Category Archives: Inspiration for “Old Fashioned”

“Stop using the grace of God as a brick wall…”

Old Fashioned is really three different love stories…

Clearly, on the horizontal, it’s a romance between Clay and Amber—two very different souls that struggle and strive to find a way to pursue a God-honoring love relationship in rather complicated and secular times.

But—at an even deeper level—it’s also two additional love stores.  On the vertical, it’s a love story between God and Amber as well as another between God and Clay.

Amber has spent most of her life in motion.  She has lived in fourteen states and as she says in the film, “When life gets messy, I move on.  That’s what I do.  I’m good at it.”  A big part of her love story with God is her realization is that until she deals with claims of the Gospel in the “right here, right now” all of her messiness will simply continue to follow her and—sooner or later—she’ll run out of places to run to.

She is all spirit, full of life and grace.  Beautiful things, but she is rootless and easily blown by the wind.

Clay, on the other hand, is solid; Amber likes to refer to him as “reliable.”  The trouble is, although he is clearly a committed Christian, he has become so focused on being “solid” in and of his own strength that his own love story with God is oddly adrift.  He has turned something good (his conversion and life-change from his former, destructive ways) into something that is now on the verge of totally isolating himself from the One who saved him—and others.

He is all righteousness, full of law and obedience.  Noble things, but he is rigid and missing the joy and life that comes from embracing mercy and the communal experience.

Surprisingly, Amber’s love story with God in Old Fashioned finds its way sooner than Clay’s; and, if it wasn’t for his beloved Aunt Zella, Clay may have ended up in real trouble.

At his low point—and his most self-centered—Clay finds himself sitting at Aunt Zella’s kitchen table and she really lets him have it:

“Get over yourself, you and your pain.  Do you get this upset over children starving, over anyone else’s suffering?  Stop using the grace of God as a brick wall.”

It’s a pivotal, singular moment for Clay.  And for many that have seen the film already…

I know of so many committed Christians—true believers—that know God, but really aren’t fully convinced of His unbridled love for them… or, that they are fully and completely forgiven of their sins.  And they become so focused on their own unworthiness that they turn all of their energies and efforts inward and life becomes all about protecting themselves—building barriers (or walls) that blind them to the needs of a lost and hurting world all around them.

I know this is true because… I have been there.

Maybe you have, too.

The “good news” is, of course, that we don’t have to stay there.

All this isn’t to say we shouldn’t live carefully and with wisdom, or that if we have certain temptations that sometimes a “hedge of protection” might be in order.  It’s all about focus.  Is it on you, or on God and others?

Like the legendary hymn goes, “A mighty fortress is our God…”

Not, “A might fortress is our selves…”

Lots of love…

– Rik


The countdown to Valentine’s Day has begun…

“How did you do it?”

I’ve been getting asked that question a lot ever since the press broke wide open when we announced we were releasing Old Fashioned the same day as Fifty Shades of Grey.

How did a little indie movie like ours—with no stars or exploitative elements—get major news outlets like Time, Variety, and MTV (among many others) to pay attention at all?

In reality, the only big thing we did was realize an opportunity and choose to be patient enough to not rush our film into its theatrical distribution (not an easy thing to do once a film is completed).  And then, we just let folks know about it…

We could have never predicted the immediate and explosive response that followed.

More than anything though, what that avalanche of press did for us was boldly confirm what is actually the answer to the much bigger question I’ve been getting asked:

“Why did you do it?”

Why did we pick a fight and choose to go toe-to-toe with a massive cultural phenomenon that is almost certain to completely crush us?

And that answer boils down to this… we suspected that the release of Fifty Shades was a unique moment in time and we also (correctly, thankfully) had the hunch that maybe we weren’t alone in our thinking that—deep down—a lot of folks out there hadn’t filled up on the Fifty Shades Kool-Aid and were indeed looking for something of a different flavor in both their romantic lives as well as their entertainment.

