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An Interview with Jerry Dwyer jr, Creator of Heart of Faith

by Mike Haberfelner

August 2013

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Your upcoming movie Heart of Faith - in a few words, what is it about?


The title sums it up pretty well. At its core Heart of Faith is a story about Faith. It is a Christian Drama that takes on tough themes such as bullying, trust, and betrayal. The story is set in a Christian boarding school, and explores how characters with Christian values face conflicts that are not as simple as black and white. The question I am posing is, how do Christian teens and young adults in today's world deal with the inner conflict between their beliefs and the choices made that do not always reflect those values.


Faith is one of the key elements of Heart of Faith - so what can you at all tell us about your personal faith, and would you call yourself a religious person?


I have always thought of myself as a spiritual person. Growing up I was raised Catholic. My sister and I both went to Catholic School when we were younger. Attending church and praying before bed were a part of my routine. The way I view religion and my own faith now as a young adult is something that has evolved with my own life experiences. I find comfort in religion, and it's through my own exploration of my religious beliefs that I found the story for Heart of Faith.


(Other) sources of inspiration when writing Heart of Faith - and was there a particular event in your life that made you write this?


I first started developing the ideas behind this story 3 years ago. Heart of Faith is really the end result of 3 separate stories I've worked on all combined into one. The first idea for Heart of Faith came to me when I was looking for an idea for a short film project for a class when I was in College. 


I was also inspired by the CW TV-series 7th Heaven. That was one of my favorite shows when I was in middle school and early high school. I liked that the show explored coming of age themes from a Christian perspective at a time in my life when I felt like I could relate to the characters and the situations they were in.


I wanted to create a story that could affect viewers in that way, and that could be taken seriously as a drama.


As far as I know, the script of Heart of Faith developed into what it is today for quite some time. So what can you tell us about the evolution of your project?


Yes. When I was in college my major was film and my minor was psychology. My favorite theory in psych was cognitive dissonance, which is the idea that as people our behavior and our beliefs are not always in agreement. When we do something that goes against what we believe we should do we have a need to rationalize or justify why we did it. I wanted to take that concept and explore it from a Christian perspective and ask, "How do people with real human imperfections deal with the challenge of trying to live a life like Jesus, and when they fail how do they cope with the dissonance". That is the theme that inspired Heart of Faith in its most basic form that tucked into my back pocket 3 years ago.

Since then I had 2 other completely separate script ideas I was developing. One of them was also faith based, and the other dealt with bullying and the accountability we feel when we see injustice and fail to act.

I had been writing and rewriting these three separate stories on and off for the last three years, and it wasn't until this past spring that I decided to tell them as one. When that happened the script exploded onto paper, and it felt like the story was telling itself.


As far as I know, Heart of Faith is going into production as early as come August - so how did that happen, and anything you can tell us about your key crew (producer, director, ...) yet?


We are still currently in pre-production, with filming set to begin in the fall. The film will be directed by Jack Skyyler [Jack Skyyler interview - click here], Joel Brook and Alex Zinzopoulos. I have worked with all three of them before on other projects and I love what each of them brings to the production. So I'm very excited to reunite this team.

The rest of the crew is still being discussed. Nothing else to officially announce yet in terms of crew, but I look forward to collaborating with some other talented filmmakers that I have worked with in the past.


How actively involved will you be in the shoot as writer/producer when it comes to creative decisions, and considering it's your story, how hands-off do you think you'll manage to remain?


The directors and I have talked a lot about the vision for this film, and about who the characters really are. I think we are all working towards the same goal, and have a clear sense of what the end result will be so I feel very comfortable leaving the actual directing in the hands of Jack, Alex an Joel. I will be involved on set, and overseeing the process throughout the production. However the script I wrote is really just the starting point. The film itself will be a collaboration.


Having been so far known more as an actor than a writer, will you join the cast of Heart of Faith? And anything you can tell us about the (rest of the) cast yet?


Very true. Acting has always been my first love, and I will be a part of the cast in some way. It's still to be determined where exactly I will fit in. Which role I play will mostly depend on the rest of our cast, and what other actors can bring to the different roles at the auditions. This is very much an ensemble cast, so I need to see all the other actors together before I have a clear picture of where to put myself. I have spoken with several talented actors who I think have a lot to offer this film, but nothing will be finalized until the audition process is complete. Auditions are scheduled to take place throughout the month of August.


Any idea when and where the movie will be released onto the general public (and I realize it might be waaay too early to ask)?


Still too soon to say for sure. We're looking at two very different routes we could go with distribution. That is still to be decided.


Based on your experiences with writing Heart of Faith so far - could you ever be tempted to write another movie? And other future projects you'd like to talk about?


Yes, and yes. I don't feel like I'm done telling the story of Heart of Faith. I've built the world of Heart of Faith and filled it with some very compelling characters, and I feel that there is a lot more to their story than what I could fit into one script. I plan to write sequels and keep going deeper and deeper into the lives of these characters. In many ways this story reminds me of a Christian Harry Potter. With the boarding school environment, and the fact that the students are all going through transitions and experiencing personal and spiritual growth as they approach adulthood, I see several stories that could very well turn into future scripts. As a writer I'm not going to force anything by trying to make a sequel just for the sake of making a sequel, but if the story is there then I'm going to tell it.


