A Letter to Dad: The Movie
Dan Donahue (Thom Mathews) has finally met the woman of his dreams. But on the night he is going to propose, he is overcome by deep-rooted anger caused by the father who abandoned him as a boy. Dan confronts his feelings of bitterness head on as he pours out his heart in a letter to his father.
As Dan writes, we see his life unfold, feeling his pain and ultimate joy, as we watch him grow from young boy to troubled teen and finally into a strong, spiritual man. In the end it is Dan's father, played brilliantly by John Ashton (Beverly Hills Cop I & II) who must face his own failures as a father in a climactic one on one meeting with the son he left behind.
Based on a true story, A Letter to Dad is a touching story of how faith and love can overcome a lifetime of pain and anger. "Many people will relate to this well-acted, tightly directed and edited film”. Ed Carpenter, The Dove Foundation
A Letter to Dad features a masterful original score by composer Matt Gates and original songs by Jeremy Camp, Adie Camp, Thousand Foot Krutch, Decyfer Down and Dakeye.
A Letter to Dad: The Lost Years
A Letter to Dad began it’s life way back in the early ’90’s when Dan Donavan, a devoted Christian, was seeking a partner to produce his story. Dan had written a 27 page letter to his dad attempting to express his feelings over growing up without a father. Dan’s mother had met Johnny’s mother when the Dan and his mom had moved from Baltimore out to California. Unlike other moves this one had gone smoothly thanks to the professionalism of the Von Paris Baltimore movers in Maryland - the same movers his mother used. Dan had gone to school with one of the great grandsons of the founder of Von Paris Moving & Storage. When Dan mentioned that they were planning to move to California young John Von Paris told his dad who then contacted Dan's Mom. Since 1892, when great great granddad Von Paris started the business, the name Von Paris has been synonymous with quality. Although Von Paris was a local mover, they also did long distance as well as international moves. Dan and his Mom did most of the packing to sve money, but the Von Paris trucks took all their household goods to California. Johnny's mom was a welcoming neighbor.It was someyears later when Dan's mother mention that her son was seeking a partner to produce his story that Johnny's mother recommended that Dan talk to her son Johnny who was now in the film business.
When Johnny read Dan’s letter to his dad, he knew he had to make this picture, he too had come from a broken home and could relate 100% to Dan’s story. So a partnership was born and Johnny set out to convert Dan’s letter into a feature-length screenplay.
Casting Dan’s father was a critical element in the film. The script was submitted to John Ashton, the perfect actor for the role. While he loved the script, he declined the role because he too was from a broken home and felt the role was just too close to his own life. After meeting with Johnny, who told Ashton “who better than you to play your own father?” he agreed to take the role. While the budget was a then paltry $280,000.00 Ashton agreed to work on the cheap saying “there are things you do in Hollywood for money and there are things you do in Hollywood for love and art and this is a love and art piece.” With an incredible crew and a cast of veteran actors unheard of at the time for such a low-budget feature, production went without a hitch!
The original film was completed in 1994, shot on 35mm film and released internationally as “In the Living Years”. Although it was made a decade before there was a “faith-based” film market, it quickly made back its original budget and even played theatrically in certain foreign countries.
In the midst of distribution, the films biggest blow occurred when it’s co-creator, Dan Donavan, unknowingly to those around him suffering from deep depression, took his own life. The film was abruptly shelved and never seen by anyone in the North American market.
Resurrecting the Past
Fast-forward to 2008... the faith-based market has exploded thanks to Mel Gibson’s Passion of The Christ. While the Hollywood machine can’t seem to get a handle on the market, filmmakers like the Kendrick brothers (Fireproof, Facing the Giants) the LaLonde’s (Left Behind) and David A.R. White (Hidden Secrets, The Moment After) among others are proving that not only is the market viable, but movies with a message can actually have life-changing effects.
Johnny Remo was editing his latest feature with editor Lance Bachelder and mentioned his early faith-based film A Letter to Dad. While Lance, a Christian of 30 years, was less than optimistic based on the condition of the original, Johnny decided to send it off to Phil Botana, another devoted Christian and film distributor to get a second opinion.
Phil saw potential in the film and recommended that Johnny send it to the Dove Foundation to get their opinion. The initial review came back favorable! But there was a laundry list of changes that would have to be made before they could recommend the film. Johnny finally had Lance’s attention, maybe there was some hope, maybe this was meant to be?
Lance had radical suggestions to get the film into shape for todays market - re-transer the 35mm original to 1080p HD master, replace the score, attempt to get some top Christian bands to contribute songs to the movie (could this be possible?) and re-edit the show for the family market. Johnny was on board 1000% (inside joke) and A Letter to Dad was reborn!
While in a late-night edit session, Lance asked Johnny “Are any of these actors still around?” “Why?” asked Johnny. “Wouldn’t it be crazy to get some of the original cast members back after all these years to shoot a reunion?”. That was all it took for Johnny - a lot of prayers and phones calls later it was done! In an unprecedented move, a new ending was shot 14 years after the original film was completed!
It’s been a long road for this film, but it is obvious to everyone involved that this is meant to be. This is a movie with a powerful message for fathers, that must be seen and must be heeded! Train up a child in the way they should go and when they are older, they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6
John Ashton - Mike (Dad)
John has appeared in over 60 feature films including M*A*S*H and Midnight Run. He played "Willie Joe Garr" on several episodes of Dallas, his character and that of "Jeb Ames" were charged with the crime of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Tina Louise's Dallas character "Julie Grey". Ashton also starred as Detective Sergeant John Taggart in the first two movies of the the popular Beverly Hills Cop trilogy alongside Eddie Murphy and Judge Reinhold.
