What is rain from heaven?
It is the mercy that falls on "the just and the unjust” — blessing the one who gives it and the one who receives it, said Brooks Douglass, a former state senator turned filmmaker.
Douglass, 46, is bringing his personal tale of tragedy and the triumph of forgiveness to the big screen in his movie, "Heaven’s Rain.”
Now living in Los Angeles, he is in Oklahoma to film the faith-themed movie about the murder of his parents and his subsequent forgiveness of their killer.
Douglass’ parents, the Rev. Richard Douglass, who was pastor of Putnam City Baptist Church, and his wife, Marilyn, were shot to death at their Okarche home in 1979. Brooks Douglass, who was 16, and his sister Leslie, who was 12, survived also being shot and went on to testify at the murder trials of the two men who were charged with their parents’ deaths.
Douglass hired an actor to portray himself at 16, and Douglass is portraying his preacher father.
He said many film companies have wanted to bring the story to life, but he didn’t feel comfortable with their treatment of the tale for various reasons. For some, financial backing was shaky or other concerns cropped up.
Douglass said he took a screenwriting class in Los Angeles, taught by director Paul Brown, who convinced him that they needed to find some way to bring the story to movie theaters. He said he decided to finance it himself and found other investors who also cared about the story and wanted to help him share it with others.
With all of the pieces of the filmmaking puzzle falling into place, Douglass and his film crew began filming "Heaven’s Rain.”
Then reality set in: He’d have to re-create the scene of his parents’ murders — that awful night that has haunted him for years.
From memory to movie
Douglass said he initially told Brown he didn’t think he could write a screenplay chronicling the tragic night.
"It was too close. It was too emotional,” he said.
But Brown persisted, and Douglass said after he started writing a few scenes, something amazing happened. "I found it to be very cathartic,” he said.
He said he asked Brown to help him put structure to the story. When the decision came to put it in the hands of someone who could make the movie, Douglass and Brown were hesitant.
"We talked about who did we trust to make this story, who had the heart for it that we do? One day it dawned on me that we could do it ourselves,” Douglass said.
So filming on "Heaven’s Rain” began in February in Oklahoma, and Douglass plucked from his memory some of his happier childhood moments with his parents and traveling to places such as Brazil, where they worked to share the Gospel with native peoples.
He said portraying his father has been an honor because it is another chance to convey all the positive lessons he learned from the older man.
"I thought, ‘Wow! I get to show him to the world,’” Douglass said.
Then came the day when Brown planned to film the October 1979 night the Douglasses were killed. Douglass said his heart was heavy when he woke up on the scheduled day, and his sister, who he was visiting in her metro-area home, also was in a somber mood.