The Brian Shoop File:
by C.J. Darlington
Brian Shoop Interview
"I've always been fascinated by the way circumstances can appear so random and hap-hazard, and all the time, God is behind the scenes directing them all to accomplish what he wants. That's been a recurring theme in a lot of my writing." -- Brian Shoop
BIO: Brian was third of four children born to Willard and Alice Shoop near the Ohio shoreline of Lake Erie. His two older brothers followed their father into the oil business, but Brian wandered off into construction. He married his childhood sweetheart and moved her and two boys west to find work in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1980. It was in Tulsa that he discovered his love for acting. But by then, he felt obligated to win the bread for his family, so the new career had to wait. Finally, the boys left for college, and he began pursuing his craft full time at 47. Ironically, he landed his first major motion picture role in The Rookie (2002), a story of the oldest rookie in professional baseball.
C.J.: As a man originally involved in the construction industry, when were you bit by the acting bug and what was it that first drew you to an acting career?
Brian: It’s weird, I was never in any plays in High School or anything. I sang with my buddy - a sort of folk duet with a guitar and bass fiddle - in the talent show, but no plays. When I moved to Tulsa a hundred years ago, I was asked to be in a skit or two at the church’s weekend camp thing. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed that. A year or two later, we did something serious at church and I got a role – I did the casting. Something really clicked during that play. Not long after that, I saw an invitation to audition at the Broken Arrow Community Playhouse. I thought, “Cool. A real audition. That would be an experience.” I was cast in the lead for Plaza Suite. Obviously, they had a poor turn out for auditions. That pretty much sealed the addiction for me. I couldn’t get enough. I signed up for acting classes. I got noticed by an agent in a showcase. I booked the first commercial I auditioned for. That was it. I was in.
How did you make that dream become a reality in your life?
I began to concentrate more on acting than on anything else. Construction became intensely boring. So I began searching for a way to make acting my profession. I took a position teaching drama at a small private school for a lot less money. (I have a very supportive wife.) That gave me summers off and lots of free time to audition for work and expand my resume. After a couple years working at it, I had accumulated agents in 4 other states to widen my market base. I was on the road a ton. I began booking jobs all over. I remember one day, I was on the set in Nashville and got a call from my Houston agent booking a job in Austin. I called my honey, and she met me at the airport with a fresh suitcase. I literally walked off one airplane, traded bags, and got on the next flight with about 10 minutes to spare. The last year I taught, I missed a month and a half of teaching days being on a set somewhere. My wife and I both decided it was time to take the plunge and go full time.
When did you start thinking about making your own movies, and how did Newsong Films come to be?
I began to think seriously about making a movie about 3 years ago. I mean everybody talks about making a movie, but that’s when I started saying, “No really. I’m making a movie.” We had a new associate pastor at the church and he had seen the recently released Sherwood Baptist movie, “Flywheel”. I was working on an original play for the church so he told me all about this little movie. “So, when you get the play done, you know?” He was joking. I wasn’t. I think I began that afternoon writing some script ideas down. A year later, I had the script and began to look for money people. I didn’t have to look any further than Sunday School class. Two of my friends were gracious enough and flush enough to step up and I was off to the lawyer’s to set up our LLC.
What is your vision for the company?
My vision for Newsong Films has been greatly influenced by my executive producers. I wanted to make a movie. They’re interested in making several marketable movies – maybe five or so. Not because they need the money, but because they want the movies to be good enough to stand on their own. I am consistently inspired and encouraged by those men. After five movies, I don’t know. I’ll be dead or retire. Or make some more, who knows?
Let’s talk about your first movie, Treasure Blind. Tell us about the story and what originally inspired you to write the screenplay.
I’ve always been fascinated by the way circumstances can appear
so random and hap-hazard, and all the time, God is behind the scenes directing
them all to accomplish what he wants. That’s been a recurring theme
in a lot of my writing. Treasure Blind was just another look at that sovereignty – even
using the ambitions and flaws of individuals, wars and national or even
global events, illnesses and circumstances we think of as bad, and even
stretch them over several generations, and then weave them all together
to bring good. I love that. It gives me hope when life stinks.
Did you set about with a specific message in mind for the film or did story come first?
I think the story developed by itself, but it was shaped by my world view just like any author. But as I was writing, I was trying to be as real and honest as I could with different characters responding to each other and to life. I wasn’t thinking, “Now how can this scene illustrate God’s sovereignty?” or whatever.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in making this movie?
That’s a hard one. Everything was new, being my first time and all. In some respects, it was one challenge after another. Finding the time to write. Being brave enough to edit mercilessly. Looking for money. That was hard. I hate to ask people for money – especially a lot of money. Oh, I know what was hardest – working with other people. I mean letting other people change things – mess with your baby, you know? Film making is collaborative, but some people take that too lightly. I mean, they’ll begin making changes, and you weren’t even sure they’ve read the whole script all the way through, let alone understand your passion for the story and the subtleties of this scene. That was definitely the hardest thing.
We’d love to hear about any memorable on-the-set moments you and the crew had. Care to share a story or two?
