by Edwin L. Carpenter – Editor, The Dove Foundation
David Wall, the talented man behind “Noelle”, formerly “Mrs. Worthington’s Party”, won a Jury Award for Best Director of an independent film, and his movie was a runner-up for Best American Film. David recently chatted with The Dove Foundation. Wall was the driving force behind the film, as he starred in it, directed and co-produced the movie along with his wife Kerry Wall, Sean Patrick Brennan and Lenny Manzo.
“I come from an acting background,” said David. “I started as an actor. I worked in Los Angeles and I did film and television. Commercials are really what end up paying your rent! My wife is an actress as well and at some point we took a trip to Europe, to visit her family over in Ireland. The trip was terrible! Everything that could go wrong went wrong. And when I got home I sent a letter about the trip to my brother, who’s living in Paris. He had studied to be a writer. And he encouraged me to try to get this (the story from the letter) published.”
“I had no formal training so I was surprised but I took his advice and I sent it in and The Washington Post bought it in 1992. I was shocked! But suddenly I had the permission I think I maybe needed to begin writing seriously. So eventually, because of my background in acting, I turned to screenplays, and then made my first film, ‘Joe and Joe.’ It’s a great family film. I hadn’t planned on directing that movie, but since I couldn’t really find anyone crazy enough to shoot it for $35,000 I did it myself. And just like the writing, I ended up loving it. It was in the Sundance Film Festival in 1996. It’s been on the Sundance Channel and it’s been on PBS. It sold to a number of countries around the world.”
His goal from that point on was to get another film made. The genesis of “Noelle” is interesting. “I ran into some people from Boston. I was living on Cape Cod and they were interested in trying to raise money for a small film if they could find the right idea. I had just heard an amazing story about a Christmas party and the diversity of the people at this party blew me away. They were all there celebrating one thing—they were celebrating Christmas.”
“I guess I sort of began fantasizing about why couldn’t religion do that? Everyone’s always bickering. I guess that’s where the priest idea came in. This was actually in 2000 and there were rumors at the time that a lot of parishes were going to get shut down, but it hadn’t started yet. Now, of course as you know it’s rampant. So I pitched the idea to the folks from Boston and they loved it, and they actually funded the original writing of the script. Now remember that’s actually five years before we made the script into a movie, so at some point they cut off and it was really dead for two, three, four years. “
Dove asked David what got the production moving again. “My wife and I decided to sell our home on Cape Cod and we were going to move back to California which is where I’m from. We decided, together, to put up a lot of the profit as seed money, to make the movie. And when we did that, it really brought other people forward—who saw what we were willing to do and it gave them courage to step up as well and all of a sudden we were on our way to putting a budget together.”
We asked David about the differences between himself and his character in the film–the priest, Father John Keene. “I’m not a Catholic,” said David. “So it really begins right there. That’s not a world I’m familiar with. My father was a minister but he had a good friend who was a Catholic priest, so that’s about as close as I got. I did marry into an Irish Catholic family. Keene the priest is a pretty hard-boiled egg and I’m not like that at all. “
He said he thought it is effective in movies to see a hard character really come apart. “A lot of it is very subtle. You see little cracks begin fairly early. It begins as early as him visiting the sick Portuguese fisherman. He starts to back off. You just start to see it—meeting the girl again and I just tried to make it very subtle. By the end you’re pulling, whether you know it or not, for him to come apart.”
Interestingly, the woman Keene is attracted to in the film, Marjorie Worthington, is David’s real-life wife, Kerry Wall. She is the woman his character turns to in the movie.
David was pleased with the humor he managed to incorporate into the film. In one scene, a disgruntled actor who is playing an angel, steps down from a ladder to complain about something. “Get back up on your ladder and start rejoicing!” Father Keene says to him.
We said to David that we believe the movie is a spiritual film and David agreed. “One of the things I wanted to get across is the whole process of guilt. Today it seems like no one really deals with guilt. It’s always someone else’s fault. I think that guilt is a fascinating, dramatic tool. It’s a necessary part of healing. It’s what leads to forgiveness and of course ultimately redemption. I guess what I wanted to show was that our mistakes, things that we run from, things that we’re ashamed of, can sometimes—at least in movies—be the solution, the missing puzzle piece of another person’s mistake. All of these people sort of magically end up propping each other up.”
We asked David about his favorite scenes from the film. “I think as a writer, the bar scene with the Inn keeper talking about an oven, is one of my favorite scenes (it illuminates some of the film’s meaning), and as a director my favorite sequence is the one that follows Keene to the midnight mass, after the party. Marjorie goes to the bus stop and she goes into premature labor and he senses it and runs out of the church to save her. I think those two scenes are my favorite.”
David’s determination in getting “Noelle” produced and finished is typical of many independent filmmakers, and it illustrates the difficult path one must sometimes trod to arrive at the completion of a film. In his case, as with many others, it was a labor of love and we sense that it won’t be the last journey that he takes in the world of filmmaking.
In fact, his determination has led to the December 7 limited run and theatrical premiere of his film, which has been distributed by Gener8xion Films. He hopes that it will spread to other theaters and that word-of-mouth will help, such as it did for “Facing the Giants.”
In the meantime, David Wall looks forward to the premiere of his film following years of hard work, patience, and perseverance.
Read Dove’s Review of “Noëlle“