Interview - Star and Director of 'The Falls: Covenant of Grace' - Conclusion of a Trilogy

On December 6, The Falls: Covenant of Grace was released on DVD via Breaking Glass Pictures and was also made available on digital platforms like iTunes, Amazon and Vudu. It concludes the trilogy by filmmaker Jon Garcia about two young Mormon missionaries who fall in love despite the church's stance against homosexuality and LGBT rights. The movie premiered on Saturday, October 22 at Twist: Seattle Queer Film Festival, the same venue where the previous movies in the trilogy premiered. The following week Garcia spoke about the directing of this third installment. The star of all three movies, Benjamin Farmer who plays Chris Merrill, the conflicted, gay Mormon, also spoke by phone about his experience in this final chapter four years in the making.

Garcia said after the second film was finished, he thought that that was it. He was done. Garcia originally wanted to end the second film with his two gay Mormons in love holding the baby introduced and living together. However, Farmer's co-star, Nick Ferrucci who plays the other gay Mormon, had suggested that the ending should be a question. That was 2013. Garcia admitted that a year ago that question began to itch, so he started writing in December 2015. He had a draft for this movie by January.

He said it was the hardest script to write. Given that he was rather done, he wondered how he could stretch things out into a third movie and what would get people to come. What more can be learned about the two characters?

Spoiler alert, if you haven't yet seen the film!


Garcia said he went through six iterations. One iteration or one idea was that he was going to avoid marrying the two characters in the end. Instead, he was going to have their marriage be his starting point. He was going to have the film be about the everyday relationship of these two gay Mormons married and with a child. Garcia said that upon reflection he thought that would be too big a jump from where the second film stopped. As a person who isn't married, Garcia also thought that he wouldn't be able to relate. In other words, being unmarried, Garcia felt he couldn't write the story of two people who were married.

Another iteration included a Muslim character and Ferrucci's character, RJ Smith, dealing with a life-or-death situation. Garcia also juggled the idea of a same-sex divorce. Ultimately, he thought all these other ideas were too much.

Garcia shot the movie in July of this year. He premiered the movie in October. That's only four months to put together a feature film, which isn't a lot of time. His distributor wouldn't let him push his deadline, so it was a tight production and post-production. Despite the deadline and the short turnaround, Garcia said he tried to take care of the crew. He checked on everyone and made sure they had what they needed. He even scheduled days off, which isn't something he was able to do much for the previous movies in this trilogy.

One of Garcia's most vital crew members was his Director of Photography, or DP, named Seth Whelden. Ostensibly, the DP is the person who sets up the camera, sometimes operates it and lights the scene to make sure the director's vision is captured on film or video. The way Garcia talked about his DP, Whelden was perhaps more than just camera and lights. Whelden noticed Garcia's first two films were static, all on tripod with a lot of hard cuts. For this movie, Whelden suggested more handheld shots and more movement. He also suggested transitions and other things to make the whole film smoother.

Another noticeable difference between this movie and Garcia's previous is the amount of scenes that occur outside. The first two movies mainly take place indoors. The same could be said about this one, but it seemed as if Garcia really tried to embrace the outdoors more here. There are even some Malickian shots of Ferrucci for example running through a huge forest or walking through tall grass. To that end, there are also aerials providing wide-shots of both nature and Salt Lake City. Many of which were provided by Dane Christensen, a 21-year-old Stanford student and photographer who got Garcia some great drone footage and who coincidentally is working on a documentary about the Mormon church and the intersectionality of gay rights.

Garcia also said he had to run two cameras for many scenes. He said he did so for about 30 to 40-percent of the shoot. This allowed him to get through coverage faster. It also allowed for Farmer and Ferrucci to improv some funny moments. Gacria's not much of a comedic writer. He writes subtle humor. He intended for this movie to be lighter, to have more comedy, but a lot of it comes from the performances of the two actors.

Jon Garcia, writer-director
Garcia is more serious. Nothing is more indicative than his song choice for the opening of this movie. It's Matt Alber's "End of the World," a beautiful rendition about an aching romance. Garcia also wrote the film's music, a solemn piano score. Garcia though is more hopeful a person and is also quite spiritual. He grew up Catholic. He doesn't practice regularly but he lives across the street from a church, St. Peter's. He said a Spanish band will now and then draw him into it. He doesn't pray per se. He goes inside the church more out of nostalgia because it was the way he was raised.

