Stairway Media is producing a feature film titled, “Under the Overpass”, based on Mike Yankoski’s book, “Under the Overpass”. Producers James WilderHancock and Peter Fuhrman are working with Matthew Dean Russell as the Director of the film. Principal photography is tentatively scheduled for spring 2012.
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Meet the creative team
Matthew Dean Russell, Director
Since shooting his first films with his mother’s camcorder at the age of nine, then editing them using VHS players (the only option available to a budding Spielberg at the time), you could say that Matthew Dean Russell was destined to make movies. Following high school, he spent two years studying at Montana State University’s Media and Theatre Arts School in Bozeman, before transferring to the University of Colorado in Denver, so he could simultaneously begin working in the field. Starting out as an intern at a local production house, Russell would produce, direct, and shoot commercials and other creative projects, including the Emmy-nominated documentary, “Veterans Among Us.” At the age of 22, he broke into the industry as a member of the visual effects team on “Elf,” a $33 million production that grossed over $250 million at the box office. Over the next seven years, he worked on a succession of studio films, including as a second unit director, on Bruce Willis’ “Live Free or Die Hard” and Ben Stiller’s “Night at the Museum.” Russell made his feature film directorial debut with the upcoming motion picture, “Seven Days in Utopia,” starring Oscar-winning legend Robert Duvall, Lucas Black and Melissa Leo, winner of the 2011 Best Supporting Actress. He also co-wrote the screenplay, adapted from a popular faith-based nonfiction book. The $10 million drama follows Luke Chisolm’s quest to qualify for the pro golf tour. After his first big shot turns out to be a very public disaster, Luke finds himself stranded in remote Utopia, Texas—where eccentric rancher Johnny Crawford (Duvall) shows him how to win at the big game of life. The August 2011 release is already a highly-anticipated Academy Award contender. In March, the Toronto Star predicted that “the film that has the best shot at Oscar attention [in 2012] would seem to be ‘Seven Days in Utopia,’ which, like ‘The Fighter,’ is a true-life sports drama…”
“For me, it will never be about making 20 million to direct Die Hard 8 or Final Destination 23. Not that I wouldn’t be content directing films like that; boosting my career while cleaning the Box Office in the process. That said, ultimately I’ll judge my success, in more ways than one, by a different number. How many people will my films touch? Before I die, I’d like to meet someone who says, “You know Matt, I used to be racist…” or “I used to beat my wife,” just before they say “But I saw your film, and it transformed my soul.” If I can do that, than I’ll simultaneously quench the thirst of my mission, career and most importantly, my life.” –Matthew Dean Russell
James WilderHancock, Producer
One of the Northwest’s most knowledgeable filmmakers, James WilderHancock is
the producer of the award-winning film, “Everyman’s War.” Released in 45 countries
and currently available on Netflix, this compelling drama is based on the true story
of one man’s hope and courage during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge.
There is almost no job in television or film that WilderHancock hasn’t worked at one
time—from operating a camera to directing, to making the props, lighting the stage
and mixing the sound. In 2008, he served as gaffer on Laika’s critically-acclaimed
animated feature. “Coraline”; then as the company grip and second-unit key for two
seasons on TNT’s primetime series, “Leverage,” starring Timothy Hutton”; followed
by an invitation from Laika to step in as gaffer on their Oscar- nominated feature
WilderHancock got his start as a volunteer camera operator at Oregon Public
Broadcasting, while also producing entertaining content for the Portland Cable
Access channel. After interning on “Grizzly Mountain” in southern Oregon, he
moved to L.A. and became a union grip, but not before putting in his time at the
venerable Roger Corman School of Film. Back in Portland five years later, he
worked on such projects as famed animator Will Vinton’s “Gary and Mike” and “The
PJ’s,” as well as features like “Seraphim Falls,” “The Ring,” “Into The Wild,” and “My
Name Is Bruce” with Bruce Campbell. He wrote, produced and directed “Reverse
Speech” for “Split Screen,” wrote and produced a variety of VNR’s and commercials
for regional and national television—and in 2008, wrote the initial draft of the
bill that would become the iOPIF; an incentive fund specific to locally produced
productions under $750,000 in budget.
