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Published: Saturday, 10/29/2011

Local native adapts book to film


MANISTEE, Mich. -- Matthew Tailford, a 1986 graduate of Sylvania Northview High School, has adapted evangelist John Hagee's best-selling apocalyptic book, Jerusalem Countdown, for a movie opening Friday at select theaters, including Rave Fallen Timbers 14 in Maumee.

Mr. Tailford, who lives in Los Angeles and Manistee, Mich., said he has been in the movie business for 13 years and four years ago, anticipating the launch of Michigan's tax incentives for filmmakers, built a 150,000-square-foot studio in Manistee with his business partner, Harold Cronk.

Most of Jerusalem Countdown was filmed at their 10 West Studios, with portions shot in Washington, Los Angeles, and Canada.

The movie features acting veterans Lee Majors and Stacy Keach; singers Jaci Velasquez and Randy Travis, and actors David A.R. White and Anna Zielinski. It was filmed on a modest budget of $700,000, with about 35 percent of that investment being returned to the studio through incentives, Mr. Tailford said in an interview this week.

While the budget is tiny compared to most Hollywood productions, Mr. Tailford said he gets "so much more bang for the buck" by filming in Michigan. "We take it back to Los Angeles and people can't believe it. They think it's a $3 million to $6 million film," he said.

Mr. Hagee, a globally known evangelist and pastor of the 20,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, wrote Jerusalem Countdown as a commentary on today's headlines tying into biblical prophecies about the end of the world. Mr. Tailford wrote the script by putting fictional characters into the middle of Mr. Hagee's view of current events leading to Armageddon.

"It's loosely based on the book," said Mr. Tailford, who produced the movie and also played a minor role in it. "It's just a fun story that hinges on some political hot potatoes right now. … It's an end-times action thriller."

His father, Bill Tailford, a Toledo businessman who also was an executive producer of the movie, said Mr. Hagee wanted the movie to appeal to a broad audience, not just Christians.

"This film deals with today's headlines -- a terrorist plot on U.S. soil," Bill Tailford said, and because of the unsettling subject matter, some churches shied away from promoting it.

The movie was endorsed by Jamey Schmitz, president and chief executive officer of WLMB-TV, the area Christian station that is sponsoring the local showing of Jerusalem Countdown.

10 West Studios is finishing its fifth film made in Michigan, Micky Matson and the Copperhead Conspiracy, and Mr. Tailford said he hopes to make The Ragamuffin Gospel, a movie based on the life of the late Christian singer Rich Mullins.

Information on Jerusalem Countdown is available online at jerusalemcountdown.com.

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