John Errington on “A Long Way Off” and Religious Movie Making
Date: May 4th, 2014

With religiously-themed movies such as Noah and The Blind Side making their way into major motion picture releases recently, we talk with writer, producer, and director John Errington about his new independent film project A Long Way Off set to be released on May 16th, 2014.  Our conversation takes us into the world of independent film making to see how smaller movies with religious themes can compete with big cinematic productions.

We start off with a quick synopsis of the movie A Long Way Off, which follows the story of the prodigal son in the New Testament.  After this short “trailer,” we then take an overview of John’s life, finding how a kid born in Detroit, raised in North Carolina, and educated at Harvard ends up directing motion pictures and winning an Emmy (albeit not for directing).  John provides some insight into his personal faith and other tidbits about his life including how he goes from making a movie in college for fun to directing a motion picture with stars such as Robert Davi and Edie McClurg.  John reflects upon his love of storytelling and how it relates to film making.

Following this autobiography, we dive into the world of making a movie.  Tony learns why there are so many different companies (e.g., Word Films, Uptone Pictures) with their “hands in the pot” and what constitutes an “independent film.”  John explains that every film is really a business enterprise unto itself that brings together a number of different companies.  It is revealed that Word Films is actually a distribution subsidiary of Warner Brothers, yet A Long Way Off still qualifies as “independent” based upon how the funding for the making of the picture was assembled.  We also talk about why the film was shot in North Carolina and the impressive cast that was assembled for this film, including important roles for the likes of Robert Davi (the Bond villain in License to Kill and Edie McClurg from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Frozen).  Tony probes whether working on an independent Christian film might brand or limit an actor/actress/director in terms of future career options.

Our conversation also covers the plot of the film, what type of liberties John and the writers took with the prodigal son story, and how the movie is being marketed.  The latter includes discussion on how to give the story some “edge” so that it doesn’t come off as a sappy Hallmark made-for-TV movie, yet keep it clean enough to make it enjoyable family fare.  As for marketing, we talk about the role that churches can play in helping to “get the word out.”  John, while not principally responsible for distribution, does talk about the use of social media and religious networks to help the film get some traction.

We finish with John’s general thoughts about the role of religion in Hollywood and popular culture and how the lower costs of film making has changed the landscape.  Recorded: April 18, 2014.


John Errington’s bio on Internet Movie Database (IMDB).

A Long Way Off movie website (with links on how churches can request a screening).

Uptone Pictures.

Word Films.

George & Monty videos on Funny or Die.


Tim Kelleher on the Nicene Creed and Hollywood.

Michael Medved on Religion and Hollywood.

John Sweeney on It’s a Wonderful Life.

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