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Darren Conrad: A Father's Love

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Darren Conrad 1.jpgDarren Conrad is a work in progress, constantly honing his filmmaking skills. A hard working man. He is a highway patrolman by day (or night) who fills most of the rest of his time making films. Not content to just act, he also writes screenplays and produces his own works as well as helping other filmmakers with their projects.  Darren has done his share in other departments too. From casting director to wardrobe, makeup, set design, and assistant director. All the while making friends and business contacts.  Filmmaking is a team sport so this comes back to him when he needs help with one of his projects.

Over the years he has stepped up his game by investing more time and effort with each new film.  Finding the right actors for the roles and using the best equipment and production talent he can procure in order to deliver a quality piece of work. Hashing out the details with his go-to director (Jesse Knight)  for the Partners series and his latest film A Father's Love. Whatever it takes.

In A Father's Love, which was written by Darren, he plays the part of Gary Bolin, a North Carolina farmer trying to raise his child right. Conflict sets in when his teenage daughter (Taylor-Grace Davis) has to choose between her friends and her father.

Darren is also the writer of Partners which started out as a series.  By the 3rd episode a plan was made to re-edit the footage and release it as a feature length film. It depicts the life of two local cops played by Darren and Candace Blanchard. Whether it be in uniform or out, there's always a bit of drama in a policeman's life and that is what you will see in the film.  Due to premiere in January at the Don Gibson Theatre in Shelby, North Carolina.

When I think about the way Darren works and his attention to the details of his productions, I see someone who is not motivated so much by fame or fortune. More like it's in his blood and he has to let it out. Else, he would not spend the time and effort that is necessary. Just like a father's love. 

What have you been doing since we last talked?

Wow...It has been an incredible 2 years for me. Partners, as you know is my first SAG-AFTRA Feature Film, wrapped in May of this year. The film is in full professional post production and will release to paid New Media Outlets in January 2016. Our official trailer will release October 24th. Their is a public event page for that date to view the trailer. I've had an incredible year with National Commercials. Booking Principal Roles with Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and just recently with Rutledge Wood for NBC NASCAR and NBC Sports. For the past 5 months I began the journey of losing over 50 lbs to get ready for my next Lead Character of Gary Bolin on A Father's Love.

You must have had to buy new pants after losing 50 lbs. How did you do it so fast?

What many people did not realize is I gained the weight intentionally for the character of Officer John Walker in Partners. Even at almost 48 now, I have always been athletic. I just felt the weight worked well for John, especially near the end of the film. It has been 5 months of a clean diet, vitamins, protein, and 2 hours a day in the gym at 5:00 am 4 days a week. I feel amazing and will now focus on characters that are a tad slimmer.

What led you into commercials?

Since 2009, I have had really good success with commercials. I am at an age and also particular look that goes well with certain products; especially NASCAR related. Even when I wad carrying the extra body weight, I always seemed to catch the eye of Casting Directors and Producers when it came to a Tall Blue Collar Looking Character. I do feel in my heart the massive weight loss helped me so much to book one of the 5 Principal NASCAR Crew Roles in the latest Rutledge Wood NBC Commercials. I have never doubted by skills as a film and commercial actor, but as with any role, you have to look the part and be believable in it.

What else have you been doing? Any film festivals?

As far as film festivals, the biggest one I have been a part of is the famous Mississippi Sun and Sand Film and Music Festival. Both myself and my films have been a part of this 10 day event since 2013. Last year a sneak peak of Partners was accepted in the festival, and I was also asked to do a producers workshop to young and starting out filmmakers wanting to do learn some tips on how to create, write, produce films on an independent level. This year, a film I produced, assisted with the casting, and played one of the Leads in, The Kill Switch, was accepted. With Partners and A Father's Love, I want to submit to many many well know major and independent festivals as the production quality of these two films are defiantly on the higher standard.

In the past year I have also helped produce some other short films for some other writers and directors.

Tell me about A Father's Love.

"A Father's Love" is a 35 min. SAG-AFTRA Short Film I created and wrote. The film will be shot on the Sony F65 Camera. It is a 4K camera; but we will shoot in 2K. The film will be submitted to major level film festivals in 2016 and touches on the issue of single parents raising teenagers in the temptations of today's society. Gary Bolin is a single father raising an only daughter after the death of his wife, Gina, 10 Yeats ago. Gary is a typical southern farm boy who was raised on football and field cropping. He is a very calm and soft spoken man with a sensitive heart and good morals. He gave his sworn promise to his dying wife he would raise and take care of their daughter, Lindsey.

