Faith Filter

A movie about family values is a welcome change

September 2, 2013 

"The Ultimate Life" director Michael Landon Jr. talks to actor Drew Waters during a break from filming in Winston-Salem. The movie opens Sept. 6.


  • If you go

    “The Ultimate Life” opens in theaters Sept. 6 with showings at the Regal Crossroads Stadium 20, 501 Caitboo Ave., Cary. For advance tickets, go to

If you are among those who complain there aren’t enough movies that reflect positive family values, it’s time to buy a ticket and see “The Ultimate Life.”

“This film will inspire you to embrace the truth that character, love and family are more important than all the money in the world,” said Kristina Meadows, who saw a special pre-screening of the film in Cary.

The show opens Sept. 6. The early showings in select theaters across the U.S. were part of an effort by producer Rick Eldridge to tell people about “The Ultimate Life” and to encourage audiences to tell friends.

“If you really want to see more movies like this, you have to fill the seats in theaters opening weekend,” said Eldridge, who in 2007 produced “The Ultimate Gift,” the first in the fictional “Ultimate” series written by Jim Stovall.

“The Ultimate Life” transports viewers back to when Red Stevens is a young man who is determined to work hard and break out of the poverty his family experiences. Through a cast of characters Red meets on his journey, he learns that the true legacies in life are family and friends.

I enjoyed reading the book series and have watched “The Ultimate Gift” so often that my family knows the scene when I tear up a little. I also laugh, especially at the youngest character’s antics.

Most importantly, there are no scenes that make me cover my eyes or ears.

In early March, I jumped at the chance to visit the “The Ultimate Life” film set in Winston-Salem. The restaurant where the media group gathered to spend time with the cast and crew was bubbling with excitement as stories were told of 36-degree temperatures and acting out a scene of building a fence in Texas on a hot day.

“It was hard to do that without chattering teeth,” said Austin James, who plays a young Red Stevens. “They sprayed water on us to make it look like we were sweating.”

March 7 proved to be another blustery day on the set, this time a farm on the outskirts of town. I was fascinated when Drew Waters, who plays an older Red Stevens in the movie, was covered head to toe in a goo to resemble oil that his character strikes on the farm.

The liquid was a combination of food dye and laundry detergent with a little melted chocolate mixed in for texture. As it oozed down Waters’ face, I had to ask about caring for his skin afterward.

“Tea tree oil removes it,” Waters explained.

The best moment came when we were on the set with director Michael Landon Jr. “Chicken the gate” was the most unusual thing Landon said. We were standing on a farm with gates – but no chickens.

I later learned the phrase is a throwback to the time of actual film and the need for the cameraman to check the film gate to make sure it was clean before moving on to the next scene.

“ ‘Check’ became ‘chicken,’ ” explained Landon, who began his career as a cameraman on his father’s show “Highway to Heaven.”

In July, I saw a pre-screening of the movie at a Greensboro theater. It was fascinating to see the mirage of scenes shot in March come into focus.

The vintage cars from scenes set in the 1950s are from members of the Old Salem Chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America. Ruth Ann Ronchetti and her husband, who donated a car for some of the scenes, were also at the Greensboro theater.

“It’s so exciting to see how it all came together,” Ronchetti said. “Good to see a wholesome movie for a change too.”

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