A film shot in Chapman is taking on a new role. Along with sharing a positive message and featuring local talent, the film also serves as a record of houses and other structures that stood before the tornado of 2008.
The film, “Can We Talk?” was shot in Chapman shortly before the tornado. The film is making a reprise on television from Manhattan to Minneapolis via Eagle Communications. The airing is scheduled for 7 to 10 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29.
Doug Thompson, producer of the film, said many of the scenes were shot in structures that the tornado wiped out just weeks after filming.
“The church where we shot the scenes that represented a Sunday morning service were actually shot on a Wednesday night, but shortly after that film footage was taken, that church was destroyed in the tornado, and the only thing that was left standing from that structure where we shot that footage was the cross,” Thompson said. “That cross became a symbol in the recovery efforts.”
As a district attorney, it was part of Thompson’s daily job to share reports on damage and rebuilding after the tornado. He said he often spoke to gatherings of people at Sheearn Park across the street from where the church building formerly stood.
“On almost every one of those occasions, I would say ‘Look off to the south,’ and as they would look, I would say, ‘You see what’s still standing? There’s no way that that cross should be standing because it’s held by two small screws that were in the floor. The whole building was wiped out around it. Everything. And that’s what’s standing. We didn’t put it back up,’” Thompson said. “That’s the way it was and that became a symbol of strength, that the Lord’s still in control.”
Thompson said many houses and school buildings were destroyed by the tornado, but the film serves as a reminder of how they looked and where they were located.
“Many of the houses that are shown in that film footage — because there’s some drive-by footage representing a small town, which Chapman is — many of the homes that were in there were destroyed,” Thompson said. “The schools were destroyed so we had the final film footage of that. So now, as we look back 5 years later, that movie has taken on a new, important (role).”
Thompson said he pushed the film’s actors and videographers to hustle so much that he upset the crew.
“Even my own family said, ‘Doug, you’re making everybody mad because you’re going so fast here,’ and I said, ‘There’s some urgency to it,’” Thompson said. “’‘I don’t know what it is, but there’s some urgency. We’ve got to get this done.’”
Less than a week after the crew finished filming, the tornado hit the town.
“Had we not completed, it never would have been finished – it would have never seen the light of day, because those places were destroyed that we shot at, with the exception of the museum,” Thompson said. “Then, I was so busy with the recovery efforts, we would have never gotten those people back together to do it, and even if we would have, they would have changed, so the movie wouldn’t have been logical. So, again, that was the Lord’s hand on that project.”
The film serves not only as a record of portions of Chapman but also as a record of some early work of some professional performers. In the past 5 years, one of the cast members has gone on to work as a professional actor and another returned to his professional acting career.
The lead actor, Nathan Dibben, graduated from Chapman High School in 2008 and is a professional actor in Dallas. He returned to the Abilene area in August for an appearance as Jeff Gordon in Hillbilly Hotspot at Great Plains Theatre but he is now back in Texas, where he is performing in Shakespeare Dallas’ “The Winter’s Tale.”
Cary Mock, a former Abilene resident who played another main character, was a worship leader in Overland Park at the time of filming. Now, Mock is a professional actor in Kansas City and has his own private acting and music coaching business.
Additionally, the musical groups featured in the film’s soundtrack have risen to fame. One group featured now has a single played on national radio station K-LOVE.
“Cloverton wasn’t even Cloverton yet,” Thompson said in reference to the Kansas-based band now featured on K-LOVE. “I had met Lance (Stafford, lead singer) up at Clay Center. I’m on a board of directors where he was appearing as an end-of-year (performer) celebrating at that Great Awakening that was happening, and I heard him sing and some of his music, and I went up to him and talked to him and said, ‘Man, Lance, this is beautiful music. What are you going to do with it?’ and he said, ‘Oh, I think we’ll start a group. We’re going to Nashville to try and record stuff.’ They didn’t really have any real plans. And it became Cloverton.”
Additionally, Thompson used a song by Chris Tomlin, who is now a Grammy award-winning contemporary Christian music artist.
Thompson said he does not consider himself a musical scout by any means.
“I have zero music ability so it couldn’t have been anybody else’s hand but the Lord’s,” Thompson said.
Thompson said the film will be shown in the “Turner Classic Format,” in which the producer introduces the movie and describes some of the upcoming scenes. At each break, Thompson will share stories and information with viewers about what was occurring behind the scenes.
“Storyline is good and, you know, there’s some spots where we just had to grab people to be actors and they weren’t real comfortable with it but (I said), ‘Look, we’ve got to have you. Get up here,’ and (we) put them to work on it,” Thompson said. “It’s a good show. I think people are going to enjoy it.”
The film is set to air on Channel 2 in the Abilene area and Channel 14 in the Hays broadcast area.