By SHEILA SELMAN firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — GOSHEN — A couple of years ago, Goshen native Jordon Hodges returned home from Los Angeles.
He didn’t arrive alone.
Unlike some kids who introduce mom and dad to a new significant other, Jordon introduced them to a movie production crew.
Many even camped at mom, Connie’s, Goshen home while they got down to the business of making “Sand Castles.”
Now in just about three weeks, Jordon will return home again for the Indiana premiere of that movie at the River Bend Film Festival in South Bend.
Starting at about 6:30 p.m. April 3, those with a ticket — and there are only about 50 of those left — can get the first local glimpse of “Sand Castles,” which was written, starred in and produced by Jordon. His mom is one of the executive producers. And the director is Clenet Verdi-Rose.
Some rough versions of the film have been seen by a handful of people, Jordon said in a phone interview from his L.A. home, but not the whole finished product. He said after pouring himself into making the movie for three years it feels “pretty weird” for it to be ready for the public. “Now I’ve got to release it to the lions,” he said chuckling.
“Sand Castles” is a deeply emotional film about a young woman who disappeared many years ago returning to her home in rural Indiana.
The movie isn’t about the kidnapping, Jordon explained. It’s about what happens to this family and to the girl upon her return home. “The family doesn’t exactly know her anymore,” he said.
The girl, Lauren Daly played by Anne Winters, doesn’t speak. “So you have to write that very carefully,” Jordon said. “It’s all in her head. You have to map that out.”
And unlike typical kidnapping movies, this deals with the after-effects. “I think there’s an interesting dynamic that hasn’t been tapped a lot in cinema,” he said. “It’s a very human story. … Each person can relate in some way.”
When Jordon started working on the outline with a buddy, he said, “I really wanted to write something like the rise and fall of a family. The whole kidnapping aspect came later.”
His friend then walked away from the project because of other work, so Jordon spent another six or seven months crafting it.
“I had it and was sitting on it for a while,” he said. But then an encounter between Jordon and director Verdi-Rose at one of Verdi-Rose’s premieres in Detroit restarted the project.
The men ended up meeting and Verdi-Rose said he loved the script, Jordon said. So the two of them worked on it for about six months. When it was to the point that it was a shooting script, the men started to get people on board to make the movie.
When it came to picking a location to film, Indiana was scouted.
Jordon explained that when he was writing the script, “I kind of wrote what I knew.” What he knew was Midwest America. “And of course, I’m thinking Indiana.”
He wanted to show how a working class family can go through a tragedy and how they survive that.”
So with all of that in mind, Goshen was picked for the location.
“It’s a big deal to move everybody from L.A.,” Jordon said.
But it was the right move. “They loved it,” he said of the crew. “They fell in love with the people and the area.”
His dad, Tim, ended up being the locations manager because he grew up in Goshen and knew a lot of people.
A lot of scenes were shot at his grandfather’s house. “It was just on the list for our location team and they picked that one,” Jordon said. “I think subconsciously I wrote it in the story because I spent a lot of time there.”
Mom, Connie, he said, ended up being the full-blown producer, carrying the team through post-production.
He said his parents were really an integral part of the process. “I feel really blessed to have my family step up the way they did,” he said. “They made the film happen.”
Auditions were held for actors, but the fate of one character in the movie hinged on a certain actor deciding to take the part.
Veteran character actor Clint Howard was the actor Jordon had in mind when writing the role of mechanic Todd Carlson.
In speaking of Howard, Jordon said, “That guy rocks. He’s sweet. The funny thing about Clint is we wrote the role for him. It had to be played by somebody perfect.”
Jordon did not want a cliched turn for the part. If they couldn’t get Howard, they’d have to rethink the role.
Fortunately, Howard loved the script. “He’s a total pro,” Jordon said, adding that Howard had been working as an actor since he was about 2 years old.
“He added this layer we needed,” Jordon said. Howard will even be attending the River Bend Film Festival and answering questions with Jordon.
Jordon will play Noah Daly, the brother of Lauren Daly (Anne Winters) who returns home after being kidnapped 10 years prior at age 5. (Winters stars as Kelsey on the ABC Family show “The Fosters.” And she is currently in Israel filming the TV Movie “Tyrant” for FX. That should premiere later this year.)
According to a synopsis of the film, Noah is the rock of the family and takes care his alcoholic mother Marie, played by Saxon Trainor, and his Uncle Tommy (Randy Spence), who is an ex-cop turned outlaw.
Tommy’s ex-partner Detective Cloud (Scott Jemison) comes to the family with news that Lauren was mysteriously found sitting outside a local diner and she’s possibly mute. The only the only possession with her is a copy of Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations.”
Lauren returns home with social worker Alison (Daniella Grace) who pressures Noah into finding his sister inside the stranger. In the meantime Tommy wants to find out what happened to Lauren and he starts with the only witness to her reappearance — mechanic Todd (Howard).
After the film was shot, some very prominent kidnappings came into the news and “all of a sudden it became relevant,” Jordon said.
“It’s a challenging film on a lot of emotional levels,” he said.
Will it show in Goshen? Jordon said they’ve thought about showing it at Linway or the old Goshen Theater. If people would like it to show locally, he’d definitely make a request for it.
For those who don’t want to wait, tickets can be purchased for the River Bend Film Festival by going online to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sand-castles-indiana-premiere-tickets-10124475579.
“Sand Castles” is rated R.
Follow Sheila Selman on Twitter at sselman_TGN