Interview: Brian Wells of ‘Secrets of the Mountain’

Posted on June 6, 2010 at 3:59 pm

One of the happiest surprises of the year on television so far is “Secrets of the Mountain,” an excellent movie for the whole family that premiered on April 16, 2010 on NBC. I interviewed the executive producer, Brian Wells, who talked about his commitment to making something that was both “great” and “good,” the films that inspired him, and his hope for making more films that families can enjoy together. For DVD giveaway info, see below.

Your movie inspired a lot of enthusiasm from audiences. How do you achieve that?

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It’s always exciting when something’s kind of birthed in your heart and then connects with other people. This movie, like all the other projects we’re working on, it comes from the heart, it’s not a bunch of creatives that say, “Oh, I think this would be interesting.” We start with sitting down with moms, sitting down with kids, sitting down with teens, understanding what motivates them, understanding the kind of challenges they’re facing with their families. Maybe that entertainment could even help. It was birthed in the heart of a father and has been by the same kind of people that watched the movie.

The person who came up with the original concept is Dante Amodeo, a father down in Jacksonville Florida, and he came up with the idea of the family dealing with some challenges and going on an adventure, and by going through the adventure they come to understand that when families go through bad times they are not supposed to run away from each other; they are supposed to run toward each other.

How do you bring that spirit to the screen?

This also came out of sitting down and talking to families around the country. We talked about it in terms of “great and good.” Every element of the story from the writing to the filming to the casting to the special effects had to be great and good. “Greatness” is how we think of entertainment — is it exciting? If it’s a comedy does the humor flow from the characters or is it just somebody slipping on a rug? If it’s a drama, do I care about these people? If it’s adventure, does it keep me on the edge of my seat? What’s the production value of the whole thing? It’s got to be great to engage us. But we can’t stop there. We all know that there’s a lot of entertainment out there that achieves its greatness of entertainment value by preying on what’s worst in the human condition. And there’s enough of those stories out there.

What was your goal in making this film?

We were looking for stories that achieve greatness by calling out what is best in us. And so at every point of the way, we asked ourselves, “Is this both great and good?” A lot of people settle for the idea that it can’t be both. But it can. Our constant drive at every point of development was to do both. As a father, my constant litmus test was: could I sit on a couch with my 11 year old daughter and my 14 year old son and my wife and have each of us enjoy it equally?

Was it difficult to get backing for this film?

it is challenging to get any movie made. But to try to say we’re setting the bar that a 40-something will want to watch this like a 10 year old. But we were fortunate to have a couple of sponsors, Wall-Mart and Proctor & Gamble that were behind it because they believe we need to see more content that the whole family can watch together. The challenge along the way was the execution, but all the details, everything, wardrobe, music, we had to get a team together where everyone believed in this great/good concept.

On the outside there’s a conception that a movie is made because of the singular vision of a director but while that is a really big part of it, there’s at least 100 people that make these things happen. If you can surround yourself with people who are talented and who believe in making great/good stories, it’s a lot easier to make.

We look for people who are great actors and for people who have voted with their talent to show they’re interested in the things we’re interested in. Paige Turco brought such nuance to her role as a mom, dealing the the tension of being a sole parent and provider, dealing with some pain from her past, she was outstanding. Barry Bostwick is the kind of guy as a kid I would want to hang out with. People who’ve watched it, in the industry and people who watched in their homes, everyone has a different favorite.

What are some of the movies that inspired you to become a film-maker?

The movies that have really moved me, I’m dating myself here, but I am a fan of the old Hitchcock movies, “North by Northwest.” The movie “Rain Man” with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise — the emotional journey that it took me on is amazing. My all-time favorite movie is “To Kill a Mockingbird.” If I could ever make a movie like that I would have fulfilled my purpose.

What are you working on next?

We won the night on April 16, meaning we got the most viewers of any show that night, so that should make it easier for us. We already have another movie coming up on July 16. It’s called “The Jensen Project” and it is a high-tech thriller about a secret society of geniuses. A mom and dad and son get sucked into this adventure. There will be more and we’re hoping some of these might get picked up as series as well.

