Ron Hall brought a Jackson Convention Complex audience to tears Tuesday as he recalled meeting Denver Moore.
The best-selling author, screenwriter and film producer explained to the hundreds gathered for the Make a Difference Lunch, presented by the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson, how his encounter with the homeless man changed his life and inspired his first book, Same Kind of Different As Me, a story of hope, forgiveness and redemption.
The movie adaptation will be released in theaters Oct. 20 by Paramount Pictures and Purflix Entertainment.
“Our story really is about black and white, wealth and poverty,” Hall said. “But our story gives hope to a nation of how we can all come together.”
“Though he was poor and though he was homeless, he saved me.”
In Same Kind of Different As Me, Hall (portrayed by Greg Kinnear) is an international art dealer living in Dallas, but his home life is not nearly as fulfilling as his professional one. His marriage and his relationship with his estranged alcoholic father (Jon Voight) are falling apart. When his wife, Debbie (Renée Zellweger), discovers his infidelity, she digs deep to forgive him – on the condition that he join her in volunteering at a local homeless shelter in order to put some shared purpose back in their marriage.
The film, which was shot in Mississippi, was one of the last multi-million-dollar budget films to take advantage of all three rebates offered by the Mississippi Motion Picture Incentive Program.
“We came and sat down with the governor of Mississippi and he offered us a deal we couldn’t refuse,” said Hall.
The non-resident payroll portion of the incentive program, which offered a 25 percent cash rebate on payroll paid to cast and crew members who were not Mississippi residents, expired on July 1 and was not extended by the Legislature this year. The Department of Revenue will not issue any rebates for non-resident productions submitted after June 30.
During location scouting for the film, Hall’s team discovered the Central United Methodist Church community center on Farish Street in Jackson, which had been vacant for years.
The Rev. David McCoy was reluctant when Hall inquired about remodeling the community center for the film because so many others before Hall had proposed rehabbing the center.
“After 28 years of empty white people’s promises to make that place a better place, they decided to trust in God and not those professing him. And they preferred cash,” Hall said, drawing laughs from the audience.
Hall raised $20 million to remodel and reopen the mission center for the homeless in the community.
In the film, as Ron Hall struggles to find the same joy that his wife experiences in helping the less fortunate, the couple meets Denver Moore (Djimon Hounsou), a homeless man served by the shelter. Moore’s tough exterior, built over decades of accumulated injustice, masks a gentle heart. Motivated by a dream, Debbie Hall pushes Ron to become friends with Moore, convinced they have what it takes to discover a life-changing friendship and ultimately heal each other’s wounds. But just as her plan begins to bear real fruit, tragedy strikes.
“We wanted to create a film that would not only entertain the people sitting there, but also let them leave profoundly changed,” said Hall.
Proceeds from Tuesday’s Make a Difference Lunch will benefit Stewpot Community Services, the Gateway Rescue Mission and the Everybody Can Help Somebody Foundation in order to better serve homeless communities across the city, state and nation.