Area resident Scott Peterson intertwined some of life’s adversities with God’s plan in bringing to life a story about a struggling teenage boy in rural Minnesota.
Transformed into a feature film, which is showing in select theaters in Minnesota and nationwide, it also includes a few scenes of a country church that may look familiar to folks in the Stark and surrounding area.
A special screening of “The Current” was shown Jan. 30 at GTI North Branch Theatre. The Christian-based family film is a first for Peterson and his independent production company, ii Films. To view the trailer, visit www.iifilms.com.
And the show was well-received, according to Dale Stiles, pastor at Fish Lake Lutheran, the country church featured on the big screen. He helped with ticket sales at a booth separate from the theater’s front counter.
“We were really happy with the turnout,” Stiles said after the screening. “We needed 175 people to fill the theater, and we ended up with 124. Maybe half were members of our church. We were expecting community members to attend, too, as many are familiar with the church and its events.”
As for the movie, Stiles was pleased with the message and the tough, yet true-to-life, topics that Peterson envisioned when writing the script. The pastor was invited to a premiere showing, as well.
“It was such a great movie,” said Stiles, who said he equally loved the sound track. “People think independent movies won’t be good, but this was special. People were surprised because it was so well made.”
“The Current” is the story of 13-year-old Jake Larson, who lives in Chicago and loves everything about his life there, when his parents decide that city violence is hitting too close to home. Wanting to raise their children in a better environment, Jake’s parents make the life-changing decision to move the family from Chicago to a campground in rural Minnesota. At the campground, a rebellious young Jake meets Peter — the boy from the farm across the river. The two form a fast friendship that God uses to transform Jake’s life in ways that Jake never could have imagined.
Peterson and an all-volunteer cast and crew filmed “The Current” during the summer of 2012 in various locations around the north and northwest suburbs of Minneapolis, as well as Shakopee and Chicago. More than 300 people were involved in the project, including five bands whose music is a part of the film.
“The church was instrumental in getting the movie shown in North Branch,” Peterson said before the local screening. “We were looking for a church building with particular features. A friend who knew of Fish Lake Lutheran suggested that we check it out, and the church enthusiastically supported the project. Not only did they let us film on site, but several people from the church — especially kids from the youth group — came out as ‘extras’ for our church scenes. We couldn’t have done this without that kind of great support.”
He and wife Diane Peterson, who co-produced the film, even attended the showing in North Branch after taking an early flight home from Denver. After the movie ended, the audience engaged in a 10-minute question-and-answer period that actually went 20 minutes, Stiles explained.
“When you reflect on it, there were so many powerful scenes that you were not expecting,” he said. “It can change lives for those who see it. It’s a neat opportunity for people to experience the gospel in a real and non-threatening way.”
Stiles said it was “cool” that Peterson thought of Fish Lake Lutheran.
“We’re a classic country church in Americana,” he noted. “Our church is scenic and is photographed a lot and hosts many weddings. But it was never in a movie. So now everyone is happy, especially with the message done so nicely. The interior of the church is beautiful, too. Groups from Sweden have toured here.”
The film also received support from local Grandstrand Funeral Home, who loaned funeral decorations to be used in one of the scenes and went out of its way to help.
“One of the best and most memorable parts of this experience,” Peterson noted, “is all of the wonderful people we have met along the way and seeing the way that they have stepped up to help.”
Making the film
Making the film was an experience for Peterson, of Oak Grove, who wrote the screenplay about 10 years ago. He put in the time to research and learn how to make and release his first feature film.
And he had a little push.
“When was the last time you did something utterly and laughably impossible for God?” Peterson said of a challenge posed by his pastor that led to his filmmaking debut.
“It motivated us, and the rest of the pieces came together,” Diane said. “We had no idea what we were getting into.”
A real estate agent by trade with a background in photography, Scott was well served by his eye for detail and ability to mentally picture his story. He also got “fantastic stuff, every day for a month” from an all-volunteer cast and crew of 16 strangers who became a family, Diane said.
The shooting for “The Current” took about 30 days, from July to August 2012.
“I learned it took a lot longer to get out than I originally thought,” Scott said of bringing a film to fruition.
From his research, Peterson spent much time going over everything that was needed, from settling on locations to circulating the prop list and equipment needs.
For instance, he knew he needed a pickup truck from a certain era. Looking to fill another need, he knocked on doors until a man in Robbinsdale, let his crew use his house and some of his furniture for a few scenes.
“People came out of the woodwork to help us,” Diane said.
At one point, they began shooting with the lead boy actor entering a river at a Boy Scout camp in Ramsey, and coming out at a farm in Shakopee.
“The magic of movies,” Scott said with a grin.
The casting call was done at a Hampton Inn, where a few friends and colleagues joined the Petersons in seeing the talent first hand. They put out ads to generate interest, and those with various levels of acting experience answered from all over the country.
The boy and his father in the movie are father and son in real life.
“They lived with us in our basement,” said Diane, noting they belong to a family five, of Green Bay, who all had experience in community theater.
Thanks in large part to the acting, Peterson’s message is heard loud and clear in the film.
“My intent or message is to look for God’s message in your life,” he said. “God is still guiding you (even in times of struggle),” he said.
Scott and Diane are proud of the film’s sound track, too, which consists of five bands from all over the country. They range from Christian to family to workshop bands.
“We just wanted to plug their music. It’s our payment to them,” Scott said.
Since it hit the big screen, the film has been shown in 10 different states and 20-plus theaters. The Petersons have received positive feedback from all over the country.
“I think it’s a calling — making movies with good messages,” Peterson said.
In fact, he’s already written screenplays for two more movies.
Peterson’s independent production company, ii Films, is partnering with individuals, churches and other groups to host one-night showings in theaters around the country. For tickets, more information, to see the movie trailer and to read a review from The Dove Foundation, go to www.iifilms.com.