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Guest Post: How I Ended Up With a “Faith” Movie by Believing in Myself

Guest Post: How I Ended Up With a "Faith" Movie by Believing in Myself

In three short days, I am releasing my second film, “Dial a Prayer.” I directed from my own script (my first as a solo writer), and the coming-of-age comedy stars Brittany Snow, William H. Macy, Glenne Headly, and Tom Lipinski. Disclaimer: Despite the title, it’s not a faith movie — but I guess it depends on how you look at it.
It’s funny how a release suddenly creeps up on you, and to those standing by, it all appears so effortless. “Wow — sold movie number 2? Congrats!” “You’ve made it!” “Killing it!” Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful for the kudos and to the amazing community of filmmakers I’ve come to settle in with in Los Angeles and New York — my power posse that is Film Fatales, my amazing new friends at FoxTop20, and the incredible alumni from AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women. But getting your feature going takes work. Especially number 2.
I wrote “Dial a Prayer” when the Sundance Screenwriting Lab asked me if I had a feature in the works to submit way back in 2009. I did not, but like any aspiring filmmaker, I said I did. I did have an idea and the inkling that, maybe if I really sat down to write, it would be something really worthwhile. The first draft totaled 65 pages and needed help, but the seed of this story — about a girl stuck on the phone at a call center for prayers — had begun. I didn’t end up in the Lab, but their encouragement got me to keep at it. And I did. Coming from acting, I didn’t know the technical requirements of the three-act screenplay structure, but my instincts told me when to move locations. I wrote for actors I knew so I could picture them on screen and found the words from there. I sent it to my smart NY theater friends. My mother. I sent it to my producer Jason Potash (from my DWW short “some boys don’t leave”), and he told me to keep going. I’m so glad I did.
Seeing where the movie will land is exciting to me. It’s wild that you can make a movie about a person who is lost and listening to all of the wrong instructions, who ends up in a room full of people who believe they are helping others by reading “from the book” or “speaking from the heart,” and suddenly you have a movie about faith. And really, if you just sit back and ponder faith for a minute, it isn’t necessarily saying one religion is right or wrong but that perhaps believing in something is powerful enough. That might be what makes the difference for you to find your authentic path. That’s a story I want to tell.
You don’t make movies at this level without a fair amount of sacrifice. But for everything we perhaps give up, I know we are getting something even greater back. I have two young children and a husband who also works in film and TV (he provides score and original songs for this film), and it takes a lot of hefting to go off and make a film out of state and then come back and post through the summer. The payoff is knowing that my kids see me thriving. That any young woman out there who asks how it’s possible to make films and have a family, I can point out that you just do it.

I’m grateful to my amazing cast and the talented collaborators who just kept enhancing this story as we went. From the first reading to the final mix, it just kept exceeding my expectations. I’m thrilled that Storyboard Entertainment made the film with me, that Vertical Entertainment acquired the film, and that we are releasing theatrically and on demand this month. And even though we are releasing alongside Nicholas Sparks’ “The Longest Ride.” I have faith that this little film will find its audience and that I will keep making movies. Because I truly believe that if you tell the truth and work hard, the stories will get told.

Maggie Kiley has written and directed two feature films, “Brightest Star” and “Dial a Prayer,” and is currently in post on the thriller “Caught,” starring Anna Camp, Sam Page, and Stefanie Scott.

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