What was the casting process like?

As with Partners and many other films I have cast, it was an extremely unique process. Actress Taylor-Grace Davis has been someone I have seen grow from a child to a now, almost 18 year old young adult. I knew right off the bat she would play the Lead Actress of "Lindsey Bolin" (Gary's Daughter) As with all of my stories, I am a very visional writer. Once a character is created and developed in my head, I know exactly who they are. The role of young Lindsey (Flashback Scenes) was put out there with a regional casting call. I had talent everywhere from Texas to Georgia to Florida submitting. through a video audition and then a callback process, 10 girls were selected. All 10 of the young girls had something very extraordinary and unique about them; but it was Bryleigh Saunders who stole the show and took the role. The other roles were hand picked by me. Tricia Mauro, Laci Kay, and Katie Melissa Ryan are all incredible talent coming in from California. Other Veteran Talent such as Tonya Bludsworth, David Sweeney, and Jaysen Buterin also make up the amazing lineup. Drake Hunter, who plays the role of Dillon Weaks, is relatively new to film acting; but had already proved himself to me as a young, good Looking leading man when I saw his work in a short film entitled, Repressed. The cast is absolutely incredible and they are all A-GAME PROFESSIONAL.

You've worked with Taylor-Grace and Jaysen before. How did you meet them?

I know Taylor's mother and father very well. Kim Davis and I produced a SAG web series many years ago that helped a lot of young talent gain their SAG-AFTRA eligibility. Tim Davis is my Location Manager and Line Producer on A Father's Love. They are very dear friends and incredible people. Taylor has worked with me on Last Call of Duty, Park Bench, and did an exceptional and brilliant role of Brittany Medford (supporting) in Partners. She has worked harder than any child to or young adult I know. She and I have always had great chemistry working together; and now getting a chance to work with her at her peak of adulthood is going to be great. She is a pro and always comes prepared. Jaysen Buterin is just one of those great guys period. A multi-talented writer, director, and actor. We really got to know one another on a film called, A Killer Christmas Carol; and then he later cast me in the supporting role of "Cowboy" in the award winning film, ACT II: A Saint of Sin in a Den of Thieves. He will be playing the supporting role of "Ricky J" in A Father's Love. He is brilliantly perfect for it.

Tell me about the director and crew.

Very excited about that! Partners Director and Editor Jesse H. Knight; along with Cinematographer Jason Ledford are taking the helm again on this film. Louis Bekoe steps in as the First Assistant Director and Delante Randolph is coming in from Atlanta to do both Sound Recording and Design. Some of the other crew will be Interns from the Western Carolina University Film Program. Cutshawkane is again doing all the original score, and Anthony Shelton is the official Key MUA. These are some of the best ever in their craft. This film is truly blessed. Duane A. Sikes, Neil Heesch, Katie Melissa Ryan, and Janice Mitchell Wyatt are among the Executive Producers.

Duane has produced a number of movies. Can you describe his enthusiasm for filmmaking?

Duane A. Sikes is a pure angel from heaven. He is single handedly responsible for my career to date as a writer and film producer. I owe him everything. Duane spent over two decades in Hollywood with Paramount Pictures. He is as top notch as they come and understands this business. He has a passion for helping young writers, producers, and actors succeed. He is well loved and respected across the country. He has produced many award winning films.

Duane has a passion for stories that touch the human soul and are inspiring.

Why Ellenboro?

Ellenboro is the absolute perfect setting. It is rural southern with a lot of farmland. We are using the home of Tim and Kim Davis which is also surrounded by beautiful farmland. We will also be using some of the downtown Forest City, NC locations and a city park. Location Manager Tim Davis is a very respected man in the community and has been such a blessing in securing everything.

You mentioned your commercial work and that Partners is going to be released to New Media outlets. A lot of our readers are in it for the art but for those that hope to make some money off of their acting and film endeavors, where do you see the industry moving and the best way to capitalize on that?

Great question! Here is how I see it. I care nothing about celebrity. Now don't get me wrong, I realize with any success in this business there will come some degree of being known and recognized. As a writer and producer, my goal absolutely is to gain financial success from my work. Simple formula...one film makes money and then you have means to make another one. Money to me is only the business means to continue successfully. I just simply take each day as a blessing and a gift. I love this business and my artistic passion fulfills my life. I feel like now after many years, things are becoming real and opportunities are happening; not just for me, but for so many other great people that have been a part of my work over the years. I still have 7 years left in my full time career with the State of NC, so I just keep planning and preparing to incorporate both loves and passions.

