John Grooters is founder and president of Grooters Productions, a full service HD media production facility with graphics, music, editorial, acquisition, and creative services. He recently launched Ferocious Films, a distribution company for media entertainment dedicated to releasing God-and-family-honoring content of the highest quality. He’s one busy and creative person, limited only by the number of hours in a day.
Dove: How did you get started in the business?
John: “I got started in storytelling – that’s the essence of what I do. I’ve been working storytelling into music making and film making throughout my whole life. Music and film are very similar to me – there’s a creative vision of where you want to end up, and a lot of small details you need to accomplish to get there.” (Editor: John and his team have filmed many well-known documentaries including the series, That the World May Know with Ray Vander Laan, for Focus on the Family and Zondervan Publishers.)
Dove: What prompted you to move from there into making a feature film?
John: “This film was prompted by a general frustration when my son was about 12 years old that I couldn’t find a movie to go to with him. The kid’s movies weren’t cool enough, the cool movies weren’t safe enough, and the only role models I could find were girls.”
Dove: What was the inspiration for The Frontier Boys story?
John: “It revolves around being a dad and hanging out with my son, Jed. We were on a ski trip together in Vancouver, and we decided to spend some chairlift time inventing a story. We went down all kinds of rabbit trails, and then settled on the concept: ‘What if your best friend shot your other best friend, but he couldn’t tell anyone, and you didn’t know.’”
Dove: Can you share a couple of inside stories about casting, directing and producing?
John: “The Frontier Boys is blessed with a great cast – and it’s a really deep cast. It’s not a movie where there are two or three good actors and the rest of the parts are sloppy. We have a really strong cast all they way down the line from our young leads, to our musical stars Big Kenny and Rebecca St. James, along with Melissa Brock of Superchick, and Lara Landon, and then a bunch of just plain terrific actors. Most of the casting was done via Skype auditions, and we brought the cast together from California, New York, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, and Michigan.”
“I pretty much believe that directing is 90% casting, and 10% making sure you finish on time. I loved directing this film, and I loved making the film in and around Charlevoix in Northern Michigan. We had tremendous support and cooperation from the community, and they really made the film possible.”
Dove: Making a movie is full of challenges. Can you share one in particular?
John: “We had one really funny challenge. We began shooting in February, and we front-loaded the schedule with as many snow-based exteriors as we could. We spent our first three nights in Northern Michigan shooting the snowmobile chase scene. It’s a tough scene because it’s shot at night, and it goes over the river and through the woods, you know. Lighting is a bear. So we captured most of the chase scene, but we didn’t get to the final conclusion where the good guys reunite having lost the bad guy. We had to break for several days because some of our bigger stars came to set, and then we had to shoot basketball court scenes on Saturday, we took Sunday off – and by the next Monday, the day we were going to film the conclusion of our harrowing snowmobile chase scene – by then, all the snow in Michigan had melted. That was a problem. You couldn’t very well sell the audience on the concept that all the snow melted during the chase scene itself. We were saved, in the end, by the local rope tow ski hill, Mt. McSauba, who still had a thin base of snow as you moved up the mountain. We relocated Butch, our youth group leader character, who now happened to live in an Airstream Trailer – which we hauled just far enough up the hill to find some snow. By the next day, even that snow was gone. That was cutting it a little close.”
Dove: Can you share any particular ways you saw God’s hand while shooting the movie?
John: “I saw God’s involvement all throughout the process of making the film, always with just enough, and just when we needed it…whatever it was. It was really cool to have Taylor DeRoo play the part of T.J. Lewis one of the main characters. In the film, T.J. is shot, is in a coma, and is being kept alive only by machines. In real life, Taylor collapsed during a basketball game, and his family was braced to accept that he was not expected to come out of the coma. Taylor was miraculously healed – no explanations possible. He played his character beautifully, and obviously – authentically.”
Dove: What is the current status of The Frontier Boys?
John: “The Frontier Boys DVD is now in WalMart Stores across the country, along with most Christian Bookstores. It has just finished theatrical runs in Australia, South Africa, and Brazil. The novel, The Frontier Boys, will hit bookstores in just a few days, and another book I wrote along with my son Jed called Raising a Modern Frontier Boy will be in bookstores soon. There is also a really great curriculum called The Frontier Boys: Explore released by Lifeway, that will be available in early October.”
Dove: What’s next for Grooters Productions?
John: “We’re raising money to begin shooting Frontier Boys II – Long Gone, and Frontier Boys III – Ice Cold. I can’t wait to begin those two films, and hope to be underway on them this calendar year. We’re also in development for another film called Forbidden Speech which is a film based on the true story of a boy banned from speaking at his high school graduation because he wanted to quote from the Bible. That boy was my son, and that issue – freedom of speech and the First Amendment – is a powerful one to explore.”