Rik Swartzwelder Speaks
Rik Swartzwelder is a writer-director-actor and also a producing partner at Skoche Films, LLC, whose independent feature film OLD FASHIONED will be released in theatres over Valentine’s Day weekend 2015. The film is making headlines in both Christian and general market media for taking on the behemoth film release of “50 Shades of Gray,” which opens at the same time.
Rik Swartzwelder – Old fashioned is the story of a former frat boy and a free spirit who attempt the impossible, to create an old fashioned relationship in contemporary America.
Parker – The storyline appears to track with Joshua Harris’s book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” Any relationship there?
Swartzwelder – I’m certainly familiar with the book, but the film touches on it only on a tangential way. The story is more drawn from my own experiences as a single adult. I know a lot of amazing single adults in their late 20s and early 30s, and we’re all trying to meet someone and find a life partner, but to do it in a way that is God-honoring. I just didn’t see any movies out there that matched how difficult it is in our world to find that person in a God honoring.
Parker – The film is going head-to-head with the highly anticipated film adaptation of the blockbuster novel, 50 Shades of Gray. Was the timing of your release intentional?
Swartzwelder – Yes. While making the film, I barely even knew 50 Shades was coming out. We were originally going to release the film right around now, but when we heard 50 Shades was coming out in February, the light just kind of shined down. We felt like it was a great opportunity to open up a dialogue as a counterpoint about what romance should or should not be. We don’t have any rose-colored glasses. We know 50 Shades is a juggernaught. But as long as we can push the cultural discussion about what intimacy can look like, if we can speak healing or encouragement to some folks who need it, then the gamble is worth it. Of course we’d love to have a box office hit, but mostly we’re hoping to have a cultural impact.
Parker – Although you’ve directed a number of well-received short films, Old Fashioned is your first feature film as a director. What did you learn from making the leap to feature filmmaking?
Swartzwelder – The scope is so much larger – the amount of time involved, the number of moving pieces, and just the storytelling aspect. Everything is bigger and the stakes are higher. The fun part is you have more time to explore characters. I found that exciting. I still love shorts, but the great thing about the future of media is there will be platforms for both shorts and features.
Parker – There is another sweet romance hitting the big screen this month called Christian Mingle, which is based at least in part on the online Christian dating service of the same name. Do you see a trend in the popularity of sweeter, less explicit romance films?
Swartzwelder – I’m aware of the film, but I haven’t seen it. I think there is a growing demand for this kind of film. There’s really not much further that we can push the envelope as far as explicit content in movies. But I think there are a lot of people who are uncomfortable with that kind of content in media, and I’m not just talking about people within the walls of the church. I think there is a hunger for innocence. I think there is a swelling wave that goes beyond the religious context. I think you’ll see a number of films that explore honor and integrity and respect.
Parker – What’s next on your agenda?
Swartzwerder – There are a couple of films that are on our radar. We’re hoping to move into the next phase on one of those projects.
Parker – Last words?
Swartzwelder – In addition to the film itself, two books inspired by the original screenplay are being published by Tyndale House to accompany the film’s release; a novel by Rene Gutteridge and a devotional called The Old Fashioned Way: Reclaiming the Lost Art of Romance. Both are amazing and drenched with grace. I’d love to encourage people to check them out.
1. What’s your favorite sound?
Swartzwelder – The laughter of a child.
2. What makes you happy?
Swartzwelder – Peace.
3. What makes you angry?
Swartzwelder – Cruelty toward children.
4. What is the secret of success?
Swartzwelder – Knowing God.
5. If you could have dinner with anyone in history, living or dead, who would it be?
Swartzwelder – Mary Magdeline.
6. What is the epitaph that is written on your tombstone?
Swartzwelder – “By Grace Alone.”
7. When you get to heaven, what is the first thing you want to hear God say to you?
Swartzwelder – “It’s okay.”