Grant-directed feature drama bows at Naperville fest

Julian Grant has every reason to keep the faith. The award-winning director’s 33rd film, feature drama “Finding Hope,” will have its Midwest premiere Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Naperville Independent Film Festival (NIFF).

A faith-based Mormon love story, “Finding Hope” follows the story of Andrew (Shannon Brown) a Latter-Day-Saints missionary, who after a tragic accident, must win back the love of his amnesia-stricken wife Hope (Suzette Brown).

Robyn Coffin (“Chicago Fire”) and Sean Patrick Leonard (“Machine Gun Preacher”) also star.

Producers were Suzette and Shannon Brown’s Two 9 Productions, in collaboration with producer/director Helen Grace Caldwell and producer Mike Krukowski of Chicago’s Canal Productions.

Although the Browns have acted in films together, this was the first time husband-and-wife producing team acted opposite one another in a feature. “This was a passion project of sorts that is naturally close to our hearts,” said Shannon Brown.

In 2014, having recently starred in Grant’s horror feature, “Arkham Sanitarium: Soul Eater,” Shannon Brown approached Grant with the script Suzette had written, based on a story called “Abeyance,” written by the couple’s good friend producer / director Kinga Luczkiewicz.

“After I pitched the project, Julian asked about the budget,” says Shannon. After hearing the figure, Grant said, “Okay, here’s my rate to direct.” Grant ripped off a little piece of paper from his notebook, wrote down a figure, folded the paper and passed it to Shannon.

“It had a big zero on it, and I said, ‘really?’” says Shannon. “He said, ‘yes I’m a fan and I appreciate the work you did on ‘Arkham.’ Besides, my normal rate is $120,000 to direct a feature and your budget isn’t even half of that.”

Grant did a Page One rewrite that included elements of faith and mystery, effectively expanding the scope of the film. He heavily researched the Mormon backstory and “Finding Hope” was born.

“In today’s cinema world, when you talk about faith, it’s usually Christian, but this time we were able to underpin a Mormon subtext that speaks to a wide underserved audience,” said Grant.

The crew of nine, with DP Kyle Dones, and cast of 19 (with 50 day players and extras) was shot over eight consecutive weekends in June and July 2014, in Oswego and Chicago. Jason Robert Becker completed editing in January 2015. Suzette Brown and Grant also produced.

“The film’s production value doesn’t betray its budget and working with Chicago’s under-represented talent. We had the opportunity to show that Chicago is indeed a great independent film community,” says Grant.

“Finding Hope” will be distributed by “Hollywood-based Adler & Associates Entertainment.

Screening tickets are available on Facebook and the NIFF website. Watch the trailer here.