The words "based on a true story" won't appear anywhere in the marketing materials for GRACE UNPLUGGED - but many in the film's cast and crew found something from their personal lives to identify with in the story of a teenage girl yearning to break free from what she sees as the limitations of her family and faith and achieve her dreams of pop music stardom.
GRACE UNPLUGGED comes to Digital HD and Video on Demand on Jan. 28 and debuts on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on Feb. 11.
Grace Unplugged comes out on DVD and Blu Ray on Feb. 11.
For AJ Michalka, who plays the title character, Grace Trey, the real-life similarities come from the experiences she and her sister, Aly, have had as they've transitioned their careers from pre-teen stars in the Disney stable to young adults now recording as 78Violet.
"I think what Grace is going through here is her turning point - and as Aly & AJ my sister and I had a turning point, too," Michalka says. "We've gotten older, and we're making our music match. So I can identify with that part of Grace. I think every girl can identify with the idea of wanting to be your own person but wanting to please the people around you at the same time. "
Of course, Grace's journey is not purely autobiographical for Michalka. One of the key issues Grace must face in the film is whether the Christian faith she was raised in will continue to be the guiding force in her life, even as she chases success in Hollywood. There's never been a doubt on that score for Michalka.
"As I've gotten older, I've found the only way to keep my priorities right is to get more into God's Word," she says. "You've got to be constantly upping the 'God food' in your life."
Russ Rice, one of the film's producers, has a little more firsthand experience with the kind of struggles Grace has with her faith. The idea for GRACE UNPLUGGED came, in part, from Rice's estrangement from one of his children after she decided not to embrace the faith she was raised on into adulthood.
Grace Unplugged is a feel-good movie you can see without feeling preached at.
"My daughter ran away six or seven years ago. She doesn't want to talk to us," Rice says. "She is living apart from her faith, and my prayer is that somehow, somewhere, she might see this movie, receive a jolt and come back to Christ."
Imbuing GRACE UNPLUGGED with such a jolt was the responsibility of Rice's longtime friend, Brad J. Silverman, who wrote and directed the movie. Silverman says as he watched Rice and his family grapple with the crisis of their daughter's running away he was struck by their "tremendous sincerity of heart."
"In that sincere state of heart I saw the trial Russ and his wife were going through," Silverman remembers. "This is a big issue in churches today - kids growing up and struggling with making their faith their own. That's the journey Grace goes on."
Of critical importance to all concerned was that Grace's journey not be trite or hackneyed - that the issues she is shown struggling with aren't presented in either a glib or heavy-handed way. She goes through a crisis of faith and conflict with her parents, yes, but she is not depicted as winding up "down and out" the moment she sets foot in Los Angeles after leaving her Alabama home and church where she sings in the worship band led by her Dad.
"I didn't want to make a movie about 'Alabama Christian music good,' 'Hollywood pop music bad,' " Silverman stresses. "This is a coming-of-age story of a girl who has to wrestle with her heart, not a story on the evils of Hollywood."
That distinction was important to Michalka, who described GRACE UNPLUGGED as "a feel-good movie you can go see without being preached at."
"This girl has a dream, and she goes about it in a certain way. And, in the end, she learns what she gets wrong." Film veteran Kevin Pollak, who co-stars as Frank "Mossy" Mostin," the music agent who guides Grace's career after she leaves home, also drew on some personal experience in bringing his character to life. Mossy, he notes, is based on a few of the people who have guided him over his 25-year career as an actor and comedian.
"I've had a few of these people in my life," he says, "and it's hard to figure out which ones to trust and which ones not to. Ultimately you get burned a couple of times and you learn. You always learn more from failure than from success."
One thing that was not hard for Pollak to figure out was whether he should sign on to GRACE UNPLUGGED. He was drawn by the film's refusal to traffic in cheap clichés by making Mossy a stereotypically seedy, and untrustworthy, agent.
"It would be typical, if not expected, for Mossy to be a villain," Pollak says. "But by making him a good guy who sees talent in Grace and not a devil, it makes her character smarter and her journey more profound. And that makes a greater emotional connection to the story."
Key to the film's power, he adds, is how "it depicts how Grace learns not only how to live the dreams her talent allows her pursue, but how she ultimately does it in a way that leads to reconciliation with her father, her God, and her family. It is wildly moving."
