By Diane Tezeno
When Charles Irving looks through his camera lens, he sees hope.
A successful restaurateur turned independent filmmaker, the Houston born native has proven you can achieve more than one dream in a lifetime.
Walking away from the security of a steady paycheck and benefits, he invested his savings in casting his first vision – opening the doors to his first restaurant – and watched his business grow to multiple locations in cities across Texas.
Irving attributes his success to passion, hard work and determination and not listening to
the voices that told him he couldn’t.
“I had banks tell me that the risk of opening a restaurant business was too great and we are not going to loan you the money, you can’t do it.
“In the film industry I have had people say, ‘it is a long shot, you are never going to make it, don’t do it,’” shares Irving.
With five independently-produced films under his belt and one in distribution with a California-based distributor, the emerging film maker aspires to use his passion for filmmaking to convey a message of hope and faith.
“I guess it is kind of a ministry with these films,” says Irving, who also is a local minister at the Fort Bend Church in Sugar Land.
The Missouri City filmmaker is committed to making a diverse collection of films across numerous genres, however, his next two films, “Hope” and “Never Quit,” embody the kind of inspirational messages he is most passionate about sharing with audiences.
“I think people want to see a film and get something out of it as opposed to seeing a lot of violence. There are all kinds of films, all kinds of violence and for some reason people tend to love those kinds of films. I just believe that now is the time to reach out to people with a positive message so when they leave, they leave encouraged,” says Irving.
He wrote the script for “Hope” last year and began scouting out locations and the right cast to bring the movie to life. Currently in post production, the film was shot in Galveston, Missouri City and Angleton with a talented ensemble of actors from Houston and surrounding areas.
LaTeace Towns-Cuellar, an up-and-coming actress from the Houston area, played the lead character in Irving’s first film, “Be My Teacher” and recently nabbed the role of ‘Cleo’ in Quentin Tarantino’s film, “DJango Unchained.”
Actor Le Marc Johnson, a Houston native who has been building a body of work in numerous independent films and appeared in the 2009 NBC TV series Friday Night Lights, portrays the lead character in “Hope.”
The film takes the audience on a journey of a young man who hits rock bottom following the loss of his job and the disintegration of his marriage.
“A lot of times when someone loses a job they get depressed and some are even turning on their own spouses, stories like that are making the headlines all the time. So we feel that the message contained in this film can encourage someone who is on the edge,” says Irving.
He calls “Hope” his favorite film and is excited about its upcoming release.
“I think that a lot of times God uses all kinds of ways and all kinds of people to get the message out to encourage other people and I think that is what it is all about,” says Irving.
For many film makers, producing the next big blockbuster is the driving force that fuels their creative juices, but Irving’s goal is simpler. He seeks to infuse hope through his films and give audience members something to walk away with that will help them navigate through the real life challenges and situations they encounter in life.
“Suicide is at an all-time high right now, people can’t take much nowadays. The impact of the recession is a part of it as well. I believe that we can help so many people by encouraging them to continue to move forward and to hold onto their faith instead of giving up so easily,” says Irving.
Irving’s wife, Barbara, supports his efforts and assists him by reading scripts and selecting actors for his various projects.
“This is a passion that he has and I fully support him. I believe “Hope” has a lot of potential and I foresee him developing more Christian and evangelical type projects,” says Barbara Irving.
Although the Missouri City film maker is honing his craft thousands of miles from Hollywood, the film capital of the world, he believes Texas is fertile ground for movie and film projects.
“I would like to see a lot more going on down here in Texas. I really would like for Houston to become the focus for more film projects because there is so much talent down here and I think there is a great need for more things here,” says Irving.
Johnson, the lead character in “Hope” shares Irving’s sentiments on the state’s potential for future film projects.
“Texas has the talent and diverse locales, including hills, urban settings, beaches and huge metropolitan areas from Houston to San Antonio to Dallas that can serve as backdrops for film projects. I think it is a potential goldmine if we can get some legislation involved that would provide more film incentives,” says Johnson.
Irving recently traveled to California to collaborate on a short film with his daughter, Lakisha Lemons, owner of LL Productions, who sparked his interest in the film industry.
“I began helping her out and later found out that it was something I enjoyed as well,” says Irving.
With his passion for the film industry ignited, Irving is forging ahead on a line-up of back-to-back creative projects.
The new year has taken off to a great start for Irving with a flurry of projects on the horizon, including the slated release of “Concrete & Cartwheels” and “Border Break” this summer and the release of “Hope” and “A Broken Hart” set to premiere at the close of the year.
The busy film maker has come a long way in a short time since releasing his first film “Be My Teacher,” in 2011. He will begin shooting on a sixth film this summer, called “Never Quit,” and is seeking Houston native LeToya Luckett for the lead role.
“She is a very talented, up-and-coming actress from Houston and I think that she is the ideal person for the part,” says Irving.
Looking back on his life, Irving is thankful that he made the decision to follow his passion and encourages others to do the same.
“I encourage people to stick to their dream, because if God gave you a dream and a gift, He gave it to you and everybody else won’t always understand that. So if you really believe it, pursue it and go at it hard, that is what I believe and what has worked for me,” says Irving.
Irving is currently working to find a location to build a studio for in-house productions that will also contain a movie theatre and stage for local plays.
For more information on Irving Films, visit www.irvingfilms.com.
Be My Teacher
Alecia Willis is a young school teacher who gets too close to one of her students Evan, a mature high school senior falls in love with his English teacher. Evan is very persistent in his attempts to woo her.
Starring LaTeace Towns-Cuellar (Django Unchained), Derek Lee Nixon
Executive Produced by: Charles H. Irving
Janet Taylor and a group of college students take a road trip to Mexico for Spring Break. While en route they stumbled upon a roadblock that forces them to take a detour, which leads down a dangerous path of kidnapping and murder.
Starring Kari Gillepsie, Cory Hart, Le Marc Johnson
Executive Produced by: Charles H. Irving
Hope, a Charles Irving Film, is the story of a young man who hits rock bottom and has nowhere to turn. With the loss of all hope, desire and motivation, he is slowly built back up through faith and trust in God.
Starring Le Marc Johnson, Timeca Seretti
Executive Produced / Story by / Co-directed: Charles H. Irving
A Broken Hart
Official Website: http://www.abrokenhart.com/index.html
Directed and Written by: Jesse & JaQuay Young
Associate Produced by: Charles H. Irving
“A Quitter Never WIns and Winners Never Quit”
A basketball player destined for stardom becomes injured, facing difficult challenges in life, but is always encouraged to Never Quit
Filming this Spring 2013
Story / Executive Produced / Co-director – Charles H. Irving
Concrete and Cartwheels
Produced by: Charles H. Irving
Written & Produced by: Josie Kline
For more information, visit http://irvingfilms.com/.