Who is Saint Patrick? Go ahead and erase images of parades, green shamrock novelty sunglasses, and leprechaun t-shirts from your head. The true story of Saint Patrick is one of a young man kidnapped by pirates and forced into slave labor in a foreign land. He escaped and reunited with his family in Britain only to have a prophetic dream calling him to take Christianity back to the land of his captivity.
CBN Films’ I Am Patrick will change the way you view the patron saint of Ireland. I recently talked with writer and director Jarrod Anderson to learn more about the production and the true story.
Jarrod gained years of experience directing and writing in his time as a story producer for the television show “The 700 Club.” But it was his time working on CBN Documentaries’ Pocahontas which led him into more film work.
Jarrod is now a fixture at CBN Films, joining fellow filmmaker Erin Zimmerman and executive producer Gordon Robertson. The production company’s expansion will fully encompass the scope of future projects, including the style of I Am Patrick, which is considered docudrama or docunarrative. Jarrod describes it as a “documentary with expert interviews, but 90% of the film you see visually is going to be reenactments.”
At that point Jarrod catches himself. He explains that the historical scenes aren’t necessarily reenactments. They possess more of a dramatic edge than a mere retelling of dry facts. Actors were responsible for bringing to life the personality of a 5th century man whose writings we have only to consult. It’s not just interviews and it’s not just the actors in the setting. It’s “a hybrid… a really cool mixture of both.”
In researching possible story subjects, Jarrod came across an online collection of Saint Patrick’s original letters (which you will see in the film), and the idea was born.
The Emerald Isle
It’s no small feat to prepare for a film, much less one that is shooting in another country. After several scouting trips, the U.S. team connected with Irish producer Sarah Maunsell. Known as a location fixer, Maunsell’s company helped with finding locations, cast, and crew. She was eventually named as a producer on I Am Patrick. “It was just an incredible experience. [Sarah] did a phenomenal job and made my life a lot easier.”
I was curious to know what kind of reception Jarrod and his team received and how the Irish people felt about American filmmakers telling the story of their patron saint.
“With our cast and crew, everybody was really positive and had great attitudes. They were really excited to tell a story ‘cause no one’s really made a documentary or film on Saint Patrick in 15, maybe 20 years. I think one of the biggest things was that most of the people we talked with in Ireland actually don’t know the true story of Saint Patrick. There are so many myths and legends. Everybody claims Patrick but have very little knowledge and evidence to support a lot of those claims.”
Three actors share the role of Saint Patrick at three distinct stages of his life. The youngest is portrayed by Robert McCormack, the middle by Sean T. O’Meallaigh (Vikings), and the Patrick in his older years by renowned actor John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones). Rhys-Davies was originally supposed to only provide voiceover narration for the older Patrick, but Jarrod says that it all changed on a ride to the airport.
“[Rhys-Davies] did the voiceover narration when I was at the end of my location scouting for filming, and he ended up giving me a ride back to the airport. He was such a cool guy and did a phenomenal job in the recording. We actually had lunch together before he gave me a ride. And all I could think was, ‘Gosh, he looks – he could totally be the older version of the other actors we’ve cast for Patrick already.’”
Producer Sarah Maunsell tried to convince Jarrod to risk asking Rhys-Davies to play the role on screen. On the way to the airport, he finally took the leap.
“So, I just said, ‘Hey, I know it would be beneath you, but would you consider actually playing the role of older Patrick? It would just be a one-day thing.’ He looked over at me while he’s driving and said ‘That wouldn’t be beneath me. Connect with my manager.’ And we did.”
A dramatic sweeping shot of the Irish coastline set against a golden sunset (which you might think is Photoshopped) will easily draw you into the story, but the story behind the scene will endear you to it, as it happens to have been one of the most challenging and rewarding days of the shoot.
Rain was forecast on the day of filming at the seaside cliffs with Rhys-Davies, but the crew didn’t have a choice to reschedule. One shot, one day, and one chance is all they had.
“We had planned it so we could shoot around what we call golden hour, where the sun is warm and beautiful. But it’s supposed to rain. We gotta hope that it doesn’t, but I don’t have a choice. When we got to the cliffs you could see this big storm cloud in the distance and I thought ‘Okay, we’ve gotten this far. All these things have come together – come on, God!’ That cloud did not come towards us. In fact, the cloud moved off to the side and we ended up having the most gorgeous sunset for the production. It looked amazing. It was a challenging day but, in the end, it really worked out.”
A Dream Comes True
Adamant that it wasn’t luck, Jarrod shares how divine intervention and his own faith were active and vital throughout the production of I Am Patrick.
“One of the biggest things that I’ve learned on this project is when you invite God in, He’s willing and He wants to be involved in the process of whatever we’re doing. I was really amazed with just getting John Rhys-Davies. I mean this is the guy who played Gimli in Lord of the Rings and was in Indiana Jones! This is crazy that a man of this caliber – that we were able to get him onto this project.”
Jarrod tells me he had a dream early on in the process of conducting research, and was only reminded of it by his wife after sharing the news about casting Rhys-Davies in the role.
“In the dream, I was working on the I Am Patrick project. And I just knew that I had to find this person named John. If I can find this person named John, the project is going to be successful – it’s going to have what it needs. I had forgotten about that completely until my wife said ‘You found John?’ And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I totally forgot about that!’ What’s cool is if we really are listening to what the Lord is saying to us, He’ll be involved and He’ll give us the confirmation. He’ll help us make connections and do things that there’s no way we could do on our own. It’s a lesson I’ve learned and I’m continuing to learn. I have not arrived, but I’ll definitely carry that on to future projects.”