Legacy) you can see interviews we did with some of them for the purposes of research. We even sent Jimmy Abegg a few of the scripts during the screenwriting process. Two, if I remember correctly. One in the very early stages (a very rough script) and I believe a draft pretty close to us shooting. The reason we did with Jimmy is because he specifically asked to be included in the process. If some others wanted to be more involved I wish I had known, I would have loved that. It could be possible with some I didn't even know they existed. I swear, every time I turn around there is someone else who I never had heard of that was one of Rich's best friends. It seems to me that Rich had such a vast life. Before I ever set out to write the script, or hire a writer, or any of that I did research. Matter of fact the process took about 8 months all together. It wasn't easy, because I pretty much had to play detective. I had to track people down, and follow leads, the whole bit. I started with interviewing Rich's family Dave, Sharon, Debbie, Llyod, Brennan Manning, Lee & Nikki Lundgren, James Bryan Smith, Mitch Mcvicker and a few other kid brothers like Eric Hauk & Michael Aukofer. I also met some of Rich's best friends from college till his death like Kathy Sprinkle, Sam Howard, Gary Rowe, and Elizabeth Lutz etc...We made the entire movie in collaboration with Rich Mullins family, and Dave Mullins (Rich's bro) was our on set consultant for the movie. I actually shared final cut of the movie with the family. That was a decision made, for me, even before I met Dave Mullins. It's something I offered up in our first meeting. But I didn't come in with an agenda, but more of a hope that the story would echo the gospel of JESUS. I had some ideas, but I just wanted to learn, and Dave Mullins was great about it to. He didn't try to fill in the blanks for anybody else. He said, here's the piece that I know, but for these other pieces of the puzzle you'll have to go and find them. All I can say is I tried my best. I talked with anybody that wanted to talk with me. If anyone wanted to be involved more than they were, that's honestly news to me, because even after 20 years of being a fan, and the 8 months of research, and 3 1/2 years of making the movie I love hearing Rich Mullins stories. It's just something I don't get tired of. That's the long story. The short story is: I did the best I could with what I had. I talked to as many people as I could, that I could find, and that would talk to me. I only stopped when I felt like I found the story, the story that would become the movie. One more thing: If I hurt anyone's feelings in the process, that wasn't my intention to leave anyone out, and I'm sorry. I tried my best.
MF: You have directed a largely unknown cast, yet you pull out some rather convincing performances, how did you do this and can you tell us some about that process.

DLS: Well, I couldn't have done it, it we didn't already have a talented cast. I didn't give them talent. That's something they came to the table with. Again, it's not perfect. There's moments within my own acting that I watch and go, "yuck", but pretty much the question I would constantly ask when I was directing was, "Do I believe this?" If I felt like I had a take where it felt really honest. I moved on. If it wasn't I tended to do more takes. I tend to be a director to work really closely with the actors, especially when it comes to personalization's and coaching. It probably bothered some actors, but I think some enjoyed it.

MF: You chose to go with a musician to play the part of Rich, Mike Koch who did a very good job at capturing part of the demeanor of Rich, can you tell us some about the process of casting Mike?

DLS: Sure. I knew Mike in College. He and I were both big fans of Rich & Brennan Manning. We would sit in waffle house for hours drinking coffee quoting both of them. It was actually mike that gave me my first copy of Ragamuffin Gospel.  We even met Brennan for the first time together. We all went to Perkins together and had pie. Then after college we lost touch. We didn't talk for 10 years. When I thought this movie might become a reality I thought I'd reach out to him to have him  play a song. Then he was in town, so we did lunch, and I asked him to audition, because we just couldn't find anybody yet. We had one Hollywood actor, who really loved the script but could make his schedule work with his TV show. We had mike and the other actors do a monologue & song of rich's from one of his concerts, and he was just absolutely amazing. We did a final test of sorts in LA, with some of our final picks. They were all great. But i just felt mike had that Rich essence in his own personality as well as nailing the audition.

MF: I was impressed with the fact that you showed Rich with a lot of his blemishes and all.  While some have been critical of that, most have been supportive and appreciative of showing a huge part of the real Rich.  What was it you hoped to present in the way you presented Rich?

