Alan Autry is going with a grassroots approach to getting his new movie, “Victory by Submission,” to the public. Instead of waiting to get a theatrical release, selling it to a streaming service or taking the direct-to-video approach, Autry will start by showing his faith-based movie in churches across the country.
That plan starts at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, with the debut screening at Peoples Church, 7172 N. Cedar Ave. in Fresno.
“I have 12 churches already lined up in the Valley. Then I am looking at churches in Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida and Arkansas,” Autry says. “Most of the time, a church can’t show a faith-based movie until its been in theaters and on video.
“I’m doing things little backward.”
The former Fresno mayor is concentrating on the Southeast states because there’s still a big following for “In the Heat of the Night” there. Autry played V.L. “Bubba” Skinner on the series from 1988 to 1995.
Autry wrote and directed the film made through his Dirt Road Productions with many of the actors coming from Autry’s acting classes. The cast also includes Eric Roberts, Lee Majors, Fred Williamson, Rachel Hendrix and Autry.
Money generated from donations to see the movie will be split 50/50 with the church keeping half for its ministries and Autry using the other half to continue his film production plans. There’s no limit to the size of church that can screen the film. Autry will make himself available to either show up in person or use Skype to give his testimony and talk about the film before a screening.
He has a lot to talk about as production on the film has been going on for more than three years. Part of the long process was raising money to produce the moderately low-budget film. Autry was also sidelined with two hip surgeries.
There were times when Autry wanted to give up on the project but he felt like God was pushing him on to complete the movie that deals with a Mixed Martial Arts fighter who has his faith tested.
Filming started in July 2013 and includes locations in and around Fresno. An octagon ring was erected in the Rainbow Ballroom for one of the big fights between local actor Brett Prieto and Casey Olso, a former Fresno State wrestler turned MMA fighter.
Since leaving office in 2009, Autry’s been repeatedly approached to return to politics, even a possible run for the state Senate. He says there’s more important work to be done – work where he can use his 35 years of experience as an actor.
“When it comes to politics, 60 is the new 80. It really ages you, “ says Autry, who is 64. “As I’m nearing the last quarter of my life, I’ve been thinking more about what I will be leaving behind – what good have I done.”
Autry planned on the story of an MMA fighter to be part of a potential TV series he put together called “Choices.” Each episode would deal with important Christian messages about life. But a few days into filming what would have been episodes two and three of the series, Autry decided that the performances were so good that the script should be expanded and turned into a film.
The film has been shown to five test groups, three in Fresno and two in Oakhurst. One of the concerns the director/writer heard was that sitting the movie in the world of MMA gave it a slightly violent edge.
He’s using the sport as his focus, but his broader message comes from how upset he is with the state of sports these days and how they’ve become more about the passion for money than the love of competition.
“You have to entertain people and MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world,” Autry says. That’s why he spent two weeks getting the fight sequences just right.
Autry’s happy he not only found good actors to play the leads but they could also handle the physical challenges. His biggest surprise was finding Prieto, a Madera police officer, to play the movie’s lead.
Prieto always had an interest in acting, but he never had the time because he played baseball at Buchanan High School and then in college. After college, he got a manager and agent and moved to Los Angeles, but he could only get small acting jobs. Once he moved back to Fresno, Prieto started getting cast in locally made movies, such as “Firefall” and “Showboys.”
“Usually in sports films, you can find an athlete who knows the sport or an actor who can act. It’s rare to find those who can do both. It took me days to teach Mac Davis how to throw a five-step dropback pass for ‘North Dallas Forty.’ When we auditioned Brett, I was happy we found him,” Autry says.
There have been talks of the movie getting a larger distribution. But for now, Autry’s doing the heavy lifting by taking the movie to the public one church at a time.
Victory By Submission
- 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, doors open at 6 p.m.
- Peoples Church, 7172 N. Cedar Ave., Fresno
- Admission: $10 donation