When Aaron Williams sought to promote his first film, he thought a tour of churches to show the trailer for the Christian romantic comedy would bring people to theaters.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic shut down theaters.
The Baton Rouge native took another tact, bringing “The Perfect Mate” to those same communities with his own “drive-in.”
“There’s been an interesting response,” Williams said to the movie’s theme.
Williams has observed couples “laughing, smiling. Guys alone laughing,” he said.
“I wrote it to be a comedy with Biblical principles,” Williams said.
“The Perfect Mate” will be presented outdoors Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 3-5, at Spirit & Life International Ministry, 704 Olinde St., New Roads.
The gate will open at 7 p.m. and the movie starts at 8:15 p.m.
Advance tickets are $25 per car and $35 at the gate.
His crew of 10 will assemble the 40-foot screen and set up the 250-pound projector.
Car hops will be available to bring concessions to cars to keep social distancing in effect.
For tickets or more information, call (225) 933-5816 or visit theperfectmatemovie.com
“With this tour we will be going from city to city and state to state bringing hope, laughter and encouragement while still social-distancing,” said Shirley Weber, with Digital Media Productions, Williams’ company.
Weber said moviegoers were interviewed as they left to get their reaction.
“It was interesting how people said they saw themselves in the movie,” she said.
In an interview Wednesday, Williams said his goal was not to make just a Christian film, but to make a family film that included principals of the Bible.
“Through the main characters’ eyes, you see their dreams and aspirations but they can’t figure out what to do,” Williams said.
"The Perfect Mate" was shot in August 2019 in Baton Rouge.
The movie opens with control freak and perfectionist Hope (Brittany Lucio) planning to take her fiancé to meet her parents.
Nothing would please her more than bringing the perfect Christian future husband home for the weekend to meet her father, Rev. Adams (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), mom (Jackee Harry) and sister (K.D. Aubert).
The day they are to leave, Hope breaks up with her fiancé, so she hires her high school friend, Jesse (Chico Benymon), to play his role.
Struggling songwriter and Uber driver Jesse comes from a broken family and has rejected most religious expression but relies on his resilient attitude and comic whit to get to through the weekend.
While he learns to appreciate family and faith. Jesse secretly wants Hope to realize he could be her perfect mate.
Williams has worked on more than 100 movies on the production side, handling music, video editing and assembling a production.
But a trip for a birthday card led to his deciding his role in the entertainment industry should include producing his own movie.
Williams said when he sought a card for his daughter, all he found were cards with sexual and adult themes.
"Then I started realizing television and films are doing pretty much the same thing,” he said.
Distributors worry about the attraction of “faith-based” movies, Williams said and prefer “faith-like” productions.
Christian movies are accepted as being “so serious,” he added, that no considers a comedy.
Williams said he was able to draw on his friendship with Martin Lawrence and Williams’ one-time roommate, Will Smith, in developing his comedy view.
“I think in sequences, a series of comedic sequences,” Williams said.
The “fish out of water” idea came into play when the non-religious Jesse is asked to give the blessing at dinner and delivers it in a Catholic singing style – before the Baptist Adams family.
Jesse sees God through the lives of the people around him and it helps him change his music and find his own purpose, according to Williams.
"That's what this movie is about … his journey after meeting this family."
“The Bible is about relationships, going to help others, using the the gifts you have to make a difference.”
COVID-19 may have cost Williams theater distribution, but it also saved his production, he said.
The original plan was to the release the movie in February, but the sound work was not ready and took until April, when the virus had already closed theaters.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” Williams said.
Williams decided rather than just the trailer, bring the full movie on tour.
New Roads is the third stop for the 26-state tour. It kicked off Aug. 20-22 in Opelousas then is scheduled Aug. 27-29 in Baton Rouge. Future sites include Abbeville and Edgard.
Also on hand at the showings will be Weber and her husband, authors of "Just What the Doctor Ordered" and "Marriage Bootcamp."
The Webers served as consultants to Williams during its production and will be offering a free download of "The Perfect Mate Bootcamp Kit."