WilderHancock currently serves on the board of the Oregon Media Production
Association and is also a past president, is a founding member of the Oregon
Producers Alliance, and a plank holder of the Army’s 3rd Ranger Battalion stationed
at Fort Benning, GA.
Peter Fuhrman, Producer
The son of an orthopedic surgeon, Peter Fuhrman grew up on 40 acres outside Hamilton, Montana, a town of only 8000. By the age of six, he was nagging his parents to explain how special effects are created. But it wasn’t until he was close to finishing up a degree in Biology that Fuhrman realized he was on the wrong career path and transferred into the film program at Montana State University. While obtaining his undergraduate degree, Fuhrman completed a documentary—as the co-director of From the Big Sky to the Big Apple, narrated by Academy Award Nominee Peter Fonda. Peter was also the cinematographer and editor on a second documentary feature titled Multiracial Identity. He also learned the ropes of public television as a floor manager and camera operator at his local PBS affiliate. Then, in 2006, Fuhrman co-produced and filmed 32 episodes of the syndicated half-hour television series, Backstage Pass—for which he visited Hollywood movie sets, interviewed major celebrities and covered red carpet events. He formed his production company, Stairway Media, in 2008.
Peter is also a member of the Oregon Media Production Association and currently serves as the OMPA’s Job Liaison, an outreach to the business community in an effort to increase awareness of the OMPA.
Continued education, community networking and project development are some of his high priorities. Peter’s primary focus is to be involved in feature film production, but he continues to produce commercials, web media and promotional material for local businesses as well.
Lourds Ambrose, Director of Photography
Lourds Ambrose is an award winning Cinematographer with 25 years of experience. Some of his projects include feature films such as “THERESE”, a period film and “AMU”, a human rights drama. Lourds also shot “PAPPOS”, a music video and Winner of MTV International Award.
“To me Cinematography is truly a liveliest Art Form that reflects the Director’s vision from script to screen. It is my responsibility to transform the Director’s imaginations on to the screen.” – Lourds Ambrose
Tim Oakley, Production Designer
A graduate of NYU, award-winning designer Tim Oakley most recently served as the production designer on Jason Freeman’s “The Weather Outside” and Aaron Kirk Douglas’ short documentary, “My Days of Awe and Grief.” Tim’s behind the scenes work includes being a prop fabricator for the recently filmed NBC pilot “GRIMM”, the prop fabricator & graphic artist on the quirky hit television series “Portlandia,” the set graphic artist for the 2009 “Star Trek” blockbuster, a model maker for the mini-series “Defying Gravity,” and over a dozen feature films. Growing up, the Hawaii native spent four summers on the Paramount Pictures lot in Los Angeles, beginning at the age of 11, learning the ropes from his uncle, Emrich “Nick” Nicholson, the Art Director/Production Designer on over three dozen
major studio pictures. Oakley also studied for two years under legendary Production Designer Henry Bumstead, who won the Oscars for “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “The Sting,” as well as nominations for Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” and Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven.” Tim began his career early as an illustrator in the advertising world in New York, before moving to the Bay Area to work for renowned designer Doug Offenbacher.
“Mike Yankoski experiences a paradigm shift one Sunday morning when, during a particularly powerful sermon, his pastor asks the question, “Are you being the Christian you say you are?” Frustrated by the belief that his convictions are not enough, Yankoski decides to takes action and leave his comfortable, upper middle-class lifestyle to become homeless.
Recognizing that there is safety in numbers, Mike spends several months searching for a traveling companion and finally finds an adventurous Sam Purvis willing to risk it all with him. On May 27th, 2003 the two 20-year old college students leave behind the comforts of good homes, family and budding romance to set out on a journey of faith, enduring the hardships of life on the streets in order to better serve the needy and end the cycle of crushing poverty, addiction and degradation.
