“Salted Christmas: One Family, One Day, One Purpose” is a feature-length film being filmed in South Florida that depicts a day in the life of the Fairway family as they walk through a Saturday prior to Christmas, deeply involved in ministry.
The brainchild of Don McChesney, a local founder of Equip Education, an education system for older homeschool students, “Salted Christmas” is an undertaking by serious people doing serious work while not taking themselves too seriously. The family structure is a result of their work in foster care, adoption, homeless ministry and retirement community ministry. McChesney is hopeful the film will qualify as both a drama and a comedy. It is definitely an ensemble piece with numerous interesting and honestly drawn characters. While many of the characters in the film are committed Christians, there are no perfect people in this family. “They’re real people relying on a real relationship with Christ to deal with their very real problems.”
A local cast
The cast of “Salted Christmas” is comprised of mostly South Florida Christians. A couple of the cast members are actually foster parents, which helps then get into character as the movie is oriented around the foster community. Donna DeKlavon commented on her role in the movie. “I play Ruth the foster mother. I was a former foster parent and current adoptive mother of three children who we adopted from the foster care system. I have experience in dealing with some of the same issues addressed in the movie. I have had to go to visitation with birth parents and have dealt with the pain of separation from birth parents,” she said.
“I am most excited about the general public learning about the challenges and joy of foster parenting,” said DeKlavon. “I have never really seen a movie that is true to his subject. Being a former foster parent and current adoptive parent allowed me to really understand Ruth my character and the emotional journey foster care really is.”
Another actress in the film is Debra Petersen. She plays a character named Mildred that allows her to express herself. For 33 years she’s worked for Cru, an international interdenominational ministry. “I am in a full time ministry position with a heart for meeting new people and wanting them to know Jesus. That is also the goal of my character. I have known Don McChesney for many years. I love that he has so many incredible ideas and when he asked me about this I was excited. I have such trust in Don and knew he would do a great job and he is.”
One of the younger actors is Caleb Iszler, a former student of McChesney’s. “I play the role of Levi, an adopted son,” said Iszler. “He’s had a rough past in foster care but seems to be genuinely content with this family. I really enjoy this character because he is very similar to me. It’s easy to play him; he fits my personality well. I would say I draw a lot of my experience as a younger me to relate to this character. He knows all about the gospel but is still unsure of its truth. He seems simply distracted with life. A younger me was exactly like that. I grew up in the church, but never really believed until later on in my life. He feels a little excluded, which I think everyone can relate to in some way. My early high-school years I felt like I was in the outside of things, so I pull from that part of my life to portray this character,” Iszler said.
A lighter Christian film
With this movie, McChesney seeks to provide a Christian message that non-Christians will enjoy as well. He commented, “I hope to show the joy of living the Christian life. I think that many Christian films are heavy on drama, and there is room for a Christian production company that seeks to make a lighter variety of Christian film. Hopefully, this film will show serious people actively involved in ministry who don’t take themselves too seriously.”
About the production
Production of movies is a long and arduous process. McChesney explained the stages of “Salted Christmas,” saying, “I have no idea how long most screenplays take to write, but ours was started by me in November of 2014. I worked on it for six months by myself and then enlisted the help of a friend. We worked on it for another nine months, which got us to January 1 of this year at which time I decided I believed in the screenplay enough to take the financial risk necessary to produce the film. From January 1 to June 20, we prepared to shoot the film. This involved scouting locations, finding cast and crew, thinking about music and making all the business arrangements for ownership of the film.
“Production (shooting the movie) was 22 days long. We worked about 15 hours per day during that time.” McChesney said he hopes to have editing complete by September 1. Then it goes to post production sound, scoring, coloring, and titles with film completion expected prior to January 1, 2017. Then a will be trailer produced and marketing implemented to include Christian film festivals, social media, direct outreach to leaders in the Christian community, and hopefully selected screenings for large Christian groups to raise awareness of the film. “Since it is a movie set at Christmas time, our goal is to release the film to the general public (hopefully in theaters) on the Friday before Thanksgiving, 2017,” said McChesney. “The life cycle of film is quite long, even in the best of circumstances. But ours is even longer since it is a Christmas film that will not be ready for release this Christmas.”
Gabriella Morris is a writer at Good News. She can be reached at [email protected]