Great news! I have FIVE DVDs to give away and there is a very special extra: it includes a bonus CD with eleven songs inspired by the film, some used on the soundtrack. The first five people to write to me at and tell me your favorite family movie will get the prize.

NOTE: Prizes provided by the studio; all opinions are my own.

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Behind the Scenes Contests and Giveaways Interview Television

Trailer: Morning Glory

Posted on June 6, 2010 at 8:00 am

A comedy with Diane Keaton, Harrison Ford, and Rachel McAdams? Oh, yes, please! “Morning Glory,” in theaters this fall, is the story of a harried morning talk show producer who brings in a once-great television journalist to improve ratings. Ford is a deft comic performer and he and Keaton should be great together. Can’t wait.

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Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Contest: When In Rome

Posted on June 5, 2010 at 12:00 pm


I have five copies of this romantic fantasy comedy starring Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Danny DeVito, and Jon Heder for my beloved readers. Bell plays Beth, a museum employee who is unlucky in love. To show her defiance, instead of tossing a coin in Rome’s fountain of love, she takes coins out, triggering a curse that makes the men who made those wishes fall madly in love with her. It’s a lot of fun with an outstanding cast and some real chemistry between the two lovebirds.

Send me an email at before midnight (eastern time) on June 15 with “When in Rome” in the subject line and tell me which city you think is the most romantic in the world. Winners will be chosen at random. Good luck!

NOTE: Prizes provided by the studio; all opinions are my own.