In short, we had confidence that the longing for innocence that is captured so uniquely in Old Fashioned might appeal far beyond church walls and the faith-based niche alone.

We’re not naïve enough to believe that means absolutely everyone will dig our love story or agree with us or be happy that we are challenging something as popular as Fifty Shades.

And that’s okay.

Folks are free to choose as they may; but, if there’s anyone out there that has read or sees the film version of Fifty Shades… or anyone out there that has even lived it… and found the experience lacking or their own hearts still looking for something else… Old Fashioned is there as an option.  That is all…

As to whether or not we’ll get beaten down (pun intended) in public by Fifty Shades on Valentine’s Day weekend.  Well, the odds aren’t in our favor… they weren’t in David’s favor either, when he went up against Goliath.

At the end of the day, if even one single soul is moved toward greater healing and wholeness rather than greater physical objectification or emotional damage—by our film or by the cultural discussion that is already happening because of our refusal to bow our knee to Fifty Shades—we win.

And if we have to take a hit or two for that, so be it.

It’s a fight worth having…

It’s a cause worth fighting for…

It’s a risk worth taking…

– Rik


“I have a theory…”

In Old Fashioned, Clay Walsh is a man with many noble theories on love and romance… but it’s been years since he’s even had a date so it’s no wonder even his closest friends give him a hard time:

Why don’t you just crawl back under that antique shop and make-up some more theories you never test-out at the grown up table anymore.

When the captivating, wild child that is Amber Hewson shows up out of nowhere and rents the apartment above that antique shop, Clay is confronted with someone new who not only wants to actually know more about his theories but also truly inspires him to dust them off and indeed “test-out” those theories in the real world.

So what are these theories of Clay’s and where did I—as the writer—ever come up with some of them?

Well, the theories of Clay are legion and could probably fill 30 blogs, easy.  I’ve written about some of them before.  His theory about never being alone with any woman that’s not his wife here; and a little background on some interviews I did that helped shape another of his theories about how our culture trains us to be good dates (but not necessarily good mates) here.

For this post, I’ll pick another one:

Nothing magical happens when you walk down the aisle… like it or not, what we do when we single is what we’ll do when we’re married.

Now, I can’t really point to a specific moment in my own life or a book I’ve read or a sermon I’ve heard that put that idea in my head, but as I sat down to write Old Fashioned and was reflecting on my own romantic choices and some of the marriages I’d already seen unravel… I started thinking… connecting the dots.

And ultimately, I realized that a lot of it just comes down to basic common sense.

No analogy is perfect—especially one tied to sports—but I beseech thee, kind readers, allow me this one indulgence…

It’s a common anecdote in coaching to teach your athletes that you can only play in the game as hard as you practice.  If you don’t push and stretch yourself during your prep, most of the time you’re not magically going to play amazingly on game day.  That’s not how it works.  And, as someone who used to be a competitive long-distance runner, I know this to be true first hand.

But when it comes love and marriage, it seems like we have a disconnect.  Like this reality simply doesn’t apply.

If you live your life as a careless single person, flirting and sleeping around and/or playing fast and loose with the hearts of others… and never even attempt to discipline yourself to live with intention or consider the fact that how you’re “practicing” while single may indeed affect how you “play” once married, well, in my mind, that’s simply foolish.

And you could apply this to finances or volunteerism or health and personal development as well.  Even your relationship with God.  Most singles would benefit to reflect on this for at least a moment… considering themselves and also in regard to discerning what it is that most attracts them to the person they’re currently dating (or hoping to) and comparing that with what qualities the genuinely want in a spouse.

Of course we all continue to grow and change throughout life.  And yes, some people do take a huge step toward maturity after marriage and develop new patterns.

But sometimes they don’t.  And I’ve seen the wreckage.

So… when shaping the character of Clay—and his commitment (admittedly to a fault) to live his life with intention and thoughtfulness—I thought that this was a theory worth including.

