by Edwin L. Carpenter, Editor – The Dove Foundation
Having worked together on two previous projects, Clancy and The Perfect Gift, actor/director/writer Jefferson Moore and teen actress Christina Fougnie (pronounced “foon-yeh”) have found a dynamic which seems to be working well thus far in their professional relationship.
The Dove Foundation caught up with these two in a recent phone interview and their ease in working together shone through in the interview.
Jefferson and Christina greeted me kindly and I took note that Jefferson sounded like a man at ease, and who could comfortably fill a number of roles such as writer, director and actor. Christina’s voice relayed the sense of a sweet girl who is friendly and eager and open to continue to grow in the business of acting and making films.
“Which film came first and how did you two wind up working together?” we wanted to know.
“The first movie we shot was Clancy,” said Jefferson. He asked Christina to help him recall when they started shooting the movie. “In 2007” she chimed in.
“It was the end of 2007 and it took us the better part of a year to shoot,” he continued. “We finished in May of 2008, and it had a theatrical run in March of this year. We started shooting The Perfect Gift last November so in production time there was only about seven months between the two films.”
“What made you realize that Christina was the right person for these films?” we wanted to know.
“I wrote the screenplay for Clancy several years ago” he said. “It kind of sat on the shelf for a few years while we did a couple of other projects. We (himself and his team but not Christina) did a film called The Perfect Stranger (he played Christ) and we did a sequel to that. Clancy was one of the first screenplays I had written which was good because at the time I didn’t know Christina and really didn’t have anybody in mind because I knew the part of Clancy, the title character, is a really demanding part and it called for an actress with a lot of range so I just kind of crossed my fingers and hoped that I would find her by the time we got around to shooting it.”
“For about five or six years here in Louisville, Kentucky (which is where they both make their home) I was performing in a large Broadway-scale passion play which is put on yearly. I was playing the character of Jesus and one year there was this featured role, a recurring role, of Jairus’ daughter who gets healed. One year that role went to–how old were you, Christina?
“I was like seven probably,” she said.
“She was really easy to lift back then,” joked Jefferson. “This is the first time I had seen her. She had a lot of sparkle. I don’t think she had ever been on stage before, is that right?”
“Never” she said in a one word response.
“She had never been on the stage before and of course she just had to play dead,” he kidded. “That’s where I met Christina and I just really noticed she had a bit of a sparkle about her and so we really kind of just stayed in touch. A couple of years later Clancy was very much on the forefront of going into production–I remembered Christina. We stayed in touch with her parents and I knew all along she looked like the Clancy I wrote about.”
Jefferson said they brought her in for an audition and a screen test and he knew he had found his star.
“It’s good to have a lot of talent here in your hometown” he said.
“I was so excited,” Christina said in her slightly high-pitched sweet voice. “It was just a great opportunity for me. I never even thought that this opportunity would even come to me so I just jumped on it when I could and now I love it.
Shifting gears to speaking about The Perfect Gift we mentioned it is nice that it will be released in time for Christmas as it is a Christmas story.
“That was the whole push on it,” said Jefferson. “We really hold true and fast to the saying that if you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans! Back in 2005 we were ready to go into production on Clancy when The Perfect Stranger came to us and we did that film instead. We wound up doing a sequel and a seven part mini-series so for three years we were doing all Perfect Stranger stuff.”
Jefferson elaborated on the unfolding plan by telling us as he was set to go into production on a film called The Message he met with a friend who works for Hallmark who told him that if he had a production company that he would do a Christmas movie as there is a large demand for Christmas films. Jefferson’s wife agreed it sounded good and especially since there are many who feel that Christ is being slowly removed from Christmas in our society.
Jefferson said he knew the clock was running and that it would take a year to shoot the movie, edit it, do post-work on it, and promote it and release it by the following Christmas “which is where we are right now.”
We asked Christina to comment on her character in the film.
“I play Max,” she said, “who is a character who doesn’t like the whole concept of Christmas because she is born on December 25, and she thinks that it should just be about her. I like this story because it really shows what is going on in our world right now. People aren’t getting the whole concept of Christmas.”
“Did you find the role challenging or was it pretty easy for you to play?” we asked Christina.
“She is a Pulitzer brat so it’s really not like me,” she said and we chuckled. “So I had to concentrate and act on it and I actually had to go to, like, brat lessons before (the film began). So it was a little more work than Clancy because Clancy and I are a lot more alike than me and Max but it was still as much fun as Clancy.”
Jefferson too acts in The Perfect Gift as well as having written and directed it.
Clancy released on DVD the twentieth of October, 2009, and The Perfect Gift is hitting theaters in a limited theatrical release on November 6 and the DVD will be released right after Thanksgiving in plenty of time for Christmas.
The Perfect Gift deals with timely issues such as a Christmas party not being called a Christmas party because it is not allowed to be called such. A character named Tony is an associate minster and a character who doesn’t like the direction the church world is going in. He has become a bit disillusioned. Christina’s character of Max is representative of the youth of our present society. A character named Stacey is Max’s mother who is representative of the corporate world. The character which Jefferson plays, Russ, is a man who comes into town and pulls the community together.
Jefferson spoke on making a quality independent film and said that local talent, such as Christina, makes all the difference. The difference in his company’s approach compared to Sherwood Church which made Facing the Giants and Fireproof is that they don’t rely on volunteer help. They use a pool of people who are in the business and who, for the most part, are local. It’s interesting to note that both approaches, though different, have been successful.
As we wound down the interview, Christina said the experience had been rewarding. “I can say of course I have been in a movie, which is always so cool!” she said. “I got paid, which will help me. It’s just a great message to get across to people now days. I’m glad I’m a part of that.” She added that her family had seen a few early screenings and “they really enjoyed it.”
Jefferson concluded by saying, “I haven’t had a real job since 1997–I am just loving that,” and we laughed at his remark. He is doing what he loves so it isn’t like working. “We just really enjoy our cast and crew so much that it never seems like work. It seems like a time to get together.
Dove reviewer Donna Rolfe has given both of these films, Clancy and The Perfect Gift, excellent reviews and a great rating. Check out our reviews on these two films and enjoy the quality of filmmakers and actors, Jefferson Moore and Christina Fougnie