PRODUCTION HISTORY: Birth of The Child King
It is a bittersweet irony that The Child King, an inspirational tale of love and redemption, was born in the midst of a famously tragic event in American history.
In 1993, Jeff Kerr was a federal agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) assigned to the siege of David Koresh's Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas- a siege that would end in a horrific loss of life.
On the day of his departure for Waco, Jeff had a chance encounter at the Federal Building in Boston, Massachusetts with a fellow agent who had brought along his three year-old son for a visit. The boy was captivating, energetic, full of affection… he also had Down syndrome.
In the following weeks during the long siege at Waco, Jeff found free time to begin developing an idea about two brothers traveling to the North Pole to find Santa Claus. Recalls Jeff, "The Child King was written during off-duty time and while sitting in one of the Jeeps surrounding the Branch Davidian compound. Our Jeep was stationed way out in the dark countryside, the middle of nowhere, with nothing but cows and bulls for company. There were two agents assigned per Jeep and we alternated taking hour-long breaks. During my off-time I would scribble The Child King under a flashlight."
The story he
scribbled needed a hero. Inspired by his earlier meeting with a certain precocious
young man in Boston, Jeff made his hero a teenager with Down syndrome.
Twelve years later he would team with brother Frank, a longtime filmmaker, to finally realize the feature motion picture, The Child King.
PRODUCTION HISTORY: Making The Child King
Before embarking on their feature film, the producer's first priority was finding a teenaged boy with Down syndrome who could handle the lead role of Jeremy West, the brother who takes his younger sibling on a quest to find Santa Claus at the North Pole.
The network of families that have children with Down syndrome is tightly knit, and producer Jeff Kerr was eventually introduced to the Johnson family of Scituate, Massachusetts, whose sixteen year-old son, Peter, was eager to accept the acting challenge.
After auditioning for Jeff's brother, film director Frank Kerr, Peter had the part. It is of interest to note that, in cinema history, only a handful of actors with Down syndrome have successfully tackled leading roles in feature films. Thanks to his starring turn in The Child King, Peter Johnson has now joined that exclusive club.
To play the part of Jarret, Jeremy's younger brother, the producers selected Will Kellem, the energetic eight year-old son of a childhood friend. Like Peter, Will had no acting experience, but he possessed the most important quality any good actor requires-the ability to "be himself" before the camera.
Rounding out the supporting cast of The Child King was a host of talented New England actors, sports celebrities and one Boston-based comic legend, Lenny Clarke (Uncle Teddy on Fox Network's dramatic series "Rescue Me").
Filmed over the course of one summer, The Child King benefited, in no small measure, from the generous contributions of numerous individuals and organizations in the Boston area.
The feature includes a soundtrack of beloved holiday songs performed by some of America's best-known recording artists, including Martina McBride, Randy Travis, Aaron Neville, Willie Nelson, Brian Setzer, Jessica Simpson and Vince Gill.
SELECTED CAST BIOS
Though Peter has Down syndrome, he likes to make it clear to everyone that he really has Up syndrome. Peter Johnson was a high school junior living in Scituate, Massachusetts when he tackled the challenging lead role of Jeremy in The Child King. It wasn't long before Peter had joined a very select group of lead actors with Down syndrome in feature motion pictures.
Today Peter attends a vocational program in Scituate that provides him with training for future occupational opportunities. Not only is Peter an extraordinary individual as both a diligent student and athletic member of the Special Olympics; Peter has also found a new Passion through acting. Now more than ever Peter is able to show the world his capabilities both on and off screen. Perhaps the film The Child King is so magical because the main character and the boy who portrays him are in fact very alike in their life missions. Both Peter and his character Jeremy are incredible young men who have set out on a journey to prove that overcoming adversities is no big feat, while knocking the doubters of the cognitively disabled off their feet.
Will is a student at Plymouth River Elementary in Hingham, Massachusetts. He lives in Hingham with his mom, dad, older brother Matthew, and dog Scout.
The Child King was Will's first formal acting role. He enjoys all sports, especially football, basketball, and lacrosse.