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Contests and Giveaways

Movie Mom Q&A

Posted on June 5, 2010 at 8:00 am

Thanks to everyone for these great questions!I am trying to remember the name of this movie but for the life of me I can’t. The basics are the boy was kidnapped on the way to school and at first they blamed the handyman because they found bloody underwear in his tool box but it wasn’t him. The cop would never give up and I believe it was a couple years later and he found him. I can see the last couple minutes of the movie. He is driving home with him and there ends up being a huge police escort and the mom is on the way home from the store and there is a crowd in front of her apartment building, when she realizes what is going on she drops her groceries and starts to run.I love that movie. “Without a Trace” with Kate Nelligan and Judd Hirsch.I once saw a trailer for a film a few years ago, I’m not sure how many years ago exactly, possibly 5, but I could be wrong. After seeing the trailer I remember that the film looked interesting and that I wanted to see it. It must have flown under my radar when it was released however, and by then I had forgotten what it was called. Here is what I remember from the trailer:The story was about a guy who rents an apartment, one above an old store-front I think. After moving in, he discovers that the building is haunted by the ghost of the girl who used to live there. At first the ghost girl tries to haunt him and scare him out of the apartment, but when the two get to know each other, romance develops between them. Together they try to solve the mystery of how she was murdered. I believe the film was a romantic comedy with a light-hearted take on the afterlife. That’s all I can remember, I know it’s not much to go on, and I can’t even guarantee that any of what I’ve said is correct.Perhaps I am going crazy and have imagined this entire film, if so, someone should pitch it to a studio in better words than I can put together. I think it would be a really interesting film. Kind of like a light-hearted version of Patrick Swayze’s Ghost only with a romance between the ghost and the psychic instead.I hope you can help me, thank you very much regardless!You’re not crazy! It’s “Just Like Heaven” with Reese Witherspoon. Hiya, I’ve seen a Russian movie on an Ethihad flight this January. It was about the – fictive – Russian soccer national team and was pretty funny, though it had a quite absurd humor. Main characters were the team’s coach and his personal assistant. The coach’s cleaning woman locks herself in one scene up in his office and whilst she was “freed”, a locker almost stroke the coach’s assistant to death. There was also a very superstitious team assistant who always spit in the best player’s shoes. The film seemed quite modern, probably 2000 and onwards. I’d be so glad if you could help me to identify this movie! Thanks, ChristopherHi, Chris! That movie is “Igra” (“The Game”) by Aleksandr Rogozhkin (2008)I only saw part one of this two part made for TV movie but the story so far is. Set in early 20th century in Arab desert. English woman/girl rides into desert gets taken by desert people who sell her to kings harem. In the mean time English soldier with desert blood goes looking for her and finds she is in kings harem and only way to get in is to become a Enoch. He gets a fake job done and enters into the kings harem. Meanwhile she is picked out by king for a night and she is made ready by the other ladies all decked out in jewels and outfits and makeup etc but the last shot is of her being carried in a chair up high in a demure nightie and hair down and looking all virginal. As the shot pans by her you see him in the guard of honor? as a Enoch. so ends part one. hope you can help as I would love to find the movie and see the second part. Thanks.I believe you are thinking of a 1986 two-part miniseries called “Harem.” It stars Nancy Travis. I hope that is it!The plot: Mother struggling to support young daughter; over the years the mother becomes very successful in the restaurant business; enter a sleazy love interest who also is romantically involved with the grown, selfish daughter. I know it is NOT “Imitation of Life.” Any thoughts?That’s “Mildred Pierce” with Joan Crawford’s Oscar-winning performance. The movie is about time travelers who travel back in time to witness disasters. They are found out by a man and his daughter who attempt to stop the disaster from happening, or at least limit the number of people who die in the disaster. Don’t remember who was in it. Thanks.That is “Grand Tour: Disaster in Time” with Jeff Daniels.Can you please tell me the name of the Rom-Com….I just remember its plot…there was a doctor (I think dentist) who is supposed to have some lucky charm…so every girl with whom he sleeps gets the man of her life…he also had a friend who was a plastic surgeon…I have seen that movie but today when i was telling my friend about it i was am not able to recall it…Thanks.That movie is “Good Luck Chuck” with Dane Cook and Jessica Alba.OK so there’s this movie i believe its from the 80’s. It’s about a young couple who get stranded on an island and I think that there were Indians on that island but can’t remember. Years go by and they never get rescued and they have a child. Time flies by again and the boy (I think it was a boy) is about 4 yrs old and eats some kind of poisonous type of fruit and dies on their small boat they were building to leave the island. In the end they both (parents) eat the fruits too and they all die. I thought it was called “Blue Moon” but can’t seem to find it. Please help.That is “The Blue Lagoon” with Brooke Shields.I’m trying to find out the movie title where popular detectives are being killed off. Kojak (Telly Savalas) is killed with a poison lollipop. McCloud and his horse are covered in cement. Columbo (Peter Falk) is in it too. Thanks.I believe you are thinking of “Murder Can Hurt You,” a parody of all of the television detectives of the 1970’s. I am looking for a movie that came on tv years ago. the movies was about some scientists shrunk themselves and then took a journey inside the human body. I hope that you can find it what is the title and what year.That movie is “Fantastic Voyage” (1966).This was a movie about 4 children who lose their mother and they try to hide