As mentioned, you are first and foremost an actor - so what got you into acting to begin with, and what can you tell us about your training as an actor?


Performance has been my passion since I was very young. As a kid I thought of acting as playing pretend, and I still like to think of it like that. I began making my own "movies" with my parent's video camera with friends in my backyard. At the time I didn't know how to pursue auditions, so I crated my own opportunity to act in front of a camera. In high school I was very involved with Theatre, and in College I began acting in short films and commercials. Acting became a bigger focus in my life after I graduate college, and since then I have held leading roles in 2 independent features, several short films, and supporting roles in other New England based film projects.


I've trained with some of Boston's top casting directors and coaches including Carolyn Pickman of CP Casting, and several of the coaches who teach at Boston Casting's acting school.


Can you still remember your first time in front of a camera and what was that experience like?


That's tough. I'm not sure I really can remember what the actual first experience was. I can say that I had my first on camera television experience working on a kid's show at the Catholic Television Network with Father Reed. Coincidently I started my on camera work with a faith-based TV program.

My first time on the set of a feature length film was when I worked on My Best Friend's Girl starring Dane Cook. I was playing a high school kid at a prom, and I filmed two very long days back to back. I can remember being really tired and hot, but at the same time realizing that acting was in fact what I wanted to do as a living. Once you get a taste of something real, and you know what you really want in life, you can never really be satisfied with anything else again. So having those first two experiences reaffirmed a lot for me.


What can you tell us about your filmwork so far?


Being a Boston-based actor most of the work I have done has taken place in and around Boston. I have also done some films in Connecticut. Since my work is project-based, my schedule is constantly changing. Most of the short films and features I have worked on have been drama, but I have done some comedies as well. My favorite film experience so far has been working on Night Aboard The Salem, which shot in Quincy last fall. It was a unique experience because the entire cast and crew lived on the set during the shoot, which was an authentic Battleship.

I have also done some stunt work as well. I have a background in Martial Arts an I specialize in extreme acrobatic flips and tricks, so I look for projects where I can utilize that skill.


You have also done quite a bit of theatre, right? So how does performing on stage compare to acting in front of a camera, and which do you actually prefer?


I love live performance, and it is hard to compare it to film. I have also done live martial arts performances and demonstrations for audiences over the years. I've had the opportunity to choreograph fight scenes, and perform them in front of Chuck Norris. That type of live energy is amazing. I will always enjoy live performance, but film is still my favorite. I love the things that film can do in terms of storytelling, and it is a powerful feeling to be a part if that.


How would you describe yourself as an actor? And how as a writer?


If you asked me this question two years ago my answers would be very different. To me film is life. As I live and grow as a person, I also evolve as an actor and a storyteller. As both an actor and a writer I like to draw from my own life experience. I don't need to draw from events, I draw from feelings. I draw from how an experience made me feel, and I translate that into something relevant for the character.


I'm not a method actor. I prefer to be relaxed and have fun on set regardless of the scene I'm shooting. If I can relax and let my guard down then I can really tap into a wide range of emotions and let the character feel them, rather than me the actor trying to force an emotional response.


As a writer I'm very methodical. I have to be in the right kind of setting in order to write. I need to be able to forget about everything else, and leave the world behind while I write. Because of this my favorite time to write is late at night or early in the morning. When I'm writing I cut myself off from everyone and everything else.


Actors, writers, filmmakers, whatever else who inspire you?


In general I am inspired by any actor or actress who can hold an audiences attention with their physical presence alone. A lot can be said for simply "being" in front of the camera. A skilled actor who knows their character through and through is capable of portraying them in any and all situations, even when the dialogue doesn't give them much to work with. Two of the actors I admire the most are Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio.

As a kid, my favorite film director was Tim Burton. I still really enjoy his films, but my new favorite director is Christopher Nolan. I love the different worlds that he has brought to life on camera.


Your favourite movies?


Inception. Hands down that is my number 1 favorite film to watch. I've always loved the theme of dreams in movies and TV, and Inception does a great job of exploring that. It also raises some great questions about how we define reality, and how our belief and perception can shape what we experience in life. All of these concepts relate back to topics discussed in some of my favorite psych classes at Suffolk University.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


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This is a very tough question. I can think of lots of films that I wouldn't want to watch a second time, but that I can still appreciate for what it was.

The only time I'm disappointed by a film is when I feel deceived because the trailer made me believe it would be one thing, and then the movie didn't live up to that. mI guess the biggest disappointment I've had at the movies was when I saw M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening... I don't think anything was really "happening" in that movie.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


Heart of Faith can be found on Facebook, Kickstarter, YouTube, and Twitter!


Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


For more information about auditions and the film itself email:


Thanks for the interview!


Thanks Mike!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD