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"Confessions of a Prodigal Son's" Writer/Star Dishes on Saying "Yes" to God
"Confessions of a Prodigal Son's" Writer/Star Dishes on Saying "Yes" to God

"Confessions of a Prodigal Son's" Writer/Star Dishes on Saying "Yes" to God

By Jacob Sahms

Nathan Clarkson, the talented writer, producer, and star of The Confessions of a Prodigal Son, shared with ChristianCinema.com his thoughts on making a film from scratch. Along the way, he married one of his co-stars, Rachel Lee, worked with Kevin Sorbo, and recognized that the first step to following God’s dream for your life is simply saying, “yes.”

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Tell us a little about yourself.

I left Colorado Springs and went to the New York Film Academy for a year to study acting. Since I was a kid, the things that have struck my heart and excited me were stories. The stories that I read touched a place in me, opened eyes and caused me to ask questions. As I grew older, I wanted my life to be about stories. I saw how Jesus changed the world by walking around telling stories. 

My parents, both of whom are authors, taught me the power of story. We grew up traveling, because my dad was a pastor and a writer, and my mom was a speaker and a writer. The biggest part of my homeschool education was reading, reading about heroes as we traveled around the world and America. We’d go into these historical figures houses, and check out the battlefields.

I grew up having Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia read to me. As a boy, I wanted to be a hero, so my parents introduced me to more and more stories about heroes. I was ADHD, so I spent a lot of time listening to Focus on the Family Radio books on tape and drawing.

As I came out of high school, my dreams turned naturally to wanting to be an actor. It’s how our generation passed on stories. Out of high school, I thought about the college route and getting a regular job, but decided to follow my dream. I’m not sure how happy my family was but they trusted me to hear God. 

What drove you to write the Confessions of a Prodigal Son?

When I moved to Los Angeles, I was looking for fulfillment and purpose. I wanted to fill the void in my heart that I think we all feel. I did believe in God, but I thought I would fill the hole by finding success. When I was at a casting call or filming, I found that most of the people here have come from somewhere else looking for something. Sometimes, it’s fame, success, or attention. It was hard the first few years because you face a lot of rejection, professionally, financially, relationally. I went through a time period of not getting roles or turning down roles I felt like I couldn’t morally comply with. Nothing I could do was filling that desire in my heart.

I remember picking up the Bible one day and reading the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I felt kinship. He and many of the people I know are looking to fill it up with things that don’t fill the need – sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll. I knew the other side was that God has designed us for purpose and meaning, and that we have a story to tell if we’re willing to follow him.

I felt like God was telling me it was time to tell good stories, to be about telling the stories, not just acting out someone else’s. I told God, “okay, sure, I’ll get involved in the storytelling aspect.” I thought about all these things and felt the Parable of the Prodigal Son was so relevant in my life that it was a story that this generation could connect to. 

How were you able to get the support to move forward with the film?

You simply have to have the resources to make a movie – you can’t just want to say you want to make a movie and then make it happen. As Christians making film, it shouldn’t be slipshod or thrown together. We have to make the best thing we can make with the resources we’ve been given. You need help, crew, equipment, cast, etc. The flipside is to fall into a trap where you think, “that’ll never happen” because of all the things you need, and then your movie never gets made.

So I think the first step was to say “yes”. I never thought that I would write a script or make a movie. But I said yes. In faith, I started sharing it with people I wanted to work with. When I finished the script, I didn’t have any money so I put it out there on Kickstarter. It was a minimal amount of money at the end of the campaign compared to what it takes to make a movie but it got us started.

I didn’t know any big time directors or producers. I prayed and thought about whom I knew who had skills. I called up a friend back home in Colorado Springs, who is a director for Compassion International. I told him I knew he hadn’t done it before but I asked him if he’d be willing to make a movie like this? People talked to their friends who knew how to do something and people kept saying, “yeah, I can related to that story.” When you step out on faith, you do get to see God work. It wasn’t anything I necessarily did right but saying yes to God was what I needed to do.

How did you make the connection with Kevin Sorbo?

It shouldn’t have happened. It was funny because we contacted a bunch of guys [stars in the industry]. To be honest, I didn’t know who he was, but someone who’d been praying and supporting the film told me I should check him out, and sent me a trailer of What If. I called his agent and said, “Look, we have no money. We’re new filmmakers, we’re just getting started and we need your help.” We sent him the script. His only request was that he get to help write the sermon scene, and he added a lot of weight to it. It turned out to set the ending up to be more emotional and weighted.

What’s tougher – acting, writing, or producing?

When I have to look at budgets and business details, that drives me crazy. I just want to tell stories; the detailed responsibilities are things I struggle with! For this film, doing it all at once was the hardest part. You’re filming this scene, finding the location for the next scene, and someone is saying, “we need lunch for the crew.” Doing it all at once was tough. But the vision is what keeps you going.

If someone would bankroll any project you could dream up, what would it be?

I’ve always had a love for epics. On the micro budget, that’s hard. But The Giver, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia tell epic stories. Right now, I’m working with a Christian producer on our next project, which is a little bigger in scope. It’s a dystopian thriller that’s an allegory.  It’s going to be adventurous but have a strong story behind it. 

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