Apolonia Davalos is a dear friend. I first met her when she played one of the leading roles in THE GOOD BOOK. She’s an incredibly talented actress who is now making her filmmaking debut with the short film CHILDREN OF WAR.
What was the inspiration behind CHILDREN OF WAR?
Lisa Bennett, and her mother, Nancy Bennett, two women whom I have never met in person, inspired me to write CHILDREN OF WAR.
In a recent interview on Victory Talk Radio (produced by Lisa Bennett) with radio host John Baldwin, Nancy Bennett revealed how she joined her passion of medicine and God into a life lived as a Medical Missionary! An all day, every day commitment of selflessness to uplift the buried spirits of our fellow human beings suffering from poverty, homelessness, loss, and drug and alcohol addictions. A reality all too real as an increasing sickness in the American economy and way of life. With 43 years of healthcare experience, she stated she answered God’s call to bring her life’s training to War, West Virginia (a fallen city left with ruins of buildings that more so resemble a town hit by a World War III).
Nancy Bennett first restored a church in McDowell County, then schools, a food bank, and HOPE!
ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!!!
How did you conduct your research?
BIG SHOUT OUT TO LISA BENNETT!!! Lisa was my main connection to the heart of the War community.
A personal investment already established, Lisa possessed a library of articles she sent me. Then she connected me with the War, West Virginia community Facebook group and, further, introduced me to a local coal miner who also volunteers in helping his fellow neighbors in joining in Nancy’s efforts. I learned a lot from him. His testimony touched my heart, opened my eyes, and further inspired my call to write! “By Birth. By Choice. By God.” That motto is very real and lived!
I also read an article “As coal fades in West Virginia, drugs fill void” by Kimberly Johnson. Her research and investigation revealed how “McDowell County, once the top producer of coal in the nation, now leads state in overdose deaths.” She further unveiled, “McDowell’s children are the latest wave of victims as widespread addiction rips families apart — more misery for communities already suffering economic hardships from job losses in the coal industry.” An interview she shared gave overwhelming insight into the families. “When Principal Florisha McGuire wants a clue about what’s going on in the homes of her students…she often finds the answers on their feet.” It’s a fact that “… ‘on average, about 43 percent of [her] students had lost a biological mother or father,’ either from overdose or removal from their homes, McGuire said.”
Further, as a member of the War Facebook community, I learned a lot from their personal stories! I saw history deeply connected with the present before my eyes! Names and pictures of ancestors. People remembering and sharing a legacy and a time when life was fruitful in War. I learned emphatically about a culture of a younger America deeply rooted and truly united.
EVERY FAMILY HAS A HISTORY UNTOLD!
How did you select your cast and crew?
As a producer, when I see exceptional talent, a fire inside me burns with a purpose and a mission to find a way to share such talent with the world. I always create with purpose and for people! For example, when I met Artist Katy Parsons and was privileged to be introduced to her imagination, I was instantly inspired. Hence, each day forward, I prayed for the opportune idea to share her craft and her spirit. And then prayed that she’d actually accept my project proposal. (Laughs.)
Katy was also my first confirmation for “War” becoming a living dream come true! My secret weapon as the creator behind the original artwork for SAINT’s body art. None of the cast and crew had the opportunity to officially meet her but saw her visionary interpretation of the “Armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-20).
So how do/did I select my cast & crew? It is like I keep a treasury of people in my heart. My every encounter with a single individual I carry with me. So, significantly, I initially wrote this project with specific people in mind. But, as with any production, a lot of unexpectedness occurs, and there were four outstanding individuals that I had never met until the morning of our one day shoot. Lead Actor Steve Alberts recommended Luciano J. Vignola to play his son Les Freeman. Assistant Director Eric Byford (Beardforce Films) recommended Levi Montgomery to be our Armourer. First Assistant Camera/Still Photographer David G. Baker (White Door Productions) recommended Joseph Aguon Drake to be our Boom Operator. And Nan Puetz, President of Tennessee Women in Film & Media (TWIFM), recommended Megan Dillard for Production Assistant. The team truly came together with the support of the AMAZING Nashville arts community; which is unlike any other I’ve been exposed to!
One final confession.
After his wrap for the day, Luciano asked me, “Were you worried about me portraying Les? Like, ‘Oh Lord, is this guy going to be a good actor?’” I responded to Luciano and said, “Honestly? NO! I didn’t even look at your resume. You were recommended by Steve Alberts. That is all I needed. I just couldn’t wait to meet you and watch you bring the character of Les Freeman to life!” I totally surprised him with my response! (Laughs) It was a wonderful moment and a launch to a beautiful new friendship!
What was the greatest challenge you faced with the film?
EDITING. EDITING. EDITING. (Laughs)
What are you most excited about the film?
Well, for one thing, the stars literally aligned and I was gifted 16 hours (in a single day) to shoot “War” with some of the most passionate artists I’m HONORED to collaborate with. My cast and crew talent were already booked for other gigs and I was profoundly blessed to have even ONE DAY, ONE STORY, and ONE OPPORTUNITY to accomplish ONE FILM!
I learned a LOT from these people in such a short amount of time.
I’m also excited to complete the film for the coal miner whose testimony inspired my call to write!
Oh, and I’m very excited to share the opening credits of the film featuring “I NEED THEE EVERY HOUR” by Southern Raised with your readers: https://vimeo.com/153010902
What do you hope people will get out of CHILDREN OF WAR?
When I approached actor Nathaniel McIntyre to portray the role of OTHNIEL JUSTICE, he asked me, “What do you want people to take away from watching the film?”
I thought about his question deeply. I responded, “When I watch this film, I want to witness the purpose of family, the significance of faith, and the strength of love, loyalty, and commitment. Through faith and love, there’s always hope for meaning in one’s life and forgiveness; even after years of suffering. With family, it’s the one undeniable bond of who we are and where we come from. If family is rooted in faith and love, then the family will always be the compass to guide us back to who we are, when we lose sight of ourselves when we face real evil in the world. This film is about rebuilding broken families!” (A microcosm for the rebuilding of America!)
“Children of War” is my first Western. I’m calling my film a Modern-Western because my picture illuminates the West of the present. You will not see perfection, you will see a story; as sharp, sudden, steady, gritty, and dark as our emotions. I did not make this project for one person, I produced this moving picture for the American spirit, which is hurting and imperfect.
Lastly, the soulful sound of Honeyboy and Boots INSPIRED the completion of “War”! LISTEN to their featured songs “Looking for Mercy,” “Wood & Steel”, and “Honeyboy & Boots Jam” on our official webpage: http://apolonia.weebly.com/children-of-war—short-film.html
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