Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Talladega Typewriter Tale

From 1996 to 2002, songwriter and music producer Galley Molina fought an increasingly convoluted pre-trial legal battle stemming from a San Jose cocaine trafficking indictment. Finally, with the number of case defendants having swelled from three to 30, he pleaded out to a 60-month jail sentence rather than face the prospect of an expensive trial, even though he felt it was a courtroom battle he could probably win.

After time spent in Bakersfield, CA and Las Vegas, Molina transferred to a Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) facility in Talladega, AL under the auspices of the ARDAP drug rehabilitation program. There, he found an eventual and wholly unexpected sanctuary in the form of the prison's minimum-security law library featuring cinder block walls, Salvation Army grade wood tables and three typewriters.

"The Talladega facility was a very anointed place," Molina explains during a telephone interview with FilmStew from a post-production facility in Los Angeles, where he is about to lock a finished version of his debut effort as a screenwriter and film producer, I'm in Love with a Church Girl. "A lot less tension, a little more calm. Different people there than the west coast, partly because it's the Bible Belt."

Doing it o-l-d s-c-h-o-o-l

Although Molina says he was never much of a reader (or typer), he was able to bang out an astonishing five books on one of those aforementioned typewriters during the final year of what turned out to be a three-and-a-half year sentence. "You have to buy your own typewriter ribbons from the prison," Molina explains. "And because inmates like to use the ink from the ribbons for tattoos, the prison limits you to two ribbons per week."

"But I needed six, seven ribbons a week," he continues. "So guys would get typewriter ribbons for me and then trade them for a can of tuna or something else. "

Molina wrote the 150-page book version of I'm in Love with a Church Girl in a week, working from a rough outline and three pages of notes. After he was released, he showed it a close friend, film director Steve Race, and soon the suggestion was made that he turn the book into a screenplay. Molina purchased a copy of Final Draft screenwriting software and adapted the faith-based tale of a former drug dealer (Ja Rule), his churchgoing girlfriend (Adrienne Bailon) and a DEA agent (Stephen Baldwin) refusing to let him move on with his life.

Writer, youth pastor and burgeoning movie
mogul Molina, with wife Damaris

"My first draft of the screenplay was 300 pages long," chuckles Molina, who also works as a youth pastor at Evergreen Valley Church. He whittled it down to an industry standard length, which led in short order to studio offer that was rejected, millions of dollars in private financing, a six-week shoot directed by Race, a two-hour first cut, the imminent announcement of a major movie soundtrack participant and a publicist (Lesley Burbridge-Bates) who worked on the grassroots PR campaign for The Passion of the Christ. Not to mention a new production company, Reverence Gospel Media, that has plans to turn three of Molina's other Talladega prison books into movies.

"Right now we have options and God has really laid this thing out," Molina says gratefully. "People are going to be amazed by Ja Rule's performance. I think he is definitely going to win an award or two for this."

[Reverence Gospel Media]

1 comment:

  1. While the movie was excellent, the scripture quoting on Mark 8:36 was wrong. the actress said, what causes a man to ..... which is a wrong quotation of the scripture.. thanks please be attentive to correct scripture next time. I watched the movie more than twice to make sure I was hearing her correctly and I am pretty sure she said, what causes, not what good is... fuana from Palau