Scott Peterson plucked the how-to-write-a-screenplay book out of the Barnes & Noble bargain bin.
He figured he could handle the $1 investment. It sparked a new hobby.
Eight years later, the Oak Grove real estate agent and his wife, Diane, an attorney, have spent $70,000 to turn one of his screenplays into a film. “The Current,” the story of a family touched by violence who move from Chicago to rural Minnesota, debuted this month.
The film has played in a handful of theaters in four states, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Montana and Arizona. “The Current” just had a three-day run at the Champlin Theater.
A theater owner in Montana, supportive of the Petersons’ mission to create a family-friendly film, was one of the first to show it.
“The first day there we beat out Harrison Ford at the box office,” said Scott Peterson of the Montana showing.
The Petersons sifted through new music online and created a soundtrack for “The Current.”
The couple are part of a growing, though still rare, crop of north suburban filmmakers. Technology and high-quality, affordable cameras mean people with a story to tell and a few extra dollars to devote to their vision are making films. For the Petersons, who have formed iiFiLMS production company, it’s about creating a family-friendly film full of drama and depth minus gratuitous violence and sex.
“We do think there is a movement to bring better entertainment into American culture. There is a lot of stuff influencing kids and families in a negative way,” Diane Peterson said.
People are looking for more family-friendly films with uplifting messages, but Hollywood isn’t always delivering, said Scott Peterson, who said the film has a Christian message.
From idea to screen
Sitting in their home overlooking Lake George, the couple recently discussed the film from inception to debut.
Scott Peterson, 51, said he dabbled in screenwriting for the past several years. The couple even took a trip to Hollywood to pitch some ideas, but it never took off. Scott Peterson wrote “The Current” screenplay years back. He toyed with it here and there, allowing his wife to make some edits. For Scott Peterson, the film is partly autobiographical. At age 13, his father gave up his career as an engineer in Chicago and moved the family to Sturgis, S.D., to run an insurance agency.
A meeting with their pastor and an unexpected award pushed Scott Peterson from writer to filmmaker.
“The Current” was named a finalist for the Kairos Prize for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays in late 2011.
Not long after that, the couple attended the Rev. Steve Perkins’ annual vision dinner at Northgate Church. Perkins told the congregation: God is calling you to do more than just hard things in your life. He is calling you to do something impossible.
They both thought about the film.
“I always hope what I am communicating makes an impact,” Perkins said recently. “I was challenging people about the vision of the church. It was just icing on the cake to hear that God has used that event to get them going on this movie.”
Perkins and his family were some of the first to see the film. He said it is dramatic with both humorous and heartbreaking moments. “I walked away inspired,” he said.
The Petersons held casting calls at the Hampton Inn in Maple Grove. The 300-member cast and crew is mostly volunteer. A handful of high-level staff will receive some compensation if the film makes money.
Most of the movie was filmed last summer at a youth campsite on the Rum River. Some of it also was shot on location in Chicago.
“It was real intense — 12-hour days,” Scott Peterson said.
In the film, the main character, 13-year-old Jake, witnesses a robbery. Alarmed at the violence, Jake’s parents uproot the family from Chicago and buy a camp in Minnesota. Jake struggles with the move. The movie has strong spiritual themes, the couple said.
“You can fight against Him or your can go with His plan,” said Diane Peterson, explaining the Christian influence in the film.
The original budget was $20,000, but the couple realized they needed equipment, including a crane and a dolly on a track, to be able to shoot smoothly while in motion.
“We tried to build one ourselves. It didn’t work well. We had a skateboard and PVC pipe,” said Diane Peterson.
The couple did score big when they found a professional-grade used sound booth on Craigslist for $500. They moved it into their dining room to record some audio portions of the film.
The Petersons are releasing and promoting the film themselves mostly through word-of-mouth and social media. They are using Tugg.com, a web platform that lets consumers bring movies they want to local theaters, to get the film into theaters for one-time showings.
One of the biggest compliments they’ve received about the film came from Perkins’ children. Diane Peterson asked if they enjoyed the film and had watched it again. The child replied, “Like four times.”
To learn more about “The Current,” go to http://www.iifilms.com/