OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Valpo actor's Sony Pictures film debuting on TV

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-08-21T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Valpo actor's Sony Pictures film debuting on TVBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Valparaiso actor Michael Joiner, who now calls Los Angeles home, says the age-old Hollywood rule promises "all you need for a movie to be successful is two great scenes."

But he promises his last film "The Grace Card," also starring Oscar-winner Lou Gosset Jr. has not only two, but also many more.

Made on a budget of less than half a million dollars in 2010, the inspiring Christian drama was quickly purchased by Sony Pictures and, as reported in my column in Spring 2011, premiered in theaters nation-wide in February 2011. 

Joiner said since it hit the big screen, it has become a big favorite of faith based audiences across the nation and the world. Now, it's ready for the small screen, with "The Grace Card" scheduled for five televised showings this weekend Aug. 24 and 25 on cable's UP TV network, which is available to both Dish Network and DirectTV. FYI: uptv.com/the-grace-card

Joiner, a stand-up comedian with a 21-year career, started his acting career at Valparaiso community theater in 1989. In 2002, Joiner moved his family to Hollywood to more seriously study film acting.

Joiner's lead role offer in "The Grace Card" came after a nationwide search by producer-director David. G. Evans with the casting coming after he watched Joiner's acting reel.

"I knew right then and there this was the actor I wanted for the lead," Evans said.

Writer/producer Howie Klausner admits he was not so easily convinced.

"All I heard was 'stand-up comedian' and I just rolled my eyes," Klausner said.

But he admits he learned early during the filming of "The Grace Card" that Joiner "could go dark," meaning he could handle serious dramatic roles.

“He just lit it up,“ said Klausner, “He blew everybody away the first day…He’s amazing (in the film).”

Klausner has just cast Joiner in his most recent film, "The Identical," which also stars Ray Liotta, Seth Green and Ashley Judd.

Joiner's performance in "The Grace Card," which is also now on DVD, also earned praise in the Hollywood industry trade newspapers, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, something he admits doesn't always happen with "a faith based film."

“I've been cast in no less than a dozen starring or co-starring roles since 'The Grace Card,' most of them coming out in 2013 and 2014," Joiner said.

Joiner has also recently started his own production company, Esther Pictures, found at estherpictures.com, which has several projects in the works.

"My goal is edgier, more honest stories that appeal to secular audiences as well as Christian," Joiner said.

"No 'preaching to the choir,' or hitting people over the head with some overt sermon. Audiences go to theaters to be entertained. If they want to get preached to, they'll go to church. Our goal is to make films that are as comparable in production quality to what Hollywood puts out. God's name may not always be mentioned. However, just like in the book of Esther, his presence will be evident. After all, every movie that has ever been made promotes the philosophy of the filmmakers."

For more information on Joiner, visit michaeljoiner.com or thegracecardmovie.com.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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