Paul Blumenfeld was a latecomer to the acting profession, launching his career just after his fortieth birthday. Since then he has appeared in several local and national television commercials as well as independent feature films including, The Legend of Lucy Keyes (Moody Street Pictures) and Divine Intervention (Cheswick Brothers). Paul has also had appearances on ABC's "All My Children", the pilot for the CBS drama "Numbers", and The Farrelly Brother's "Fever Pitch".
Paul lives in Arlington, Massachusetts with his wife and two children, Sam and Charlotte.
Detective Sarah Reilly
Amanda Good Hennessey is an actor, playwright and acting teacher in the Greater Boston area. Recent projects include Mr. Marmalade, The Kentucky Cycle, The Women with SpeakEasy Stage Company (winner of 5 IRNE awards including Best Ensemble, Best Production), and Opening Night Jitters (48-Hour Film Project (2006) - awarded Best Acting, Best Use of Genre, Best Editing and was voted Audience Favorite). She has also appeared in commercials and industrials and has done numerous voice-overs.
Additionally, Amanda is a playwright and Co-Artistic Director of Essayons Theatre Company, which creates all of its own works. She is also a private acting coach and teaches acting at Boston University, the Huntington Theatre Company and Emerson College.
Amanda received her MFA in acting from the Actors Studio Drama School.
Patrick English is a long time character actor in the Boston area. He has appeared in numerous projects including features and short subjects. Patrick had a long-running stint as King Richard in the annual "King Richard's Faire", a medieval celebration attended by thousands of patrons every October in New England.
But Patrick's favorite role is certainly Santa Claus. He has dressed as Santa and listened to children's Christmas wishes for some of Boston's largest department stores. For years, his fluffy white beard and jolly disposition charmed many a child sitting on his knee.
|TRUDI GOODMAN Librarian/Mrs. Claus
Trudi is a singer, actor, musician, writer, director and producer with over 30 years of Stage and Film performance experience throughout the New England Area.
An experienced film and stage actor, she has performed in several motion pictures and in a variety of production and stage settings including her one woman show, Die Maase Bukh: The Jewish Experience in Poetry and Song.
A Boston native, she resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts and teaches acting, singing and writing workshops. She is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Boston and the New Theatre Conservatory.
|FRED SMERLAS Burper
STEVE DEOSSIE Rooster
Fred and Steve have been long-time radio sports personalities in New England and now partner in their own popular steak-house restaurant located in Lincoln, Rhode Island.
A former New England Patriot and Buffalo Bill defensive lineman, Fred was the 32nd player picked in the 1979 draft by the Buffalo Bills and was named All Rookie in his first season. While with the Bills, he started 156 games, was a five-time All Pro and seven-time All AFC selection. Now retired from football, The Child King marks Fred's motion picture debut.
Steve was a linebacker and snapper with the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, New York Jets and New England Patriots. Named NFL's Man of the Year in 1996, he retired from the game at age 35. With The Child King he makes his motion picture debut.
Tow Truck Owner
Lenny Clarke was born in Cambridge, Mass., one of eight children. He decided to pursue stand-up comedy one night when he was working as a janitor, putting himself through college at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. That night, Lenny went to the Ding-Ho Restaurant in Cambridge to see comics perform. Convinced he could do the same thing, he returned the next week and launched the start of his comedy career.
After years of hard work, Lenny was "discovered" at the Montreal Comedy Festival. He had his own series, Lenny, which ran for 18 episodes. Other TV work includes The John Larroquette Show, Touched by an Angel, hosting The Sunday Comics and a reoccurring role as Uncle Teddy on Rescue Me.
SELECTED CREW BIOS
JEFF KERR, Writer/Producer
Perhaps just as much a fairytale story as Peter's is that of Jeff Kerr. A graduate of the University of Maine, Jeff works as a special agent and group supervisor at the Boston field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). For fifteen years Jeff was a member of the Bureau's Special Response Team (SWAT) and it was during this time that his passion for writing flourished and the story of The Child King was born. While The Child King is Jeff's first ever produced screen play, it is the third producing collaboration with brother, Frank. Jeff's inspiration for the story of The Child King comes from a life long advocacy for those with intellectual disabilities. Among the many Down syndrome causes he supports, the Special Olympics and the Law Enforcement Torch Run are a few.
