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Saved! - Sandy Stern (Producer) Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Was this a difficult project to get off the ground, given that in the home of the land of the free there are sometimes certain religious obstacles to the freedom of speech to make a movie like this?
Sandy:
Well let's start with the first part of the question - was this movie difficult to get made? The answer was 'it was impossibe!' Everybody passed on this movie; nobody wanted to make this movie. And everybody says, 'well why was this movie so difficult to get made?' It's really a combination of several factors.
One is that it's very, very hard right now to get an independent movie made with a first-time director, it's a movie that dealt with religion, that dealt with comedy and religion, that dealt with a gay storyline, and that was basically, it was all a kind of ensemble cast that did not have a Julia Roberts starring in the movie. So you put all of those things together and everybody says 'thank you, pass, we'll see you when you find the financing'.
So the interesting back story of the movie was that it almost got made, after every door in Hollywood was shut on us, we found an equity investor down in Florida who said 'here's $5 million, we're going to make your movie.' The production went down to Florida, we spent five weeks in pre-production and had every location locked, and we had all the sets built and all the costumes ready to go, but four days before the actors were going to show up, the money never showed up. So here was our one chance to make the movie and it fell apart.
We came back to Los Angeles, had another go at it up in Vancouver, and then one of our actors, who was to play the role of Hilary Faye, fell out of the movie, so that was the second time the movie fell apart. And then Mandy Moore came on board which, I have to say, was the easiest part of this movie, because it was literally (and this does not happen) you give an actor a script and within a week they say 'I want to make this movie, I'm so in love with this script, when do we start?' And then probably two months later we were making the movie in Vancouver.
It wasn't that we were going to have Jerry Fallwell's picketing us on the first day of production. It was more like this group of obstacles that were really difficult to get by to get the movie made.

Q. The film does tread a very fine line, but it doesn't so much mock christianity, but hypocrisy. Was it difficult to maintain that balance, so you don't go for cheap laughs that undermine it?
Sandy:
Well I think that's why it was so hard to get this movie made, because if I were to pass out 19 copies of the script, you would all walk away with a different feeling of what the movie was going to be. It was so sort of tone-dependent and execution-dependent, that it was very hard to say well 'why are we going to entrust it to a first-time director, when we have no idea what he's going to go for in it?' It was very much Brian's vision of how he was going to take that from the page to the screen.

Q. Have there been any subsequent screenings of the film where people who might have had misgivings about the script have come away impressed by the final film and said it's not so bad?
Sandy:
One of the great moments, for me, in this was after we screened the movie at Sundance last January and there was a lot of stuff on the internet before this movie came out; and it was a lot of negative, kind of religious buzz on the internet about it.
Mandy: What people thought it was going to be about, having not seen it.
Sandy: Right. And this guy followed me after the screening and said, 'excuse me, I just have to say to you, I came in wanting to hate your movie, I've heard all this negative stuff about your movie, I've people that have heard different parts of the script of your movie, and I write for the largest Youth Ministry magazine in the United States and I have to say, I love your movie'. And he ultimately did a cover story on our movie - it's a magazine called Relevant that you could get online - and he was very, very helpful in championing this movie to youth ministers across the United States.

Q. Do they actually have these kind of hallelujah camps in America?
Sandy:
Well, when we were again trying to get the movie made, one of the articles that we would bring into the studio offices, was this Newsweek cover story called 'Jesus Rocks!' It was basically saying that it's a $45 billion a year industry right now and one of the things that Brian and our cast have all done is gone to all of these sort of Christian rock concerts... these Christian rock sort of religious gatherings that happen all around LA, that happen outside of Vancouver, and it is very much part of this culture right now, where it is very seductive and cool and hip to be a Christian.

Q. Macaulay Culkin is terrific in the part, especially since it's such a difficult one to play, because he's so restricted, but at the time was it considered something as a gamble taking him on board, as he had ceased being cool when you signed him up?
Sandy:
I knew Macaulay for about five years prior to the movie, and I there was another movie that I was trying to do with him, and in the course of the five years, I've gotten to know him quite well and I thought he was really smart, and really interesting, and I just thought such a unique kind of being, that when Brian and I were figuring out who we were going to cast for this movie, I said to Brian, 'what do you think about Macaulay Culkin for this role?' And, you know, it's one of those things, again, I don't really think what you're saying - that he hasn't made a movie or what not - I just thought that could be really interesting, you know, and having Macaulay Culkin interpret this role, and see him... What I also love about it is that I've always said this movie was a John Hughes-like kind of teen movie with a contemporary twist to it, and I thought Macaulay brought his John Hughes baggage to the movie in kind of a beautiful way as well.

Q. You also produced Pump Up The Volume as well, why do you think cool teen movies are so few and far between?
Sandy:
I don't know the answer to that, all I know is the kind of material that I respond to, and the kind of teen movies that I looked for. There was a sweetness that when we screened the movie in Edinburgh, Christian Slater was there, premiering Cuckoo's Nest, and he came with me to the screening that night, and I remember somebody asked me a question about teen movies and I said, 'well, in 1990, I made my first teen movie, and it took me 14 years to find the next one'. So, you know, it's not... I'll look for another one and maybe be a senior citizen by then, but we'll see.

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