it from the system hoping to keep their family together. The oldest daughter has an attraction to a well-to-do bachelor. He eventually gets sick and the 2nd daughter treats him with natural medicine by putting him in the bath-tub and smothering him with steaming onions. Then the older daughter marries this bachelor who is way older then her. I saw this movie in the late 60’s I believe.That is “Where the Lilies Bloom,” based on the classic YA novel.About a year ago, movie, on TV. A guy had a couple million dollars in a European bank. Another man, a look-alike, plotted to go to the bank in person and have the money transferred to his account. To get the information he needed to be a credible impostor, he hired a beautiful woman to hustle man one and find out as much personal ID information as she could.They fell in love, yet she followed through begrudgingly. Man one, deeply in love, was demolished at finding of her involvement, and they separated sadly. Of her own love for him, she ended up killing the impostor she was hired for. In the final scene, a most-moving scene, they met in an open city square and tenuously approached, and were reunited.I believe you are thinking of “Deception” with Hugh Jackman and Ewan MacGregor.I’m trying to get the name of an old black and white movie of Barbara Stanwyck. I thought it was called ” A Man of Her Own” Anyway she is a young woman, pregnant , unmarried, on a train. She goes into the bathroom and meets another young pregnant woman who is married and also pregnant, who is traveling to meet her in-laws for the first time. This woman takes off her ring to wash her hands. Barbara asks if she can try it on.There is a train wreck. A lot of people are killed. Barbara wakes up in an mansion,of the married woman’s husband’s family and they mistake her for their new daughter-in-law.She tries to tell them the truth…I hope you can help me find this good old movie. Thanks, CherylYou almost had it right! It’s “No Man of Her Own.” I love that movie. But avoid the awful remake called “Mrs. Winterbourne” with Shirley MacLaine and Rikki Lake!What is the name of the movie about a young boy whose father is in the Navy. He and his mother move, I think to New Mexico. Boy meets tom boy girl. Getting to know each other they dare to touch a dead bloated cow. Girl goes first runs up and touches the cow and runs back. Boy runs up and trips and runs head first into the stomach of this bloated cow. Would appreciate any help. Thank you.That’s “Red Sky at Morning” with Richard Thomas — great movie and great book.My sister told me about a film set in France – she thinks it only has one name. It is about a cleaning lady who paints beautiful pictures at home. Her employer unexpectedly visits her and sees the paintings and is surprised when she tells him she is the artist.That is “Seraphine.” It is based on a true story.Two men kidnap a little girl and then they come to care for her. There is a song in the movie, “When Sarah Smiles.”The movie is “Savannah Smiles” and the song is “When Savannah Smiles.” I remember watching a movie with my dad when i was younger. It was an old comedy about a sportswriter that wrote a book about fishing and camping etc. He did not really know how to do any of these things and when he was forced to go on a trip with a girl..he had to read his own book to try and learn how to fish etc. I remember him trying to cast the line at “10” and release at “2.” What is the name of this movie?I love that movie! “Man’s Favorite Sport?” with Rock Hudson and Paula Prentiss. Hi, I’m looking for a movie. I don’t remember the name but it was about a school with arrogant and disrespectful students like they discriminate others.The black side and the white side.Then there come a teacher who wants to help them but she lost her husband because of that but help these students. I don’t remember the name but I think it was a true story called written or it had something about written in it. Please help me, thanks.That is “Freedom Writers” with Hillary Swank.When I was a kid, I saw a movie about a teenage white boy and a teenage black girl who were both going to expensive private schools. I believe he went to an all boys school and she went to an all girls school but the schools were close together. She was from another country which was having a lot of political problems at the time and her father was like the president, I think. They sent her to Australia for education and safety. Anyway, the two fell in love and lost their virginity to each other. They were both kind of outcasts from their peers. It ended with her having to go back to her country where it showed a mob of irate people attacking the car she was in. The boy, who had been sending her letters, never heard from her again. The movie was made in the 80’s but set in or around the 50’s. Do you know the name of it? Thank you for your time.That is Flirting, a great film, with Thandie Newton, Noah Taylor, and an early appearance by Nicole Kidman as the girl’s schoolmate.

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Beliefnet Channel on Hulu

Posted on June 3, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Be sure to check out Beliefnet’s channel on Hulu. Highlights include “The End of the Spear,” based on the true story of the widows of missionaries killed by one of the most brutal tribes in the world, who chose forgiveness, bringing their children to become a part of the community that had murdered their husbands and fathers. I interviewed Steve Saint, the son of one of the men who was killed, who grew up with the tribe, and he spoke eloquently about forgiveness and what inspires him.

Forgiveness obviously looms large in the story of Saint’s life and is a subject he has thought about at length. To befriend his father’s killer, he said he didn’t necessarily need to understand what happened or why.

“It might be helpful, but I’m a fan of one particular book and in that book, God sent his Son down not when we were perfect but when we were not,” Saint said. “God did not do it because we were ready or because we asked for him, but because we needed him.”

Beliefnet’s other sections include One Year, about snowboarding, and Miss HIV, about three different battles against prejudice, including an extraordinary African beauty competition for woman with HIV.

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