Jeff is the father of two children and resides in Hull, Massachusetts.
FRANK KERR, Producer/Director/Editor
A graduate from New York University Frank Kerr is a former newspaper and television journalist with a master's degree in film. While attending NYU he was the recipient of several national and international film awards, including the FOCUS which is presented to the top three university trained filmmakers in the United States. Frank is also a member of the Writers Guild of America and has written, directed, as well as line produced television programming, motion picture features, and short subject films. He has scripted for numerous producing clients including Jerry Weintraub, David Kirshner, Charles Gordon, Joe Wizan, and Steven Spielberg's Amblin' Entertainment. His work has been screened at New York's Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston as well as televised worldwide. Most recently Frank has finished his latest film; a thriller called Jack in the Box.
He resides in Norwell, Massachusetts with his wife and two children.
MARK WUERTHNER, Director of Photography
Mark Wuerthner has been a Director of Photography in the Boston area for fifteen years. His work has included independent films, national commercials, broadcast design pieces and video art.
Mark received his BA from Emerson College in Boston. A resident of Framingham, Massachusetts, he is married and has a son.
ALVIN EALY, Composer
A small town boy from Illinois, Alvin has had a life-long love affair with music, beginning when he heard his mother, grandmother and aunt signing hymns in church. He played in small bands in the St. Louis area then graduated to writing and recording his own music which was heavily influenced by his passion for jazz, blues, rock and classical.
Alvin pursued a degree in Radio and Television Broadcasting before finally devoting himself to a career in music. He attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, earning a degree in film scoring. Since then Alvin has composed for short films, independent features, theatrical plays and documentaries.
"The Child King is a holiday tale filled with life lessons and life experiences all of us will value."
-Exceptional Parent Magazine
"The Child King is an inspirational and adventurous tale that shows us those with intellectual disabilities are not to be underestimated, but rather looked to as examples of how to love unconditionally and transcend the stereotypes in our society."
- Special Olympics International
"A heartwarming holiday movie that shines a light on the gifts and talents of individuals with intellectual disabilities."
- Best Buddies International
"A new holiday classic… The Child King touches the heart and makes you believe that dreams do come true."
- Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles
FOR ALL TESTIMONIALS CLICK HERE
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The KIDS FIRST! program is administered by the non-profit Coalition for Quality Children's Media, founded in 1991 to teach children critical viewing skills and increase the visibility and availability of quality children's media. The Coalition is comprised of more than 10,000 media professionals, lobbyists, policymakers, child advocates, educators, parents and families nationwide.
For more information, visit the organization's web site in the LINKS section.
Official Entry KID'S FIRST! Film Festival.
The Child King was an official selection of the Los Angeles International Children's Film Festival.
Feature Films for Families Award, Best Feature, 2007 Kids First! Film Festival
THE CHILD KING FOUNDATION
Founded in 2007 by Jeff Kerr, producer of the feature motion picture, The Child King, the non-profit Child King Foundation (CKF) administers funds and disburses grants to organizations, charities and individuals that assist those with intellectual disabilities.
Foundation funds are generated by all producer’s profits from the sale of The Child King DVD and related merchandise, 100% of which are channeled to the CKF for disbursement. CKF grants are offered to eligible applicants after review by the Foundation’s awards committee.
An advocate for those with intellectual disabilities, foundation founder Jeff Kerr is an active long-time supporter of Down syndrome causes, including The Special Olympics and the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
For more information on The Child King Foundation click here.
For media related questions and requests please send e-mail correspondence to: media@TheChildKing.com
In addition to support from organizations like the Special Olympics and Best Buddies, The Child King has garnered significant media attention from national and local press. Check out the following links for a sampling:
The Christian Post
Ten Squares, Three Squiggles
11/10/08: Child King Foundation Created to Benefit Organizations
and Individuals that Assist Intellectually Disabled LINK
9/23/08: New Holiday Film to Benefit Individuals with Intellectual
Disabilities Now Available For Purchase LINK