Bottom line, the idea is that it’s not about being consumed with thoughts of what marriage is going to provide for you… but doing all you can, well in advance, to train and practice and strive to bring the very best of yourself into marriage.   For the sake of the other.

If a sporting event is worth that kind of effort, certainly a marriage is.

That’s Clay’s theory, anyway.

And personally, I think he might be onto something…

– Rik


Science proves benefits of nice, boring guys


Before I sat down to write the very first draft of the screenplay that, many years later, would become Old Fashioned, I interviewed a wide variety of women…

Some single and never married, some divorced, some married… some younger, some older… some devoutly religious, some not…

I asked them all the same two questions.

First, I asked, “Describe to me your perfect date.”

The answers I got back were remarkably similar… he needs to be romantic and handsome, a good sense of humor is a plus, he better make me feel like a princess, it helps if he drives a nice car… even better if he has a good sound system in that car…

Nearly all of the answers revolved around idealistic romantic fantasy and some surprisingly superficial qualities in many ways.  Then, I asked the follow up:

“Describe to me your perfect mate.”

Again, the answers were remarkably similar… I want someone who is honest, faithful, good with children, good with money…

The two lists of responses to those two questions could not have been less similar.  And it really hit me like a ton of Valentine’s candy that, indeed—at least in American culture—we are much better trained to be good “dates” than good “mates.”

Movies and music and pop culture have deftly schooled us in how to be romantic, how to create a mood, how to woo and seduce and pose… we are experts at that stuff.  We are much less educated in how to prepare ourselves to be good life partners for another or even how to discern the qualities in another that would make for a good life partner for us.

That reality very much helped shape the story of Old Fashioned and the odd and curious character of Clay Walsh, especially… the kind of guy that could easily be passed over today for being a little too—in a word—boring.

Well, according to some recent scientific research, it now turns out that guys like that might not only lead to greater happiness in marriage, but also more successful careers!

No, I’m not making this up.

In a recent article in The Washington Post, Elahe Izadi boldly stakes the claim: Want to get ahead in your career?  Marry a dork.

Based on a new five-year study in Australia, it seems like our cultural over-emphasis on physical chemistry, personal charm and charisma, and/or our conditioning to be drawn to the “bad boy” or the “bad girl” may, in fact, not be the best recipe for relational bliss…

The study’s findings may have broader implications when it comes to picking partners, said Joshua Jackson, an assistant professor at Washington University.

“This might be something to suggest that people maybe should be attuned to these conscientious, more dorky, not-as-lively-or-exciting-because-they’re-rule-following people,” said Jackson, the study’s lead author. “There’s something to say in terms of the characteristics you should look for in a mate. This might not be the most obvious, but it’s important.”

Izadi half-jokingly ends the piece…

So, look, next time you’re on a date, don’t write off the boring rule-follower so quickly. You may be writing off career advancement, too.

All joking aside, whether or not it leads to career advancement or making more money, when it comes to romance… it makes sense to take the time to look more closely than just the surface.

As it says in Proverbs, “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting…”

Learn more about the study here.

– Rik


“Good Movies Make You Care…”


In my last post, I shared a couple of personal moments that planted some of the initial seeds of inspiration that many, many years later eventually bloomed into Old Fashioned.

Today, since I get asked the question a fair amount, I thought I’d follow up with what, specifically, led me to begin the creation of Old Fashioned, in earnest.

For those that are curious, here’s a little bit of “the why” beneath the surface…


My heart had lost its way and I was trying to remember the way home…

At its most stripped down, most transparent… that was the spark of inception that led to my writing and directing of the feature film Old Fashioned.

But the deeper inspiration came when I looked around and witnessed that I wasn’t alone, not by a long shot.  The landscape of singles I knew at the time (most in their 20s and 30s) was a romantic wasteland full of wounded and broken lovers hanging on by the thinnest of threads, but desperately wanting to still believe…

In love, in redemption, in the idea that some things are worth holding onto to, worth fighting for…

That respect and honor and integrity still had a place in this world…

That it wasn’t over for them, no matter what mistakes or bad choices or hurts called out to them from the past…

That there was, still, a chance they might find the safe place they were longing for.