Mike and Sam travel to several American cities, living as homeless men in a daily struggle for survival. They panhandle, sleep in alleys and eat from garbage cans.
At times they must fight for their very lives in an often violent, chaotic world.
They encounter many denizens of this underworld and learn that the homeless are very different than they appear on their grubby surfaces. In their journey Mike and Sam endure rejection, humiliation and hostility from a society that turns a blind eye to the realities of homelessness.
The two young men struggle to eke out a meager existence until they are befriended by Gabe, a middle-aged man, wise to the ways of the streets, who mentors them. When Gabe suffers a tragic loss, Mike and Sam agree to help the alcoholic across the country to fulfill a desperate dream while there is still time.
When tragedy strikes again, Mike must grapple with his own loss of faith.
Mike sets out to fix the homeless and in the end experiences his own judgment first hand in the way America responds to the homeless. Recognizing also that many Christians, himself included, are quick to speak but slow to act, Mike returns with a genuine love for those who are “unlovable” and a deep understanding that what most people on the streets long for is a personal connection, someone to give them even a glimmer of hope that they are loved.
Under the Overpass, based on the book by Mike Yankoski, is a journey of hardship, despair, compassion, humor and ultimately- Grace.”
A MESSAGE FROM MIKE YANKOSKI
Several years ago my friend Sam and I intentionally spent five months as homeless men living on the streets of six American cities. The idea began one morning in a church service, with a pastor challenging the congregation to be the Christians that we claimed to be. I had no idea as I sat there in my pew just how much my life was about to change.
For five months Sam and I lived on the streets, sleeping under bridges, eating out of garbage cans, panhandling to try and survive. As much as we could, we attempted to enter into homeless life with hopes of experiencing our world from street level. What we encountered there—the tragedy, the beauty, the love—has forever impacted how I understand God, myself, and my neighbor.
In 2005 the book Under the Overpass was released by Multnomah Publishers. Since then nearly 100,000 copies of the book have sold and I’ve had the chance to speak to tens of thousands of people about a Christ centered response to our world’s great needs. And yet, there are more people on the streets today than when Sam and I were homeless. Due to the global economic crisis of 2008, more people than ever before are finding themselves homeless for the very first time. Perhaps even more heartbreaking, according to the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, the fastest growing segment of the American homeless population is now children.
The time is right for us to be the people we claim to be: followers of Christ, lovers of our neighbors.
I’m both overwhelmed and overjoyed to be partnering with Stairway Media as they adapt Sam’s and my journey for the screen. My hope and prayer is that Under the Overpass the movie might portray more clearly the gritty realities, incredible stories, and beautiful people who are homeless in America than the book ever could. In so doing I believe Under the Overpass the movie will be a catalyst for change: change in us as individual people and change in our society as a whole.
- Mike Yankoski, author of Under the Overpass
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Outlook for Faith-based films, six years after “Passion of the Christ”
It’s been six years since “The Passion of the Christ” made history with its $611 million world-wide box office gross, its groundbreaking church-based promotional roll-out and its rendering of proof that there was an audience for a great Christian film. After that, there was a spurt of activity toward faith-themed movie and TV productions in Hollywood. So what’s happened? Click here to read the full article.
Faith-based films are proving to be big box-office in America.
Faith-based films are proving to be big box-office in America. Kaleem Aftab asks if pushing religion on screen will appeal to cinema audiences in Britain. Hollywood has never been slow to sell its soul on the promise of a fast buck … Click here to read the full article.
Help the homeless … Fast and pray for those who are homeless in our country. Find your local homeless shelter and volunteer now and then again in the new year
Give Hope. 7 IDEAS for helping
a homeless man or woman
Visit the Portland Rescue Mission and discover what you can do to help. You can start by printing the FREE Mission Meal Vouchers on the Mission site. (See What You Can Do)