Author John Steinbeck used the pigasus on the back of all of his novels to symbolize the lumbering soul determined to fly. IU graduates John Armstrong and Zach Spicer created their film production company Pigasus Pictures with the same goal in mind, Armstrong said.
“People don’t invest their time and money in projects,” Armstrong said. “They invest their time and money in people. Whenever we sit and talk to someone about who we are and what we’re doing, they like it. Why is that? It’s because we’re Indiana boys.”
Armstrong and Spicer are returning to Bloomington to film a romantic comedy written by fellow IU graduate Paul Shoulberg called “The Good Catholic.” Filming will begin Jan. 25. The story is based on the true events of Shoulberg’s parents’ love story.
In real life, Shoulberg’s father, then a priest, and mother, a nun, met in Lawrence, Kansas. In the film, Spicer plays Daniel, a priest, and Wrenn Schmidt plays Jane, a singer and artist. When Jane comes to confessional, Daniel falls in love with her and must decide whether or not to remain a priest.
“The big question when you read the script is, ‘What is the nature of love?’” Armstrong said. “If God is love and you fall in love, is that God’s plan for your life?”
The script is engaging because Shoulberg knew the base characters personally, Spicer said, and everyone who has read the script agreed that it comes to life off the page. Even the older priests in the film, played by Danny Glover and John C. McGinley, were based on people Shoulberg grew up with.
Shoulberg wrote the script for the 2015 film “Walter,” and just before the film started shooting, his father passed away. When writing the script for “The Good Catholic,” he said he decided he wanted to help direct the movie as well. Shoulberg has the final say for what version of the film is released.
“I wanted to tell a personal story and be in control of it,” Shoulberg said. “This film is based loosely on my dad’s life, and I wanted something that only I could tell.”
Shoulberg’s mother was involved in the writing process, he said.
She helped fill in the details of how she and his father met, and she is even making a cameo appearance in the film.
“This is our first time doing this,” Spicer said. “We’re not rich, we don’t have unlimited wealth. No millionaire is bankrolling this movie, and we knew that we were going to have to rely on a lot of favors and generosity from people to make this work. We knew that if we came back here, Hoosier hospitality would pay off in spades, and it has.”
Spicer, Armstrong and Shoulberg used the connections they formed in their years at IU to produce the film on a low budget.
They were given free use of a studio space, discounted use of Trinity Episcopal Church as a location to film, and were connected with the mayor’s office to close streets when filming on Kirkwood Avenue. They also were able to convince the city to keep the lights in the courthouse square up for several more weeks.
“It’s what they tell incoming freshmen at orientation — regardless of what it is that you learn at college, the connections that you make while you’re here will last a lifetime, and they will be the most worthwhile thing that you do with your time here,” Spicer said. “What we’re doing right now is living proof that that’s 100 percent true.”
The movie will be released sometime next year, with the first showing on site in Bloomington. Producing a film in this college town, which resembles the college town in which his parents met for the first time, creates a special atmosphere that will translate onto the screen, Shoulberg said.
“Anything that’s written from experience and from the heart challenges people,” Armstrong said. “It makes you think, it makes you question. Good stories ask you to be invested, and that’s the kind of story this is.”
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