For me, it was the impassioned fight in the rain scene. It was the end of a busy shoot day, probably our third location for the day. We arrived in downtown Broken Arrow and met the BA Fire Department, just as we had planned weeks earlier. All good. After a discussion of what we needed, one of the firemen casually mentioned, “You’ve talked to the police chief right?” First time any of us knew we had to. We hadn’t. My first AD called the police department. After making us pretty sure we were going to have to go home without our shot, the officer on the phone said, “Well, the fire department probably has some cones. Just have them block off the street and go ahead.” A real person! Working in a bureaucracy. What do you know? So the Fire Department ran their hose up the ladder 130 feet into the night sky and made it rain on that barricaded street. Everything finally ready, we let the Captain call “Action” (his request), and the taxi drove into the rain. We stopped in the middle of the downpour, and my son Joe and I got out to run our scene. First thing I discovered: water from the city water main must come from the North Atlantic. It was free-hee-hee-heezing! In fact, we had to loop all the lines later because our actual voices were two octaves higher normal ranges. Somehow, we managed to man up to the challenge and get all the lines out, then Joe walks off and I go back to the car. Finally, it’s over. Nope. The door is locked. So after all that set up, anxiety, staving off heart failure and trying to maintain character at the same time, the scene is busted because Cliff can’t get back into the stupid taxi! Back to one everybody.
Another memorable day was the third and final day of Civil War shooting. These had been the most carefully planned days of the entire movie. We had extras coming from all over the state to form our Confederate regiment. We had shot the wagon and mules the day before, and the night time battle scene the first day. It was the last day of principle photography. Big day. It was also forcasted to rain cats and dogs. Both days before that Saturday were clear and nice. But that day – the one day when everybody was available – was calling for big storms and lots of rain. We did what any movie director does, we got everybody we knew to pray. Our call time was 7:00 AM. At 5, when I awoke, it was pouring down rain. We loaded the car and headed out. It rained the entire 60 minute drive to the location. But, as we drove onto the 100 acre ranch, the rain stopped. We shook hands and got releases signed. We got into wardrobe and set up the camera, the sun came out. We had one of the most perfect days of the three. And the most exciting thing about that was to realize that God must like this movie. :)
What is your favorite part of the movie making process?
The acting. Acting through the scenes. Being in another place and time as another person. It’s the ultimate for me.
The hardest is the editing. After all you have to go through – literally years of time invested, not to mention money, emotion, blood – then you just throw it away. It kills me.
What would you love to write/direct/produce someday but haven’t yet?
I’d love to make a movie of a historical fiction from the first century in Israel. I actually have a pretty good idea. No, I won’t tell you.
Okay, I gotta ask: What’s your most embarrassing moment as an actor or film maker?
There’s not anything that wakes me up at night. At least not yet. One time, in a scene with Sandra Bullock, I was supposed to be this seasoned old gentlemen cowboy and take her arm as we crossed some railroad tracks. When we got to the tracks, I reached up and took her arm, stepped on the track with my leather cowboy boots I just acquired from wardrobe, slipped and fell right into her – all 240 pounds of me. Nearly flattened her. Making a good impression took on a different meaning.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started in the movie making business?
That I would need more
footage. There are so many scenes that we desperately needed something
just flat didn’t have it. We would shoot
sometimes 4 or 5 locations in a day, so often the location owner would
be standing there tapping his watch and we’d have to just grab what
we could get and move on. So, more time at each location and more coverage.
Next time, I’m going to have a B camera crew on every location.
What actor or actress would you love to work with someday and why?
Well, any of them. That would mean I’d be working, and that’s cool. But there’s so many I wish I could work with, Ed Harris, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman. Those guys bring it, and you just can’t keep up. You learn so much when you’re forced like that. Sean Connery. There are so many. Even Brian Cox. I guess anybody who’s been around longer than me so I can learn from the experience.
What advice would you give to others who aspire to make Christian movies?
Get lots of advice while you’re getting ready, then stop listening to people and just do it. If you don’t ignore people, you’ll never do it. Similarly, be brutal with you’re editing before you start shooting, but then be equally brutal about getting exactly what you said you would. Don’t edit on the set where you have all the pressures of time and daylight and money and people’s schedules, and every other concern.
If you could change one thing about the Christian film industry, what would it be?
It would include more movies by Newsong Films.
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
I am the announcer for my pastor’s radio program. I’m going to perform the wedding of a famous musician this Summer.
When you’re not making movies, what do you enjoy doing?
I like to fly. I’m a private pilot.
Your favorite movie of all time and why:
Smoke Signals. I don’t know why. I just can’t get tired of it.
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
One egg. Multi grain toast – 1 slice. 4 oz. bran flakes. Skim milk. 6 oz. grapefruit juice.
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
Eggs, skim milk, yogurt – yes I’m on a diet.
You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
Grande skinny mocha latte (I love saying that).
What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?
What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?
Rosie Thomas, Sufjan Stevens, Tom Warrington Trio, Beau Jennings
When was the last time you cried?
Today, making a video for Myanmar cyclone victims
Anything else you’d like to share with TitleTrakk.com readers?
Thanks for asking.
Very kind of you to listen. I said it’s very
kind of you to listen.
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.