‘Old Fashioned’ lead actor shares faith and motivation for new film

By Jerry Circelli


North Texas Catholic


The love story, “Old Fashioned” opens on Valentine’s weekend. (art courtesy Skoche Films)

As a former stand-up comic, Rik Swartzwelder knows that timing is, well, everything.

That has translated into his career as a producer, writer, director, and actor, and no better example is his latest film, “Old Fashioned.”

The redemptive, faith-based love story debuts in theaters on Valentine’s Day weekend, the same time as “Fifty Shades of Grey” — a dark, woman-meets-masochist offering from Hollywood.

“Old Fashioned” is a romantic drama starring Swartzwelder as Clay Walsh, a once-misguided college student who has made a conversion, through the help of God, and settled down to work at an antique shop. Often criticized for his newly adopted traditional theories on love and romance, he eventually meets up with Amber Hewson, played by Elizabeth Ann Roberts.

A free-spirited and restless young woman, Amber forges a relationship with Clay built on respect, which is a new dating experience for each of them.

This is a story that offers a glimpse on what courtship can and should be like.

The movie doesn’t preach. Instead, it takes a realistic approach, showing that no one is without sin. It also shows that sins can be forgiven and life can be better when people strive to avoid them.

“Fifty Shades of Grey,” on the other hand, is devoid of Christian values and is instead driven by a sadistic plot involving submission, bondage, and fantasy. You get the idea.

The decision to release the independent film, “Old Fashioned,” at the same time as “Fifty Shades of Grey” was not to encourage a standoff at the box office, Swartzwelder said. Nor was it intended to spark a boycott of that film.

“We’re not here to bash, or condemn, or judge,” Swartzwelder said, during a recent visit to the Diocese of Fort Worth Catholic Center to talk about the movie with the North Texas Catholic.

“It’s more about trying to broaden the conversation, to provide juxtaposition. I’m much more interested in talking about the world that ‘Old Fashioned’ opens up than cursing the darkness.”

Swartzwelder said he hopes people will have an entertaining night at the movies if they plan to see his film. In the process, he said, if people who have been hurt or feel unworthy after past relationships come away with hope, the film will be a success.

“I hope when they leave the film that there is a measure of healing, that they feel God’s love, and that it is not over for them. There is hope,” Swartzwelder said.

For those with less-than-virtuous views on dating, romance, and relationships, Swartzwelder said he hopes they will feel challenged by the film.

The filmmaker said he also wants to provide an alternative to the media’s often-misguided portrayal of courtship and love.

“If you’re basing what you’re going to do dating and sexually from television and music, you’re in real trouble today,” he said.

Though not a Catholic, Swartzwelder said he attends daily Mass at St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church in Burbank, California.

The filmmaker, like so many other people, said he is still growing in his faith. The first step, he said, came in college when a girlfriend gave him a Bible.

That very same Bible figures prominently in “Old Fashioned.”

“I used to make fun of Christians,” Swartzwelder said. “I thought it was a lot of hypocrisy, televangelists, and smoke and mirrors. But when I read the stories of Jesus, I began to change.

“I read through the New Testament about a dozen times over two years,” Swartzwelder said, “and that’s really how my heart was converted.”

Swartzwelder said the greatest impact came from Luke 23:34: Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Swartzwelder said that his life experiences and conversion eventually led him in the direction of the kinds of films he is making today. They center on re-examining values and developing strong moral character. He is currently working on a romantic comedy and a family Christmas movie. Swartzwelder said he has felt inspired and reinvigorated from feedback he is hearing from audiences around the country who have seen advance screenings of his latest work.

“I think ‘Old Fashioned’ is going to surprise a lot of people,” Swartzwelder said. “That film is not going to be what a lot of people are expecting. We’re going to some deep places, and it’s touching people.”

As a former stand-up comic, Rik Swartzwelder knows that timing is, well, everything.That has translated into his career as a producer, writer, director, and actor, and no better example is his latest film, “Old Fashioned.”