It got me thinking about the wide variety of different approaches to dating and courtship… about what was good with the “American” way of approaching romantic relationships and what was lacking, at least from my perspective and experience.

What if a film aimed to take seriously the idea of love?  To do more than just give a wink and a nod to the prevailing ironic, casual, and sometimes even cynical approach to such things?  Do more than just hold up a mirror to the contemporary and obvious?  What if a film unabashedly affirmed the notion that perhaps these things have much more weight than current mores might often suggest; in profound and lasting ways, they matter.  What we say and how we treat each other, matters.  What we do with one another’s hearts, matters.

Pauline Kael once said that “good movies make you care, make you believe in possibilities again.”

Of course I believe that films should entertain; I believe that films should add to the discussion of ideas.  But my greatest hope and prayer for Old Fashioned is that it might do just what Pauline Kael said…

That it might help hearts in need of healing to believe in possibilities again… help hearts that have given up, to care again.

– Rik


The Unlikely Man Who Inspired ‘Old Fashioned’

With a movie that has a title like Old Fashioned—that features a storyline about an out-of-step, counter-cultural approach to modern love and romance—it’s to be expected that all manner of assumptions will be made about the background of the person creating such a thing.

Throw in the word “courtship” and that just takes it over the top.

As I mentioned in my last post, the online debate about courtship/dating I discovered had a lot of discussion and push-back offered by readers that were coming from backgrounds that were fairly sheltered, etc.

One might predictably conclude that is my background as well.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I wasn’t homeschooled.  I didn’t grow up in a repressive or overly restrictive religious environment.  My parents didn’t buy me a chastity belt when I hit puberty.

Truth is, my moral compass was almost completely defined and shaped by American pop culture—music, movies, TV.  They peddled the goods, and I bought.  At the feet of Hollywood and rock gods I sat… and I learned.  I learned a lot of lessons that it took me years to unlearn, actually…

I was anything BUT Old Fashioned.

So much so, that when I first heard the two ideas that were the initial seeds that eventually grew into this movie and the two books and all the controversy… well, to me, those ideas were so new, so foreign that they almost sounded like they were from outer space or something.  To some of you, they still might.

What were they?

The first was inspired by a very famous evangelist who had made a pact with his ministry leaders that included the principle of none of them ever being alone with any woman that was not his wife—not at all, ever, period.  What?!?  Seriously?!?  It was no joke and it was a concept I had never even heard, let alone considered.  I’ll never know why exactly, but that kind of commitment to respect and honor stopped me in my tracks.  A seed was planted…

The other idea was based on the true story of a young couple that made the choice to not kiss until their wedding day.  Again, this was so far outside my box at the time I couldn’t even imagine people like that actually existed.  But for some reason, the story didn’t make me laugh or cringe… it pulled at my heart.  Against all odds, another seed was planted…

Now, I’m not claiming that I immediately began to apply both of those principles to my life at that very moment… or that I’ve lived them out perfectly, ever since.  Nor would I want to imply that those two novel ideas must be the definitive standard for everyone.

But, the love and wisdom behind both of those stories, those peculiar notions… in regard to being intentional, in making choices far in advance—long before any temptation might arise—there is something there that remains worthy of reflection.

And well over a decade after I first heard both of those stories, I would find the characters of Clay and Amber struggling with those very concepts—in very flawed and human ways—in my screenplay for Old Fashioned.  All because of seeds planted by someone simply sharing a story…

You have no idea of the difference YOUR story might have in the life of another.  Never underestimate how God might take even your scars and regrets and make them blossom into something beautiful.

– Rik

P.S. For the record, that “famous evangelist” was Billy Graham and the pact with his leadership was called “The Modesto Manifesto.”  I’ve never written about this before, nor personally shared my gratitude, officially.  Thank you, Reverend Graham.  Thank you…