Casey Affleck, Chip Flaherty, and Cheryl Bedford are producing the film Death Row Chaplain based on Earl Smith's incredible life. The film project is in development, currently in the scriptwriting phase. The producers will share updates as the film moves from development to production.
Chip Flaherty, Producer
Here is the first of these updates - from Chip Flaherty - who helped bring many inspiring stories to life during his time at Walden Media.
“Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.” This quote evokes Earl's profound life and his powerful ministry. It also serves as our north star as we produce this film. In many ways, I see Earl as a modern-day William Wilberforce (as Walden depicted in the biopic Amazing Grace). As with Wilberforce, since his conversion Earl's faith has informed, motivated, and sustained every aspect of his life.
Like Wilberforce, Earl's calling is one of liberation. Upon getting shot in a drug deal gone wrong, Earl is called by God to share his faith with others, and motivated by the words of his father, “you are a rebel, but you are God’s rebel, and God is going to use you to His glory.” Ministering to the men of San Quentin, Earl liberates by teaching a faith that can transcend physical boundaries and transform even the hardest of hearts. Earl also ministers to the men of pro sports, teaching that same faith - here with the power to free them from the secular trappings of fame and glory so they can see their true selves.
Earl's story is for now. Earl's story demonstrates the power of Redemption. God can redeem all things, even our past bad choices. Only Earl, with his imperfect past, could have the impact, the authenticity, the hard-earned wisdom to do the job at San Quentin.
Earl's story demonstrates the power of Forgiveness and Reconciliation. Earl meets his would-be assassin in prison. What will he do? What would we do? Earl meeting his shooter is a pivotal moment in our film. It is a challenge to our balance on so many levels - reminiscent of Pope John Paul II meeting his assassin and forgiving. Could we do that? As people - as a society - we have to figure out how, because “the measure by which you measure shall be measured against you.”
We are a sacramental people. We need to see the actual to believe what can be possible. Earl's life demonstrates what is possible with faith. We hope - and have faith - that our film will have the same result. We look forward to sharing future updates as we journey toward our shared goal of bringing Earl’s amazing life story to the world.
Humbly - and with gratitude for the opportunity,
Producer, Death Row Chaplain