When Farmer was interviewed four years ago about the first film, he also talked about growing in a strong Christian family, not Catholic but in a family that was religious and strongly conservative. Without getting into too many specifics, he conveyed that a film about two gay men falling in love would not be something his family would prefer to see.

Farmer was born and raised near Portland, Oregon, where this movie is set. Yet, he and his wife moved to New York City in September 2015 to pursue bigger acting opportunities. His wife wants to be on Broadway and Farmer himself wants to be in a major TV series. Farmer attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Manhattan, graduating in 2006, so he was familiar with the city, but now he's more rooted there.

Like Garcia, Farmer thought the second film was the end but attributes the ending being changed in part to the distributor wanting to leave the door open. When he was asked to come back for this third film, he found that he could focus on it without any distractions. For both the first and second movies, Farmer was doing a stage show at the same time. During the first movie, he was doing a musical concurrently. For the second movie, he was doing a Tom Stoppard play. Incredibly, he was still able to give great performances, but this time there was nothing dividing his time or attention.

He said he felt this production was very cooperative and was open to him giving input. The title "Covenant of Grace" was even Farmer's idea. He said the eternal question for his character is if he can hold onto his church and his daughter as a gay man. As such, he has a couple of scenes with Malaya Garza who plays his daughter named Kaylee. Garza is a 6-year-old actress. Farmer said the little girl seemed shy, but when the cameras were rolling, she was incredibly present. She didn't need to rehearse or run her lines. She just knew her stuff and was such a joy. Farmer said it was easy to love her.

Farmer did have to run lines with his main co-star, Nick Ferrucci, but he said it wasn't long before he and Ferrucci got into a rhythm and trust built up. He said it was mostly a fun set with a lot of laughing. A lot of it due to the levity to the story. Farmer also discussed Bruce Jennings who plays his father in the movie. Jennings suffered a stroke and had a bicycle accident, as well as lost a lot of weight. Yet, Farmer said Jennings still had a gravitas to him, a stature and clout every time he stepped on set. Farmer said he had such deep respect for Jennings.

He acknowledged that this movie is as much about fathers and sons as it is about anything else. In fact, Farmer said his favorite scene was between himself and Jennings when they're walking on a bridge. What his character Chris says to his father had so many revelations and surprises.

Conversely, his least favorite scene was when he has to be hungover but doesn't quite maintain consistency from beginning to the end of the scene. He said he watched it and saw the inconsistency. He doesn't remain as hungover as he was at the start as he is at the finish. He said it was like an actor losing an accent in the middle of a scene.

Benjamin Farmer
Yet, Farmer seemed to enjoy the whole experience. At the October premiere, he said he was proud of what they made. The short turnaround required tireless work from everyone involved and it seems to pay off not just financially but in other ways.

Farmer and his wife now live in Brooklyn and he said he got recognized out in public for his role in these movies. He also got messages online from numerous people. Some have told him that his character has been very true to life for them because they lived that exact life for example. Yet, the role hasn't just a been a mirror. It's also been a motivator.

Farmer said this movie motivated or inspired an actual crew member from this very movie to come out as gay. The movie's Production Designer is Clifton Chandler. Farmer said Chandler would remove himself during filming. There seemed like something was bothering him while the movie was being made. It wasn't until after filming that Chandler posted on Facebook what was bothering him. For people to make those kinds of connections or declarations, Farmer said that's why they made these movies, in a way to affect positive change in people. It's not just to get people to come out but also, as his fictional father does, to love those who do. The hope is that people become more true to themselves, being who they are and start spreading love.

Up next for Farmer, he stars in the indie drama The Texture of Falling.

Up next for Garcia, he will be adapting Marty Beaudet's book Losing Addison.

The Falls: Covenant of Grace is available on DVD and Digital / VOD.
For more information about The Falls trilogy, go to the movie's website.
Or, check out The Falls Facebook page.

You can also follow Jon Garcia on Twitter @LAKEjongarcia or Instagram @jongarciapdx
Also, check out his website jongarciafilms.net.

Follow Benjamin Farmer on Twitter @Farmer503.
Also follow him on Instagram @farmer503 where you can see adorable pictures of his Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named "Rocket."
Go to his website as well, benjamin-farmer.com.


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