Screenwriter 'flips' Mel Gibson

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

Six questions with screenwriter Marcia Chandler Rhea.

The Carolina Storyteller, a script written by Marcia and her writing partner Margaret Ford Rogers, is a semifinalist in the Churches Making Movies Christian Film Festival, October 11- 13th in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Inspired by a true friendship, the script is about a divided community that becomes embroiled in racial unrest until a young boy discovers the key to healing by exposing a long-buried secret that brings redemption to his family and town.

Want to talk 'shop' with Marcia? Come on out to the fest where you can meet her in person. In the meantime, enjoy her Q&A.

Q. What is your film background?

A. I started working in film after I produced several industrial films for the government. I liked the filmmaking process and wanted to learn more, so I covered films for local publications. After meeting many producers and directors, I started landing jobs on numerous features and television shows like “Made in Heaven.” The screenwriters off that film encouraged me to write as well as my English professor. I optioned my first script to a director and producer that I had worked with in Charleston, and we are friends to this day.

Q. As a Christian, how do you see yourself impacting the film industry?

A. As a Christian, I want to start a conversation about themes that aren’t normally explored in mainstream film – my biggest theme is redemption. When I first started in film, there wasn’t anything called “Faith-based.” Now, with the phenomenal success of Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ,” more faith-based films are being made and finding audiences. Studies have shown that family friendly films far out perform R-rated material at the box office, and Hollywood is now paying attention to this exciting new genre with great interest. The market is exploding!

Q. What was the biggest screenwriting challenge you overcame?

A. The biggest challenges to scriptwriting are access to the right people to read and consider your work. Ultimately, the goal is to get your script produced, work with some great people and be seen by the right audience. The festivals that offer access to industry executives actively seeking projects to produce are great because they open up a dialog between writer and producer or financiers. People invest in films for all kinds of reasons, but I feel that we have the best stories in the world to tell because they are “life-changing” and make a huge difference in someone’s life!

Q.. Who are your biggest influences in film and why?

A. If we are strictly talking film history, Alfred Hitchcock films are the best because Alfred Hitchcock respected his writers and the story was king. He dealt with real people in real situations. He influenced a generation of filmmakers including Steven Spielberg who came to fame with “Jaws.” Steven Spielberg respects “story” like Alfred Hitchcock did. Without the right story, you have no film. The Kendrick Brothers have done some fantastic stuff and have really opened up the church audience. They have brought a new dimension to the landscape of filmmaking.

Q. What is the funniest or weirdest thing that has ever happened to you on set?

A. The funniest and the weirdest thing that happened to me on set was meeting Mel Gibson. He was shooting “The Patriot” in Charleston where I am from. Everyone was milling around since there was a small break in filming. I was standing on the Cistern lawn at The College of Charleston. I turned around and saw what I thought was my friend Jake, a Mel look alike. Jake had his back to me. I laughed to myself, “I’ll play a joke on him. This is going to be really funny.” I grabbed Jake’s shoulders forcibly and flipped him around. To my complete amazement, I found myself staring into the face of Mel Gibson, the biggest box office star at the time. Flustered beyond belief, I eked out a weak, “I thought you were someone else, my friend Jake.” He winked at me with those piercing blue eyes, then roared with laughter, “I’ve never heard that one before.” He smiled widely and proceeded to joke around with me. The Red Sea parted, and everyone disappeared. There, I was in the make-believe spotlight…shooting the breeze with one of our greatest actors. Surreal, right? After a few awkward moments, I gracefully bowed out, costume and all when I spotted Jake with a group of other actors on the Cistern steps. Jake was laughing at me. What a clown! After I got home that night, my husband Randy and I had a really good belly laugh after I told him my unbelievable story. You never know what is going to happen on a movie set!

Q. What is your favorite Bible verse? And how does this influence your filmmaking?

A. Any Bible verse that deals with redemption. After all, Christ died for us to redeem us and reconcile us to him. We have hope through him. Wow! Just think a moment about that. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If only people would accept this free gift, we would have a different world today. I recently had a car accident, and that scripture means so much to me. We can be here one day and gone the next. We must make each moment count for good!


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