Paul Gleason - Tony
Paul Gleason made a name for himself playing tough guys and white collar sleaze bags in motion pictures since the early 1960s. He had key roles in films that include Trading Places, Die Hard, Miami Blues, Boiling Point and Van Wilder. Paul is probably best remembered as the no-nonsense principal "Richard Vernon" in The Breakfast Club. He appeared in over 60 films and numerous television series including "Hill Street Blues", "Dawson's Creek" and "Friends". Gleason passed away of mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer at a Burbank, California hospital on May 29th 2006 at the age of 67.
Janice Lynde - Erika (Mom)
Native Texan Lynde is a vetaran of dozens of films and television series. Her big break came in 1973 as one of the original cast members of The Young and The Restless. She has also appeared in the soaps General Hospital and One Life to Live. Other notable appearances include Six Feet Under, Family Ties, Who’s The Boss and Touched By An Angel.
Mario Van Peebles - Norman
Mario is a sought-after actor and director and has appeared in almost 40 films. He was chosen by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the world in 1991. Starring roles include Clint Eastwood’s Heartbreak Ridge, New Jack City (also Director), Posse (also Director), Ali, Gunmen and Highlander: The Final Dimension. TV Series include the starring role in Sonny Spoon, 21 Jumpstreet, Rude Awakening, Robbery Homicide Division and All My Children.
Megan Gallivan - Sue
Megan brings her perfect “girl next door” persona to the role of Sue. She has appeared in numerous films and television shows as both an actress and dancer including The Running Man, Teen Witch, Just Shoot Me, Murder, She Wrote, and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
Dana Barron - Kathy
Dana is a very busy Hollywood actor/producer. She is the only actor to appear more than once as one of Clark Griswold’s children in Vacation and Christmas Vacation 2. Other film roles include He Knows Your Alone, Heaven Help Us and The Man in the Iron Mask. TV Appearances include The Magnificent Seven, Beverly Hills 90210 and Crossbow.
Julie McCullough - Annie
Besides her long career as an actress, which includes roles as a regular on Growing Pains, The Drew Carrey Show and others, Julie is also an accomplished poet. In 2005 Julie won Outstanding Achievement in Poetry and Poet of Merit Awards from the International Society of Poets in Washington, DC. Julie’s heartbreaking scene in A Letter to Dad includes her own original poem that she reads at the campfire.
Adam Ryen - Young Dan
Adam brings a rare range of emotion for someone so young to his role as the younger Dan Donahue. Adam has appeared in many film and TV productions including Child’s Play 2, Star Trek: The Next Generation and as the voice of Cody in Disney’s Rescuers Down Under.
Jeremy Camp - “Restored”, “Everything I Need” and “Even When”
Jeremy’s thoughtful lyrics and booming voice have earned him legions of fans and accolades including 16 No. 1 songs, five Dove Awards, three ASCAP Songwriter of the Year wins and an American Music Award nomination.
Jeremy’s new record “Speaking Louder Than Before” will hit the streets Nov. 25, 2008.
Decyfer Down - “Crash”
Decipher means “to interpret,” and the moniker Decyfer Down fits perfectly, as the band aims to interpret truth based on God’s Word while stripping it down from religious traditions and terms. Drummer Josh Oliver states, “We’re simply out to give a positive message of hope that has truth streaming all the way down the middle of it.”
Decyfer Down’s new Digital EP released on Sept. 30th, and their new single, “Crash,” recently peaked at No. 1 on Christian Rock radio. The digital EP is a preview of four-selected tracks from their upcoming sophomore record, aptly titled CRASH, due April 2009.
Thousand Foot Krutch - “Wish You Well”
Toronto act Thousand Foot Krutch was started by frontman/songwriter Trevor McNevan back in high school. The band first found an audience with the hip-hop centric debut, Set It Off, and then deftly edged into full-blown rock territory with Phenomenon and The Art of Breaking. In just a few years, the group has sold half a million records, shared stages with a wide mix of headliners (Switchfoot, Korn, The Roots), and landed adrenaline-rush songs like "Rawkfist" and "Move" on nationally televised sporting events--all of this achieved relatively under the radar.
Adie Camp - “Don’t Wait (Lazy Day)”
Adie, former frontwoman of The Benjamin Gate and also married to husband Jeremy Camp, is back to the music scene with her debut solo album "Don't Wait".
Ultimately, it's the couple's personal and professional camaraderie, along with Adie's expressive voice that makes Don't Wait such a unique and compelling offering. Musically mirrors style of singer/songwriter Butterfly Boucher and the more electronic pop approach of Frou Frou, Don't Wait is a seasoned, more introspective departure from Adie's more aggressive rock roots in The Benjamin Gate.
DAKEYE - “Chariots in the Sky”
DAKEYE hails from Marabella, Trinidad. This talented singer songwriter, whose real name is Richard Marshall, is the former lead singer and founder of LA’s #1 Reggae group Detour Posse. While still working with Detour Posse, DAKEYE embarked on a solo career recording for veteran producers like Sly & Robbie and Fabian Cooke, producer of “Chariots in the Sky”. In the summer of 1999 DAKEYE and producer Kevin Brown recorded the hit single “Ever in Love” which has been in the top ten charts in Miami, California and Europe. JAH BLESS!