By Philip Haldiman, Sun Life Magazine
Claire Hutchinson always wanted to be a screenwriter.
She salivated over the television shows of the 1960s and 1970s, programs like “Get Smart” and “All in the Family.” But as a teenager growing up and as an adult living in Winnipeg, Manitoba the burden of geography took hold — Hollywood was more than 2,000 miles from her Canadian homeland.
But in her 30s, that little thing called the internet changed her life, allowing her access to UCLA screen writing classes.
Now Ms. Hutchinson, 52, has written more than 20 Christian-based screenplays, and one is about to hit the big screen in the West Valley — “Lucky’s Treasure,” starring Michael Ironside, about a young Christian woman who goes back to her grandfather’s farm to help him get over the death of his wife. The reunion leads to a relationship with a horse and a treasure hunt — a journey that makes her faith stronger and closer to god.
But it took nearly a decade for the film to come to fruition, thanks to help from Producer David White, who has made a name for himself producing Christian cinema.
Now Ms. Hutchison makes her home in Sun City West, continuing to pen screenplays, including one currently being considered by Sony Pictures.
“Lucky’s Treasure” premieres Saturday, April 22, 2017 at Trinity Bible Church in Sun City West. Independent Newsmedia spoke to Ms. Hutchinson about her life and the unlikely journey of this family-friendly film.
Question: How did you get into screen writing?
Answer: I know it sounds corny but since I was a child all I wanted to be was a writer. I was hooked on TV, and at 17 I said to my family I want to be a screenwriter. But I didn’t know how I was going to do it because I lived 2,000 miles from Hollywood. So I studied all areas of English. I did my BA Honours in English at the University of Winnipeg and my Masters in English at the University of Manitoba.
Question: So, it sounds like you didn’t get into screen writing until later in life?
Answer: The internet opened the door. Of courses, there were no online courses back then but I found UCLA’s online screen writing classes about 15 years ago. I was living in Winnipeg at the time, and I knew a lot about writing prose and what a good story is but I did not know how to write a screenplay. It is a totally different thing. I said to myself If I didn’t do this now I would never do it. I was 37 years old. I was getting older and had to do it now. So I took the UCLA classes online.
Question: It worked out well?
Answer: I learned more about how to write a story than what I learned in the whole masters program. Although the masters program was good because I read so many stories and learned what a great story is. But UCLA taught me how to write it. That’s what UCLA taught me — to write in a visual style. I can’t say enough about it.
Question: You’ve written quite a bit since then. What is it like trying to get your works to the big screen?
Answer: I got got two certificates at UCLA in screen writing and have been writing professionally about 15 years now. For years, I was writing and writing and writing and my agent Terry Porter was trying to sell my scripts, and we got into so many high level companies, even Dreamworks, and a few others but we never could get the sale. So, I kept writing. Then we got involved a group called ICVM. International Christian Visual Media, which involves filmmakers who are doing Christian and family-friendly films. They meet once a year. They have a networking guide and all their names are listed in the guide, so I took that home from the conference. At the time I was having a screen writing competition and I needed judges, and David White was listed in the directory.
Question: He is a founding partner in the film production company Pure Flix, the faith-based studio that is distributing “Lucky’s Treasure.” He also had a recurring role in “Evening Shade” for four years, as the best friend of Burt Reynolds’s son. H was also in “Coach,” “Saved by the Bell,” and “Melrose Place.”
Answer: Yes, but this was back in 2007. I called him up and said I’m coming out to Los Angeles for meetings, I would like to meet you and see if you would like to be a judge in my screen writing competition. He said yes and yes to the meeting.
Question: So you had a sit-down with him in California?
Answer: Yes and I submitted an outline to him called “Cowgirl” when I got back home from L.A., and he liked it but nothing ever came of it. Then in 2015, David had a friend, producer and director Shane Hawks out of Oregon. Shane went to David and asked if he knew anybody who would be good to write a girl and horse script. So David remembered my cowgirl outline from eight years earlier. He said I know somebody and he told Shane, and Shane called me, and that’s how I got the contract for “Lucky’s Treasure.” Shane loves psychological stories with nature and horses. The movie wasn’t based on my cowgirl outline but it was based on a 12-page outline Shane had put together. I wrote the script for the movie based on his outline.
Question: What a crazy round-a-bout way to get there. And Shane directed “Lucky’s Treasure,” right?
Answer: Yeah, and the thing about it is I’d say to any writer to keep writing and keep persevering because you never know when your break is going to come and you don’t know how. Because I had submitted scripts to David for years and even interviewed him for a screenwriters newsletter I put out, but I never got anything, I never got an assignment or a script sale until 2015 when all this happened.
Question: Tell me about “Lucky’s Treasure.”
Answer: It’s about an 18-year old Christian girl who goes back to her grandfather’s farm to help him get over the death of his wife, who died while trying to find a treasure. She died after being thrown off Lucky who was spooked by a snake in her path. The grandfather never got over that and never got over her looking for the treasure. And he hated Lucky from then on. So the young girl goes into that situation and is tested in various ways. But I only want to give away so much.
Question: When did you finish the script?
Answer: Early May 2015 and it was shot July and August of 2015.
Question: Have you seen it?
Answer: I’ve seen two cuts. I was able to I have power to edit two cuts, or at least make suggestions for changes. That was in my contract, which is nice.
Question: Were you satisfied?
Answer: Yes I was. It is a funny business. Sometimes you’re way up and then there’s nothing. A lot of the reason I got into screen writing professionally was to communicate the Gospel and Christian values to my audience so they can be uplifted and changed and know the love of Christ. In some scripts it’s more obvious than in others, but it is there. It is a through-line, the Christian world view.
Question: Do you see Christian cinema as gaining an audience?
Answer: Christian producers are making really well-made films today, as good as any Hollywood film. That is happening. They are getting the kind of cast, crew, writers and directors that are making movies the mainstream is starting to pay more attention to, and get an audience. It’s happening now. It’s coming together.
If you go
What: Premiere of “Lucky’s Treasure,” produced by Grace Alone Films and distributed by Pure Flix Entertainment.
Where: Trinity Bible Church 14811 W. R.H. Johnson Boulevard.
When: Saturday, April 22, 2017. Red carpet is at 5:30 pm and the movie will screen at 6 p.m. Reception to follow.
RSVP: To reserve a seat, call 623-546-4884.
More about Claire Hutchinson
Claire Hutchinson is an award-winning screenwriter. Her screenplay, “The Doctor,” won the Grand Prize at Life Fest and the Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festivals. She has consulted for companies such as Living Water Media, Visual Productions, Worthington Media, CV Films, and Abel Company. Her credits include “Lucky’s Treasure” (2017) and “Waves” (2015), both listed on IMDB. “Lucky’s Treasure” is distributed through DVD, Netflix and the Pure Flix Dreaming Channel.