The biggest key, though, to giving Grace's journey meaning is how her conflict with her dad plays out. James Denton, who stars as one-hit-wonder-turned-worship-leader Johnny Trey, called it "tricky" to get the relationship just right. (Denton's based-on-a-true-story connection to the film: One of his first jobs out of college was in his Baptist church's praise band.)
"We couldn't afford for the audience to take sides," he says. "We wanted people to pull for Johnny a little, and to pull for Grace a little. She had to be just bratty enough for you to see why Johnny's rules would force her out of the house, and Johnny has to overreact to things just enough to keep Grace likable."
As Michalka simply puts it: "These are two people who love each other but don't always understand each other. They just can't seem to communicate."
The Johnny-Grace dynamic, and how it is resolved, is at the heart of what the filmmakers hoped to communicate to audiences.
"The stories of Dad and Grace go hand-in-hand," Silverman notes. "The theme for Dad is, sometimes the best we can do for our kids is to let go and let God take care of them."
As for the kids, producer Rice says he hopes the movie leads them to "examine themselves and their faith." "Do they own their faith? Do they rent their faith? Or do they borrow it from their parents? Those are the questions Grace has to answer, and I hope the audience answers them, too."
In the end, then, the ultimate "true story" the cast and crew of GRACE UNPLUGGED is most concerned with isn't about them - it's about those who see the movie.
For Michalka, what the movie spotlights is the importance of family and faith.
"Family matters. That's what Grace figures out," she says. "Family are the only people who will tell you when you're getting off the tracks a little. Surround yourself with people who love the Lord, love themselves and love you, and you can't really fail."
Silverman hopes the impact on families goes beyond what they see on screen.
"I'm hoping we prompt a lot of dialogue between families, that this movie is a conversation starter," Silverman says. "At the end of the day, I don't miss the fact that this is entertainment - and I think we've made a very entertaining movie. But when the movie is over, and the audience reflects on what they've seen, I want Christians to say, 'Wow. I love God.' "
Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal: That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.
Scientology adherent and movie star Tom Cruise is building a $50
million dollar state-of-the art studio on five acres in Hollywood. Word
is out that the station will broadcast news with a Scientological slant - "A Scientology CNN," and spread the ... continue reading
During a recent Church Boys podcast, David A.R. White shared some details about the upcoming sequel to the 2014 Christian movie hit "God's Not Dead." The actor-producer and co-founder of the production company, Pure Flix Entertainment explained that the follow-up movie ... continue reading
It's a sign of the times... Fabled action star Sylvester Stallone will
take his Rambo character in an all-out assault against ISIS in Syria and
Iraq in the final film in the series, "Last Blood." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The fifth installment in the ... continue reading
Uncle Si Robertson, popularly known as comical and fun on Duck Dynasty has recently shown a more serious side as he talked about the importance in giving honor to veterans. He admitted that he was struck in awe by a statement from someone attending the red carpet ... continue reading
Although the late Steve Jobs was not known to be perfect and flawless, he was certainly not the most villainous employer the world had ever known. However, the latest trailer for the new film about Job's life showcased him as a jerk, arrogant throwing tantrums, ... continue reading
Over the years, Pixar has created fourteen amazing animated films that people love and relate to. This year, they released the anticipated film, "Inside Out," featuring fictional characters from inside the human body and mind. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) ... continue reading
In commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the epic comic strip, a 3D movie of The Peanuts will enter theaters by November this year. The trailer shows the iconic characters Charlie Brown and his ever loyal dog, Snoopy, in a quest for the kid's winning identity, as ... continue reading
A lot of movies have been released over time and with the advance technology we enjoy today, a variety of formats are easily created. However, although most movies are done with exemplary greatness utilizing animations and other effects to produce a more realistic ... continue reading
seems that more than just little boys love dinosaurs. "Jurassic World,"
the latest film entry about thunder lizards roaring into the present
day has raked in anywhere from $204 to $207 million for its opening
weekend. It could very well beat the all-time ... continue reading
excitement is growing with the release of the trailer for the final
chapter of "The Hunger Games" trilogy. In the trailer released this
week, hero Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) returns to the Capitol
in "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2," with ... continue reading