By Bradley B. Klinge – Associate Editor, The Dove Foundation
Films are re-cut and re-released all the time, but Rich Brauer has accomplished yet another method for re-producing a film. In the early 1990’s, Brauer produced a film titled “The Sleeping Bear”, which told the story of an overworked father who finally takes time off to be with his son and includes the classic Native American Legend of the same name. According to Brauer, the film sold here and there, but after ten years, sales fizzled out. However, Brauer just couldn’t leave the movie alone, because it had such a good message.
With several new projects on the horizon, something just kept bugging him about this film. He felt that if he added actors people recognized and new music, then he wouldn’t feel as though he was leaving an “orphan child” of his behind. “Most people told me to forget it, just move on.” he stated, “They wanted me to make another like ‘Barn Red’, another film Brauer completed recently, starring Academy Award winner, Ernest Borgnine. I was like ‘I don’t know about that.’”
Last December, shortly after he was urged to move on; while walking his dogs in the light snow; an inspiration struck him. He thought, “What if I treated the original film as a flashback? Not just that… but what if I also bring all the original actors back, thirteen years later, so the flashback is actually of them. It’s honest; the kid was twelve years old then, now he’s twenty-five. Wouldn’t that be cool?”
Brauer felt his idea would help re-ignite the movie. “I asked Mr. [Ernest] Borgnine if he wanted to work with us on this new version. We would restore and re-master the entire movie to high definition and make it look better than it has ever looked,” Rich suggested. “Also, I can go back and fix all the little things that have been bugging me all these years”
“I had the original screenplay, which was typed with some crazy Apple [computer]. I don’t even know what it was, but I couldn’t convert it and had to retype the entire thing. Using that as the guts of the story, I was able to create these ‘bookends’ to the flashback,” he explained.
The script was submitted to Borgnine, who called a few days later and said, “Richard, I love it! It’s a great idea!”After Borgnine’s commitment, they immediately began working and totally re-mastered the film.
In order to begin shooting the new material, all the original actors had to be located. “They were all over the place!” exclaimed Brauer. “The mom came in from Arizona, who was married, with a couple kids. The only person I had to re-cast was the part of Lindsay, the daughter. The original actress was unavailable to attend the shoot.”
“I was at church, at a time when I was struggling to get the cast back together, and ran into Karen Shelby Lewis, a young twenty year old I had known since she was a little girl. She had just graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy, and wanted to be an actress. So, I cast her as the older Lindsay”.
Editing the original film was eventful, as well. Since the movie was originally edited on 35mm film. Brauer had to find the original 35mm sound tracks and reload them the computer. From the time Brauer began planning; only four weeks had passed when they began shooting the new scenes.
The new film, titled “That One Summer”, was first shown publicly at a sneak preview on May 22, 2005 in Traverse City, MI. Brauer wanted to give the film a test run, before totally signing off on the project. All the proceeds from the showing were donated to the Old Town Playhouse, the theatre where it was exhibited.
The sneak was a success, with about a hundred people in attendance, including a couple celebrities. Director/write Michael Moore and Kid Rock guitarist Kenny Olsen made surprise appearances, as well as former Governor Bill Milliken and his wife. “It was a big surprise to see them there. I especially never expected to see Michael Moore there”, Brauer expressed. Afterwards, Moore told Brauer “Good job, we need more films like this”.
His career was sparked by the film “The Blue Max”, which Brauer saw at a small theatre in Beulah, MI. He felt as though that film would’ve been fun to produce. From that point, he began borrowing cameras and making his own movies.
While in high school, Brauer started working professionally with a filmmaker in Detroit. There, he was exposed to the commercial aspect of the film business. After high school, Brauer received a scholarship to Brooks Institute in California, and in 1977 started his own production company, which is what he’s done ever since.
Brauer’s job of producing movies fulfills a childhood dream of his. “I grew up breathing this stuff. I had so much fun and a good imagination. I just seemed to crank this stuff out. This is something I always wanted to do”, he reminisced.