David Schultz is an actor, writer, and producer living in Los Angeles, California. In his career he has worked with such notable stars as Chevy Chase, Burt Reynolds, and Chris Kattan, to name a few. However, he has recently embarked on a project to make a movie about the artist he admires the most, Rich Mullins. For those not familiar with Rich, he was a contemporary song writer and singer who followed Christ in the fashion of St. Francis. He may be best known for his praise songs “Awesome God” and “Step by Step”, and artists such as Amy Grant and Third Day have recorded music he wrote. On September 19, 1997 Rich was killed in a car accident on his way to perform a benefit concert. Sustainable Traditions recently caught up with David to ask him about the Rich Mullins film.
ST: Why are you making this film and how has Rich Mullins influenced you?
David: I’m making this film because, well, in my faith Rich Mullins, his life, and music have challenged me and encouraged me almost more than any other. Brennan Manning, and his book “The Ragamuffin Gospel”, my Grandma and countless others have been as Rich once said “the nuts and bolts” of Christianity to me and for me. As a kid I named a sketch comedy team after one of his songs, “The Color Green”…and after doing that for 10 years I named my production company Color Green Films..way before this movie was even a possibility…And that’s the background, but the “why I am making this film” is the message of the ragamuffin gospel that caused Rich to name his band The Ragamuffins…that “reckless raging fury”…and changed so many folks lives…I think Rich’s true life story will deeply convey the heartbeat of that same message of God’s love.
ST: How would you define a Ragamuffin and how does Rich fit this definition?
David: Well, I personally would contend that we are all ragamuffins, some of us are just honest about it, and some don’t know it…I guess. I could sit here and tell you the definition, but I wouldn’t do it justice. Go read “The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning, and that will give you a better understanding.
ST: Your title for the film is “Rich Mullins: A Ragamuffin’s Legacy”. What do you think Rich’s legacy is?
David: Well, it’s a funny thing, we’ve asked everyone that we’ve interviewed this, and almost everyone has had a slightly different answer. Some say his music, some his life, some say his teaching, his heart for the Native Americans, some say his relentless pursuit of God…I’d say its all of that and the countless people who have been changed by his life and music and are out there pursuing God and loving others as a result of being an audience member of his life.
ST: In the teaser trailer for the movie you feature your interview with Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel among other titles. Why is he a key part of your research for the film?
David: Well, to be honest, a key part of the research of the film has been his family first, than the ragamuffins, and by ragamuffins I actually mean his band: Jimmy Abegg, Rick Elias, Aaron Smith, and Mark Robertson…as well as Mitch Mcvicker, and especially the Cincinnati gang as I call them, but former members of Zion etc…have been very helpful…there’s still more I’d like to meet with, and have talked with on the phone who were scheduled to meet. One of those I’m super excited about is talking with Shane Claiborne, and there’s many I’d like to meet and talk with that were having trouble getting a hold of. But we’re doing are best.
ST: What has it been like getting to know Rich’s family and The Ragamuffins (Rich’s band)?
David: Oh, man, I can’t overstate this enough- totally awesome. It’s funny, I didn’t know anybody. I was just a ragamuffin who was one of many who’s life had been changed by the life, music, and legacy of Rich, but getting to know his family and the ragamuffin’s a bit, has been just a pure joy. Rick Elias actually went above and beyond, when we were in Nashville he hooked us up at a music school there where he teaches so we could conduct some interviews. When we first got started I had a really long talk with Jimmy Abegg, and that helped immensely with other people being willing to talk to us. Jimmy and I had this really raw and honest talk, which was such a joy and refreshing. Then a few months later, we met up when we were in Nashville doing interviews for the second time…and it was a really kind of cool moment for me personally where …you know I’m not sure how to put it exactly…but I was really reassured in that moment in making this film, and Jimmy was a big catalyst in that conversation in making me feel that way. The family of Rich was the first group we met with in our research process, even before the “rags” (ragamuffin band) or Brennan Manning…it was important to me that we put them first in this process. And I honestly can’t describe it, from the first interview to the last, was a joyful time with loving tears on behalf of the family as they talked about their brother, Rich, or as they call him “Wayne.” I just had a great time, over the few days we got to hang with them, I had really special moments with them, but I’d say the closest I’ve been with so far, in part because the amount of time we talk, or have spent is David Mullins. Dave and his wife Robin are just great people. And frankly, it’s been great for me to be around a man of God like Dave, I can learn a lot from that guy, so it’s just been a really good season in my life.
ST: Who are some other well-known people who have been particularly helpful in your groundwork for the movie?
David: Well, well known I guess in that CCM world would be Mac Powell from Third Day, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Michael Tait and some other Newsboys, and The Ragamuffins, and as I said Shane Claiborne this summer…and of coarse Brennan is in the teaser trailer… they’ve all been great, but some of the lesser known artists and friends have been some of my most treasured experiences in this process. Although I did cry like a baby in my interview with Brennan Manning, when he riffed on the love of God.
ST: In your research what are some things that you’ve learned about Rich that his fans may not know?
David: Well, um….I think you should wait to see the movie. But Rich lived a pretty authentic life. I don’t think that there will be too many surprises. Rich definitely was a sinner, but I think that’s why he’s been a hero to those of us ragamuffin’s is because he was honest about that, even if we didn’t necessarily know how he struggled. And you know there are lots of fun things that we learned that were really admirable, but again I think you should wait to see the movie. But the sheer impact of how many lives he’s impacted…well were still learning that…there’s so many…
ST: Can you give us some details about the film such as when will it be out, who will play the part of Rich, and a synopsis of the story line?
David: The details I can give you is that we really hope this could come out the beginning of 2012, of course that will be up to the distributor. We don’t know who will play Rich, were pretty much open minded about it right now. We have a few we’d like, but it’s a pretty tough part to play, so we will see. All I can tell you right now about the story line is that film will cover moments in his life from birth to death, is that specific enough?
ST: Other than a successful night at the Oscars, what are you hoping to accomplish with this film?
David: Well, we sure don’t want an Oscar, this is definitely not a career thing we are doing here. This is a passion project, and what I am hoping to accomplish is something very deep and personal to me. I guess what I hope to accomplish would be something in the realm of what James Bryan Smith did with “An Arrow Pointing to Heaven”…he wrote a book that Brennan Manning said “this is one of the best echo’s of the gospel I’ve read in a long time” or he said something like that…I guess it would be my hope that whether you are a Christian or not, that you’d walk away and be pondering on the idea that Brennan so eloquently presented in the Ragamuffin Gospel, “That God loves us for who we are, not for what we aren’t, cuz none of us are what we should be.” But I can’t write a book Like James Bryan Smith or Brennan Manning. And I suppose if I could do music like the ragamuffins I’d just write a song about Rich. And I don’t even know if I’ll make a good movie to be really honest, but I’ll give it my best shot. I do have a great team behind me.
ST: How can people support this project?
David: Please go to the Kickstarter page, and you can make pledges, they come with rewards/incentives. We have some investors, but we need some more funds and that’s why were doing Kickstarter which is terrific. You can also help by just getting out the word about our Kickstarter page to your churches, radio stations, etc….and if you want to go above and beyond you could contact firstname.lastname@example.org to help the grassroots marketing team.