It seems there are more and more films and TV shows than ever competing for viewers idle time with games and social networking sites. How does this affect the ability to bring in revenue?

It is tough to the bone, no doubt. I do my best to live in reality and realize there is no guarantee. If you don't take some chances and risks from time to time, you will never know what could have been. The bottom line is a self produced, independent film has the potential to make it's money back with a solid target audience and proper social media advertising. Believe me, you will spend more than you will ever get back at first or even a heck of lot longer time than that. Theatrical release movies are far and few between unless you have a major name attached and a huge budget. New Media is becoming the future of films. Dream big but always think sensibly in your goals. Everyone and everything has to start somewhere.

What got you started in filmmaking? What was it that piqued your interest before you had ever considered it?

I wad a stage actor as a child. This took me all the way through college where I majored in theater. I also loved writing and storytelling throughout my life and was a drummer and piano player. After college, and stating a career, it just took about a decade to start realizing I am wasting a gift God gave me. I had many talented people tell me it was time to start my artistic life again. It is a balancing act, but I am beyond determined and will never stop learning and getting better and better with each opportunity.

Tell me a little about Teagan Heesch and his role.

Tegan is new to me. He had the perfect look and age for the character of Brandon; who is the boyfriend of Laci Kay's character, and cousin of Drake Hunter's character. I have no doubt he will do wonderful in the scene he is in with the Leads.

You and Jesse Kight are teaming up again along with Jason Ledford. What is the relationship like between the writer and the directors? Do you get together, sit down and kick around ideas well ahead of filming?

Jason Ledford, Jesse, and myself are a pure team. We are working on 3 years together as filmmakers. We have such an amazing working relationship and friendship. We absolutely sit down and round table everything so there is a feeling of mutual agreement on out production decisions. These guys are professional and beyond passionate about their work and craft.

When did you decide to make Partners a feature film? Will there be scenes in the film we didn't see in the series. 

After we completed what was originally the 3rd episode, I just decided the story was simply too good for just episodic. There was also an issue with time and budget, so I had to really up the score when it came to completing the final 2 acts in the film. YES...What you will see in the 4th and 5th segment of the film is AMAZING!!! Also, there were some major CUTS made for time and content so honestly....it is a whole different film...

A Father's Love poster.jpg

Filming of A Father's Love is set for this fall in Edenton, NC. I'm anxious to see this movie when it's released. In addition to Darren, and Taylor-Grace there are many other Carolina actors including Bryleigh Saunders, Jaysen Buterin, Janice Mitchell Wyatt, David Sweeney, Katie Melissa Ryan, Kimberly Dawn, Jocelyn Rose, Tonya Bludsworth, Drake Hunter, Teagean Heesch, and Jane Watson. Rounding out the cast is  Tricia Mauro, Laci Kay, and Katie Melissa.

Jesse Knight.jpg
Director: Jesse Knight

A Father's Love - Cast Photos and related links:

Janice Mitchell Wyatt
Taylor-Grace Davis.jpg Taylor-Grace Davis
Photo Credit: Jordan Yelton
Kimberly Hester Huffstetler
Photo Credit: Anthony MrDamiacci Cxshmere Grant
Kimberly Dawn.jpg  
Laci Kay.jpgPhoto Credit: Gilbert Duran from Gilbert Duran Photography
David Sweeney

David Sweeney.jpg
Katie Melissa.jpg
Katie Melissa Ryan
Jaysen P. Buterin Jaysen Buterin.jpg
Bryleigh Saunders.jpg Bryleigh Saunders
Photo Credit: Sullivan Blue
Teagan Heesch
Photo Credit: Tracy Alcorn
Teagan Heesch.jpg
Tricia Mauro.jpg Tricia Mauro

Jane Ellen Watson
Photo Credit: Lorraine Shannon
Jane Watson.jpg
Jocelyn Rose.jpg Jocelyn Rose
Photo Credit: Code 7 Productions
Drake Hunter
Photo Credit: Silas Rowland
Drake Hunter.jpg
Janice Mitchell Wyatt.jpgJanice Mitchell Wyatt