Promises to Keep

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Seven years ago, in the fall of 2013, I met a man who altered my life forever. Mike, a producer and fledgling screenwriter, had spearheaded the formation of a production company called St. Michael Movies. And now they were casting their second feature film Promises to Keep. Since the main character was a devout Catholic based on Mike himself, Mike took an intense interest in getting the casting right.

I came in second, and was cast in a smaller role. But two days into production, after seeing the lead actor’s performance in a particularly crucial scene, Mike stopped production! “He doesn’t believe what he’s saying,” Mike told the film’s stunned director, “but that other guy, What’s-his-name, does.”

I was “What’s-his-name.” And it was true. I’m not a Catholic, I’m just a garden variety Jesus-follower. But the character Jonathan struck a chord with me. And yes, I did believe what I said in the auditions.

So I was re-cast in the lead role, and a few days later production resumed. It was invigorating and terrifying to begin playing, with minimal prep time, a character who had roughly as many lines as Hamlet. Mike was new to screenwriting, and so, although he wrote good dialogue, he wrote too much (it was trimmed down during editing). But we got there. And in the process I came to know Mike, who I often teased for being “more Catholic than the Pope.”

I struggled with one scene, in particular, in which my character prays for the leading lady’s soul by saying the rosary all night. I had to find a way into his inner life—because that’s what acting is all about. The key, I discovered, was that, where I’m inclined to “just talk to God,” Catholics tend to express their faith through what I call “the two S’s”: symbols and sacraments.

I did find a way in, fortunately, and gave an honest and heart-felt performance, I think. In the process, I came to love Jonathan, and Mike too (although our relationship has been tumultuous at times). And, while I’m still not a Catholic, the two S’s do play a larger role in my faith these days.

 A year later, Mike shocked me by allowing me to become the first non-Catholic (and first non-him) to write a feature film for St. Michael Movies.

Healing River, starring my gifted leading lady from Promises to Keep, Christine Jones, became my first feature film as a writer-director-producer. It’s also Amazon Prime’s top-rated inspirational movie this year.

Is Promises to Keep perfect? No, but it has a tenderness and endearing earnestness rooted in the real-life character of Mike himself…

The man who altered my life forever.

To watch or order Promises to Keep, click here.

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About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Movies, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Promises to Keep

  1. well, I’m happy that What’s-his-name made into the film and got to make another great movie

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s such an honor to be president of the Mitch Teemley fan club, enjoying, “what’s-his-name.” I loved “Healing River,” and have now watched it with some recovering addicts. It is great food for thought and discussion. I’ll have to check out “Promises to Keep.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. “The key, I discovered, was that, where I’m inclined to “just talk to God,” Catholics tend to express their faith through what I call “the two S’s”: symbols and sacraments.” You reminded me about a book called, “A Bead and a Prayer” that asks the question: “Is it really okay for Protestants to use beads in prayer?” I suspect God is happy with whatever helps us to pray and draws us into God’s presence.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. gpavants says:

    Hi Mitch,

    But Jesus should be at heart of anyone of faith. Glad you were salt & light.

    Thanks,

    Gary

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Wow that was amazing how the lord ordered your steps surrounding this film, I pray he continues to do great things through you to fulfill his glory. *autograph please* and be sure to capitalize the “W” on “What’s-his-name” lol

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hetty Eliot says:

    I appreciate how you put in that effort to learn a different mindset. However-while us Catholics love our symbols and sacraments (and all kinds of “kitsch” too 😂), we do plenty just plain talking to God ☺. Thank you for your understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Smitha V says:

    Will check ‘Healing River’ out. I understand when you say ‘talk to God.’ Thats what I do but lately have been doing the S and S as well. I suppose every religion has it. But I believing ‘talking to Him’ is far more important than saying standard prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      Indeed, Smitha. I actually memorize and pray a lot of Scripture verses, “speaking God’s word back to Him,” as it were, and have been profoundly impacted by how it has provided a framework for my prayers–and for my spiritual growth.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Ann Coleman says:

    I think when we open our hearts and minds, we find that even faiths we don’t share can offer something to enrich ours. Your story is a perfect example of that!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Rocky says:

    The wife and I watched “Promises to Keep” last night. The intent may have been for it to be a vehicle for the female lead, but it was Mitch’s show from the start.

    Liked by 1 person

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