Daren Streblow and Thor Ramsey
Daren: Joining me this week is my long-time friend, host of the Bananas television program, seen on many of the Thou Shalt Laugh series and not a part of a brand new that’s coming out, I’m very excited to have him on. Thor Ramsey, welcome back to the show sir, how are you?
Thor: I’m good Daren, It’s always a pleasure to chat with you my friend.
Daren: Yeah? What makes it pleasant chatting with me? I want to know because my wife doesn’t always feel that way so I’m just curious.
Thor: I think it’s just because she takes Minnesotans for granted then, because you’re nice, fine, friendly, and kind people over there. It’s the Minnesota friendship which I was taught the last time I was there, in fact I was there recently, and anyone will give you directions, if not to there home.
Daren: There’s a limit to our friendliness.
Thor: It’s discerning friendship that’s what it is.
Daren: It doesn’t go much deeper than self-righteousness, but it’s there, and it’s kind of pleasant if you stay on that side. You just gotta know what side to stay on. You’re a mid-westerner originally, Nebraska right, and then you moved to L.A I believe a long time ago.
Thor: L.A is very much more impressive than saying “Canyon Lake, California” Where most people are like “Where is that?” Lets just say Los Angeles. When those lights are shinning it looks like the spotlights looking for prisoners but they’re really looking for stars, we live right there, we live right under that light that’s shinning to highlight George Clooney’s face.
Daren: Do you ever run into people out there, like at the grocery store and go “That’s a famous person”
Thor: You do actually, to be honest.
Daren: And that’s why you live there right, because you worship those people.
Thor: Exactly, you wanna go to a public men’s room and go “Look who I’m standing next to, amazing”
Daren: You are no “Respecter of Persons” You love everybody.
Thor: We went to a theatre and we brought our daughter. Disney has these premiers in a theatre next to Grauman’s, It’s a famous movie theatre but they do these big production shows before the movie itself comes out, and I was going to the restroom and there was a famous person right next to me. You kind of joke about it, you say “There he is”
Daren: Did you say hi to Leland or did you wait till later?
Thor: No that was a Canadian premier of the twentieth episode of the Trailer Park Boys.
Daren: But speaking of famous, speaking of you, this movie, Youth Group movie, tell me all about it, do you call it Youth Group Movie or Youth Group, what’s the title now?
Thor: It’s called Youth Group, and it’s a movie. You can call it Youth Group The Movie and that way we will be the definitive movie about youth groups forever.
Daren: Well, to distinguish you among the many thousands of movies about youth groups is pretty pioneering, a look at youth groups from your prospective, and I understand you wrote it.
Thor: I did, I wrote this about eight years ago, I wrote a script called Youth Group, it’s a comedy about a youth pastor in crisis. What I started doing since I wrote the script I thought “Let me get together, let me network with other people who want to make films. So I started networking with a group of people, I mean it’s Los Angeles, everyone has a camera, you wanna make a film then you just need to meet up with your Starbucks barista and they’re in your crew! Once they help you with your film then you’ll help them with their film. Long story short, we made these short films, there’s a thing out here called the 168 Film Festival, it’s a Christian based film festival where you have a week to write, shoot, and edit a ten-minute movie. I think we made about six or seven of those together, the director of Youth Group Christopher Shaw, him and I had worked on these short films together, so we got a crew together for one day and everyone basically works for free, they were really working for granola bars and one Subway sandwich that everyone shared. So we shot a trailer, we took some scenes and we shot two minutes of a trailer that you can see online. Now, the movie didn’t exist yet, but we shot the trailer because a lot of times when you’re pitching a movie to people it’s better to show them.
Daren: When you were shooting this, did you actually plan on making a movie or was it a kind of a “Make em’ laugh with the trailer kind of thing” And it grew out of that?
Thor: No, we wanted to make the movie, so we shot the trailer to try to get investors, it’s an industry, it’s a business so even if you want to do it for what ever reason you want to make your movie for, and we were just trying to make a funny movie set in the Christian evangelical world, that was our goal.
Daren: Kind of an un-explored world, wouldn’t you say?
Thor: I think so, and even when they have explored it they’ve explored it from and outsiders’ perspective and they always get it wrong, like they are apart of this world and we love these people, we’re not making fun of these people. There’s tenderness in all the comedy and that’s were you want to pour the comedy and the laughter. So this was about eight years ago, I go from stand up comedy which I started in 1987 and I still do comedy events but long story short I was a part of a church plant and this was around the time I was working on the script. I was a part of a church plant, I was not the lead pastor but I was just one of the elders. We moved to the city Redlands with the lead pastor to help plant the church and that church is running strong now. I started preaching once a month basically and there’s this thing, like, if you’re not doing what God calls you to do you’re just not gonna find it fulfilling.
So, for me, preaching started taking up my desire instead of stand up. I still do stand up… and I’m still hilarious! (sarcastic humble brag). But, as I started preaching nearly every Sunday, it made it impossible to travel around and do stand up on Saturday nights.
To make a long story short, the buddy of mine who put together the trailer together – Christopher Shaw – was a social media madman! I thought he was overdoing it, but it turned out that Chris’ tweets caught the eye of Stephen Baldwin!
After seeing our trailer, Stephen asked for a couple meetings with us, which was absolutely surreal! We were in the middle of Los Angeles, on the rooftop café at a quaint little L.A. hotel, meeting with Stephen Baldwin who had just come from a meeting with Mel Gibson about one of his projects, and in the middle of it, Stephen’s daughter walked up to us with her friends who happened to have acted on Hannah Montana (which was one of my daughter’s favorite shows), and they wanted to talk to Stephen real quick before jaunting over to Will Smith’s house to hang out with Will’s son.
The sensation was the same as if someone were to ask you, “Did you just see that kangaroo hopping down the street on a pogo stick bouncing a basketball on its head?”
I don’t believe that I just witnessed that… but yeah, I think I actually did just see that!
That’s what our Stephen Baldwin meeting was like.
But, for Stephen and his family, this was simply everyday life.
Anyway, Stephen and his manager loved our script. It was the comedy they had been looking for. So they shopped it around. They shopped it around for three years!
In those three years, I transitioned to preaching every week. Stand up comedy was pretty much in my rear view mirror (albeit sometimes just in the back seat). Nonetheless, my identity of being a “famous” stand up comedian within the Christian sub-culture of America was a thing of the past. My own popularity and success wasn’t a concern of mine at all anymore.
In fact, I remember standing in my kitchen and praying, “God, only have this movie made if it brings glory to you. Not me.”
What’s incredible is that years before that moment, I would have hung my entire career and identity on that one script. But, God had molded me and matured me away from that.
And shortly after that, we received a phone call saying that the film was fully funded!
We shot it last July, and it was such an incredible experience. Yet, no one ever really realizes what all it takes to get a movie made until they are part of it. (sometimes even when they are a part of it).
Seriously, just getting a movie completed is a miracle, itself!
But, by God’s grace, it’s completed and now we are in the process of working out distribution.
Daren: Youth Group, THE MOVIE! You can follow along with the film’s progress and see Thor’s teaser trailer on Youth Group’s Facebook page.