DLS: I just wanted to tell an honest story. Dave Mullins and I said from the beginning that we didn't want to make Rich out to be something he wasn't. Some flawless saint. And for me Rich was one of the first of his time to talk about how he had sins, and brokenness, and pain- I mean, that's why he was my hero. There's this myth in the church that you have to be perfect for Jesus to love you, and ragamuffins like Rich & Brennan break those myths but echoing the gospel with their lives. They weren't perfect. But they continually pressed into Jesus with all their shortcomings, and reminded us all that we are all as Brennan put it, "Loved for who we are, not for who we should be, because none of us are as we should be."

MF: Another thing that has received a little comment from those who knew Rich, including myself, is that Rich could at times be quite quirky and fun to be around. Can you describe why we see very little if any of this in Rich's demeanor in the film as it was something a lot of people recognized in Rich?

DLS: Sure that's a fair question. One, the movie is more a story about his pain versus being a story about his joy. Two, this was actually something we attempted at times, but we felt like we kept falling short, and so better to cut it than to put it in.  Again Rich was so vast, this incredible song writer, musician, insightful, a poet, a thinker, funny, deep...on and on...and when we went to cast Rich it was like well...good luck and even though Mike was amazing, I think there was short term experienced grief I had right after I cast Mike. Not because he wasn't the best choice, because I think he was...but because I realized I was looking for Rich Mullins to play Rich Mullins. Rich was one of a kind. So yeah I actually agree with you that I wish we had that quirky fun thing, that child likeness thing in there...but when you go back and watch it, since we cover 35 years, we had moments in the montages and other small moments where we showd that side of him. But again we knew up front that there was no way to fit 42 years into a 2 hour movie. It's not the only story of Rich Mullins. There are many stories of Rich Mullins. He lived too big of a life for there to just be one. This is just one of them.

MF: Another area that I seemed to understand from my viewing at the World Premiere was there   There was an almost laissez-fair comment that the film is what it is and that you wished people left the movie just feeling okay or something along those lines.  What exactly is it that you want people to get from the film.
didn't seem to be much of an interest in presenting the film at larger venues or to see it be as big as it could be.
DLS: Yeah, I'm not sure you interpreted that correctly. Or You did and I communicated it, at the time, incorrectly. One of the two. One of the things I do remember saying was that I hope people watch the movie, then forget about the movie and fall in love with Jesus. That's my deepest hope for anybody that watches the movie. I meant that. That's truly what I want people to get from the film. There are several people out there that are wondering why we're not doing a theatrical release or larger venues. The truth is that's what we tried first. We shopped the movie around to distributors first, and no body was interested in distributing this movie theatrically. And most people don't know the cost in P&A for a movie that goes into theaters. For most studio movies it's millions. For other smaller movie's it's at the very least it takes A LOT OF MONEY.  We don't have that. There's actually one company out there looking for P&A money for us, and IF they are successful we MIGHT get a 10-15 city theatrical release. We are truly hoping for that to happen, but at this point it's not guaranteed.  That's where the idea for the tour came from, it was out of a desire to at least give people the opportunity to see it that wants to see it. At the time of us first planning our tour we didn't even have a distributor or know if we would get one, or see any sign of it being a reality so we at least wanted people to have some way to see it. It wasn't a substitutionary option, at the time, it was the only option.

MF: Are there future plans for a DVD and can you tell us if there is anything we can expect from the special features?

DLS: Yes we think this movie could have potentially have an exclusive deal with Wal-mart May 6th. But I'm not sure if that's a done deal. So hopefully it will be on blue-ray and DVD in Wal-Marts may 6th.

MF: This is Color Green's first film and your first effort at directing, what have you learned in the process?

DLS: This is actually Color Green's 4th film, but yes it's my first film to direct.

I've learned so much. My other films, in terms of writing and producing, were like going to undergraduate school for film, and this was my masters school. I've learned, as I think most artists do, you got to keep doing it if you want to get better. I'm excited to learn from my mistakes, and go make another movie, and learn from all those mistakes, and go make another movie. This is the assumption of course that I'd be blessed enough to make another movie. Getting to make one movie is like catching lightning in a bottle. The thought of it happening again seems highly unlikely. Of course that's what I thought before I made this movie.

Thanks for letting me share.

Kind Regards,

David Leo Schultz

The following is the video trailer for the movie Ragamuffin, to see the video, just click on the video, if there are problems, click on the following link:

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