Gordon Strain is known around campus for teaching theatre and public speaking classes and designing the sets for Franklin College’s school plays.
But since the start of Winter Term 2016, Strain has added a new title to his resume: production designer for an award-winning movie.
Strain, an associate theater professor at the college, helped create the sets for the movie “The Good Catholic.” The movie follows a priest who must decide between remaining a priest or pursuing the woman he has fallen in love with.
Strain became involved with the movie, which was primarily shot in Bloomington, Indiana, through his friendship with Paul Shoulberg, the film’s writer and director.
“Paul and I have known each other since graduate school. The producers of the film are also old friends from graduate school,” Strain said. “We all attended IU together. We had a weekly poker game. That’s how, why we all became friends.”
Strain said, through the process, he’s learned a lot about what it takes to make movies.
“It’s a lot of work to try and cram into a month,” Strain said. “Especially when you have a low budget and a small crew.”
Strain also said he will never take some things for granted again.
“One thing I can say I learned for certain is that I really appreciate the ability to eat meals on a normal schedule and get regular sleep,” Strain said. “Not doing that for a month really takes a toll on the body.”
In early February, Strain attended the movie premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival where audience reactions were positive.
“It was hard for me to wrap my head around it because I had to get back to Franklin so quickly,” Strain said. “But it was exciting to get text messages from the producers filling me in how people were reacting to the festival.”
Strain and the others were hoping for the audience choice award, but they actually won one of the highest awards at the festival—the Panavision Spirit Award for Best Independent Feature Film.
Strain and his wife were at their local business, the Franklin Department of Public Art, when he received the news.
“We were in absolute tears,” he said said. “It’s so wonderful to work so hard on something and have people recognize that it is good. An investor in the film happened to be in Bloomington that day—she lives in [New York City]— and she drove up to the shop to see us and celebrate.”
Strain hopes he will have the opportunity to make more movies in the future. He said the lessons he learned from “The Good Catholic” will hopefully make the next movie a little easier to make.
“It was a very difficult process, but it was also very rewarding and not just because of the award,” Strain said. “For me, it’s fun to pour my blood, sweat and tears into something and then be able to sit back and look at the final product and realize that it’s actually OK.”