I would like to welcome Kris Courtney to the BTS Entertainment Corner, first a short bio on this amazing person.
American Artist and Author Kris Courtney:
Drawn to benevolence and disability awareness by his personal experience, an artist in spirit and gift, Courtney is dedicated to service and participation beyond disabilities. His canvas derives from images that move him to allow freedom of spirit in both paint and words. Kris has also penned a best selling novel about his family history (Norma Jean’s Sun) which led to the award winning screenplay “Norma’s Sun”, which is now being made into a full-length, leading lady narrative feature film!!
1) Kris, I guess we should start from the beginning, your beginning, that is. I know there’s a lot to cover, but give the readers a quick glimpse of your childhood and early life.
Well, first thank you for having me on Brian, very grateful! When asked about my books and the artistry that I create, people are made aware of my life by the path I have taken and the gifts of both Blessings & Burden. Everyone has life experiences and although many have had similar to mine, I felt the draw to write about them.
I was born with multiple amputations, birth defects and deformities and was placed in restrictive devices, casts and over 20 surgeries by age 10. As a fetus with severe formation and ability limitations, my family took on a complex series of hurdles to give me the option of life and being able to walk and survive! And as far back as I can recall, Norma was a powerful and graceful figure that stood firm on both protecting me and pushing the limits of what I was capable. She was an Iconic Lady of Inspiration!
2) You have stated on your websites that you began writing “Norma Jean’s Sun” many, many years ago. What were those first words and how did you keep up with that original idea? How long did it take to get back to completing the story?
Yes Brian, I wrote the first page at age 12. I always knew watching the events around my life; the places we traveled, the people who entered and exited all had lasting impressions! Without revealing the exact documents, I can tell you that my childhood crafted an idea of resentment against life itself. Not that I was feeling sorry for myself, that has never been the case and in fact most times in my affairs, I always tempt to place others first if possible. But those first words were about anger to a world of normal that forgot to include me. I was a mistake, God made a mistake and I could prove it in a mirror every day! So I suppose my writing became almost therapeutic as a means of release.
From the perspective of my mother Norma, by this time in life the surgeries had become few and the language used reflected a summary of all that could be done. It’s as good as It’s going to get. And “It” became a personal reference as a result of even to this day, when people meet me in person, they have no knowledge of the impact they present when they stare at my hands and then ask “What happened to you” or they compare themselves by an accident or other person they know with amputations. Ultimately as a child, and now, my answer results to the same conclusion “That is just the way God wanted ‘It’ to be” So thus “It” was a canned answer and the conflict inside of How God wanted it to be, a mistake or reason…
3) When and where did your passion as an artist began? Was this a gift of expression, escape, or a little of both?
Exactly, it gave me a path of escape that later turned into expression. Reality was hard man, it sucked at times and after weeks and months in a hospital every year of my life up to age 10, I had to find a way out! I mentioned a minute ago about the “It” factor and I say that with jest because it’s like the Beautiful Blond that has to tell people “Look Up Here, My Eyes are Up Here.” So when I created artistic images, whether they had content or not – people looked at the art rather than me. But later as a young man after a couple of events and parents divorce, I became an angry young man; the art was no longer enough. And we all know about the kids with disabilities on TV – What happened to them, where are they now 50 years later? Who is helping them, how do they live a quality life?
Escape had always been a part of my thoughts until I was given a gift of wisdom, change and discovery at age 24. And that escape option was only limited by the available means. It did not matter if it was alcohol, drugs, sex, or suicide, my desire to stay here was limited at best. So from the age of about 14 and on, all I wanted was oblivion to escape reality. I was the crippled kid on the other side of the pool fence, and unlike the fairy tale of Hollywood Forrest Gump, my braces never fell off. SO, all I wanted to do was escape. If only you knew how the word Cripple hurts.
4) Let’s cover a little about the upcoming film Norma’s Sun. I must say it was quite a submission and audition process, (I play “Uncle Fred” in the film, thanks Kris). I understood why once I watched the videos you had asked us to watch. The one that stood out to me was “Take God out of it”. Tell the readers as much as you would like to share about this process and the reason for the above mentioned video.
Well Brian, the audition reel you sent is what secured the role – the gratitude is all mine!
The screenplay Norma’s Sun is the adaptation of “Norma Jean’s Sun” that I authored, my first book we spoke of that spans the decades from the 1930s up to current date. I self-published the book finally in 2009 with the full intent to move it into a film. I had about 50 pages of scratch from all the years assembled. I sent the manuscript off to a couple publishers wondering, but what I have discovered is the industry is full of pitfalls and less than honest organizations and plagiarizers’ that will steal your work! So as an artist, I closed my Ohio art gallery in Oxford, Ohio, with the full intention to travel the US for the next 5 years to promote and discover artistry while also learning literature knowledge to do exactly that!
What you may have noticed by now, people often will underestimate my ability. And it was that term along the lines of “It” as a child that led to the title of my children’s book “It’s OK Scooter™” that I published as well in Sarasota, Florida, in 2015. But time is now 2011 and I traveled to Santa Fe New, Mexico. I had the honor of meeting many talented people and created artistry in my studio as well as hung a few paintings on Canyon Road. I also had a painting called “Santa Fe, Over Easy” that was featured in the Pantry Restaurant on Cerillos. After a year plus, I traveled to Artistic Hot Spot Paducah, Kentucky, where I had been previously to open my third art gallery in 2013. I would journey along and after the publishing of Scooter, I found myself in Georgia where I slowed down and focused upon the development of the script. It would be here, that Ability Films, llc. would come to life.
