Film studio releases 'Old Fashioned' romance to nation
On Valentine’s Day weekend, two movies with very different portrayals of romance will be released in theaters.
One is a locally produced indie film called “Old Fashioned,” which tells the story of how “a former frat boy and a free-spirited woman together attempt the impossible: an ‘old-fashioned’ courtship in contemporary America,” according to IMDb.
The other film is “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Moving people “a little bit”
Gordon Toering, a partner at the law firm Warner Norcross & Judd in Grand Rapids, is hoping most people will choose to see his film, “Old Fashioned,” which has received attention and acclaim at national film festivals.
Toering and his wife, Sue, served as executive producers on “Old Fashioned,” which is the first film they’ve made through their company, Skoche Films.
Skoche is a Japanese word that means “a little bit,” Toering said. His hope is that his studio will create nuanced and moving films with positive, faith-valued messages that move viewers “a little bit.”
He’s promoting “Old Fashioned” as an alternative Valentine’s Day option to “Fifty Shades of Grey” and asks that local Christians who wish to boycott “Fifty Shades of Grey” spend their energy more constructively by coming to see his film.
“The company is intended to move people, a little bit — not in-your-face peachiness, but more nuanced, moving emotionally,” Toering said. “Too many Christians were doing boycotts, and I preferred to make a positive difference rather than throw darts at those doing negative things.
“The power of the media is incredible, both entertainment and news, and it’s even more so today. There’s a very powerful force that can be used for good or for bad, and I wanted to see it used for good. And I also wasn’t in line that we should boycott.”
Years in the making
“Old Fashioned” has been in the works for years.
Toering first became interested in creating a film company after attending a media conference at Calvin College in August of 2004. It was there that he met filmmaker and actor Rik Swartzwelder, whose films have screened at more than 145 film festivals worldwide and garnered more than 50 major awards.
Swartzwelder began talking about his ideas for “Old Fashioned,” and Toering decided he wanted to help him get the film off the ground.
Swartzwelder, Toering and his wife founded Skoche Films out of their home in Jenison in 2007 and began raising funds to make “Old Fashioned.”
The movie was filmed in Ohio, and Grand Rapids artists Ralston Bowles and Karisa Wilson are also featured in the film’s soundtrack.
Toering said the film — which Swartzwelder wrote, directed and stars in — cost about $600,000 to make.
Toering said filmmaking has changed, and West Michigan is becoming a culture and market that is more open to grassroots filmmaking.
“Raising money is not easy, but if you get people that believe . . . that’s much easier,” Toering said. “My sense of it is there is more openness to that.
“I think number one, the key thing you need is a good story. It all starts with that. For people’s support, you need a good story that’s well written. Without it, your project is not going to go anyplace. And also, you need a good team.”
“Old Fashioned” was first shown in Ohio in January of 2014.
The film has picked up national attention in articles by Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, but it’s local support that has inspired Toering the most.
The film’s producers now plan for a nationwide release in about 200 theaters on Friday, Feb. 13. Locally, the film will be shown at Celebration! Cinema Grand Rapids North and Celebration! Cinema RiverTown.
“Old Fashioned” will also have an advanced screening on Feb. 6 in three cities: Grand Rapids at Celebration! Cinema Grand Rapids North, Washington D.C. and Orlando, Fla.
“We’re very excited about the support we’ve gotten from Grand Rapids and West Michigan for the film,” Toering said. “We’re anxiously awaiting the opening, but we’re optimistic. If it does well in Grand Rapids, that can help the film expand to other places. The effect of West Michigan can have a ripple effect.”
Toering said Skoche Films does plan to make more films and hopes to use local talent.
Skoche Films has several projects in development, including a romantic comedy and a Christmas dramedy from Swartzwelder and a dark romantic comedy based on a screenplay by Ian Hoffbeck, according to its website.
Whatever films it makes will be “consistent with our Christian faith — though some explicitly so, some less,” he said.
“We are certainly open to films that are not faith-based, but that have values similar to our own,” he said. “It would depend on the project.”