VIOLENT TRUE BELIEVER is a short dramatic film being produced in Washington, DC by award-winning filmmaker Arlin Godwin, whose 2011 film THE MAN IN 813 took home one of 16 awards given out that year at the DC Shorts International Film Festival.
His latest project tells the story of a woman, recently fired from her job as a high school chemistry teacher, who sees a random television news story about an American terror group and finds herself drawn into a situation from which there seems to be no escape.
Inspired by the rise of Donald Trump, the U.S. Capitol insurrection, and the growth of fascism in America, VIOLENT TRUE BELIEVER explores the personal story of one woman caught up in a nightmare.
The film was written and is being directed by Arlin Godwin and stars J.C. Hoffman.
You can reach the filmmakers at firstname.lastname@example.org
As early as 2014 Arlin Godwin had considered making a film about a male character based loosely on Timothy McVeigh, the domestic terrorist who was responsible for the devastating terror attack in Oklahoma City in April of 1995.
Arlin was initially intrigued by the idea of watching someone construct a homemade bomb in their apartment. After doing some research he discovered the FBI's term "violent true believer" and realized that it was a label that would apply to the character he was thinking about.
But the "story" needed expanding.
With that in mind, the script developed in a direction that saw the character build a bomb and place it into a rolling, black suitcase which he took into Washington, DC--implying that his target was somewhere in that city even though it was never specifically stated.
Arlin explains, “My idea was that this guy was angry, disgruntled, and was going to do something really terrible but on his way, he has some kind of experience that changes his mind. So he returns home and while dismantling the bomb he makes a mistake and blows himself up. But even that was not much of a story."
"So then it became a question of what exactly is this experience he has? What happens to him on the way to deliver the bomb that changes him? This was never settled to my satisfaction. At one time he was going to see a single flower growing out of the asphalt in an alleyway. A delicate flower in a place where it shouldn't be able to grow, but that idea always seemed a bit too artsy. I probably wrote 50 drafts based on that idea of the flower."
Flash forward to 2016 and Donald Trump becomes President.
"When Trump showed up on the political scene I slowly started to see other dramatic possibilities. It was clear that there was a serious fascist presence in the U.S. and that white supremacists were on the rise. And Neo-Nazi groups."
More drafts of the script were developed and eventually, when the January 6th insurrection happened, Arlin started to think that a female protagonist would make better sense for the movie and be more interesting for the audience.
"I had been watching a lot of films with really great female actors. There was such a great group of ladies in Hollywood---Cate Blanchett, Jessica Chastain, Jody Foster, Kate Winslet, Regina King. I remember seeing Viola Davis in something and she was a knockout. And I just started thinking a female character would give me something different. Everybody's already seen the angry young male character...but people weren't quite used to the idea of an American female terrorist. But the insurrection at the Capitol kind of changed that. We all suddenly realized that there were lots of women involved."
So, out went the young, militaristic male and in his place was an ordinary, middle-aged woman.
“It was clear when the Capitol riot happened that many women were there and actively taking part in what was going on. So, I rewrote the story for a woman. It took years to get to that story and actually shoot the film. Screenplays tend to happen in their own good time. In this case, I had a small idea about someone building a bomb in their apartment but it took real events happening in the city in which I live to complete the trip."