In the fall of 2018 I learned that Norma’s Sun was selected for the International UTAH Film Festival for Best Feature Screenplay in Provo, Utah, in 2019 and I would later attend to be awarded for the 10th script award recognition and what has led to the development you see today. There was a previous crowd sourcing for fees and monies to assist with the ongoing efforts that now place us where we are aggressively seeking Executive Funding and Equity Partnerships for Production that is scheduled for this fall and release in 2020. We have $10,000 Associate Producer credits in place as well, ROI Opportunity for Executive at $100,000, and your audience can read more information at our website Norma sun.com. Every little bit helps and we need Champions who can make a Difference to Change Lives!
So let me answer the question about the “Take God Out of It.” I am not able to ignore that today, God Did NOT make a Mistake! And although I have had three to four Executive and Hollywood conversations that specifically have said to me “Take God out of it and we will look at it” – I will not ignore the truth, the sacrifice and path of all the matriarchs and patriarchs that have paved the way for millions of Normas and individuals similar to my own experience. And perhaps one other note to make; People say they want a good story to film. But all we see on screen is make-believe, cartoons, sex, hate speech, racial battles, and content that is ONLY based upon economic reward. I challenge the film industry to accomplish both – Honestly with Integrity!
5) You have assembled an amazing cast and crew for this film, we’ll leave links below so people can check out these talented folks. What goes through your mind as you see this project come to life? What have you sacrificed in order to see this through?
Yes, I believe the talent and crew of not only yourself but those on this project have truly been a blessing: Michael Givens our Director, Line Producer Brandon Riley, DP Anthony Gutierrez, and Sound Engineer Oscar Award Nominee Jason Canovas; and the cast – OMG so grateful for Maria Olsen—a legend in the Horror Film community, Danny Winn, Carol Damgen, and the power of Jeremy John Wells and the graceful Rachel Alig. The list goes on and the power of our support cast includes UK Actress Jenna Goodwinn and powerhouse youth Actors Hunter Fischer as well as Lacey Caroline. I see a family. And as a note, we have two key featured roles that we are looking to attach “named talent” for additional market value for the production of the film and the overall “cause-based marketing” and distribution. And then there is our Original Soundtrack Musicians that include Emmy Talent Chris Chickering and the ever so brilliant EG Kight.
And here is the thing Brian, I INSISTED that everyone who wants to submit for this project, must read and understand the source material first! When I presented this to Jason Canovas, his answer was so strong when he said, “You had me at cancer.” Ultimately, a percentage of the proceeds and benefits from this film will be allocated into a 501c3 for Advocacy of the Arts and endorsing those charities of colon cancer, St. Judes and the Riley Children’s Hospital, along with the Ruth Lyons Foundation. All of which either touched my life directly or in some capacity, improved the quality of my family’s life. It has always been about the God Thing!!
6) I’m honored to be a part of this film and would like for you to pass along any advice to all the folks out there who face obstacles in their life, be they physical, mental, financial, spiritual, etc. What kept and continues to keep you going?
The first thing I would say is Feel It – Feel It All. And then after those 5 minutes are over, Grab Your Crutch, Leg Brace, Walker, Checkbook or the Mental and Emotional Support Tools and Put God First !! And I am hard pressed at times to do that myself. But unless you understand the level of pain that we do, we of the failed and less than and those who are on the Inside, you will not understand how hard it is to get out of bed and put the focus together that allows a person to recover from a hopeless state of mind and body! Walk Humbly under his Grace and be of Service to another that may give witness to his Power of Healing Strength, Forgiveness and Gift of Hope, Love and Peace.
And for those who may be challenged still by the term God or angry; If you don’t believe in God, why are you pissed at Him? If you have never been in total darkness, you cannot identify the light. Many, if not all human beings are familiar with shadow. But only a few will ever walk from total absence to Glory.
Brian, none of this has anything to do with religion as many will be quick to label. I am a Blessed Man who has had a moment of clarity to share my story, despite many who have or will plagiarize similar tales. But until you live it from the inside out, it is nothing more than imitation. And I suppose as a Fine Art Artist, I hope that will become a great compliment to my efforts. It is that, the recognition of the core value to be a story of inspiration that keeps me moving forward. I realize this is an Industry of pitfalls, but I also believe in you and all those who may read this article or my books. Who may view my artistry and learn of the story and find a mutual thread of being human that we share. I believe in Faith! This is a story of family history and choices, imposing consequences and the people who survive with grace and unparalleled ability! A dramatic journey of secrets, the carrier unknown and the burden imposed. In this film, Norma will stride through the illumination of what is possible and the shadow of reality to raise a child with special needs, all while searching for her own true love.
Never in our silent moments of illusion do we sense the dark parallel that lives beside us. Nor do we suspect the carrier.
Thank you Brian, this has been a pleasure to speak with you and share my experience.
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