Earlier today we shared with you Debra’s review of The Stray in this article, Family-Friendly Movie ‘The Stray’ Tells a Well-Needed Heart-Felt Tale. Now we go deeper into the making of The Stray with Debra’s interview with filmmaker, Mitch Davis.
My interview with Mitch Davis, The Stray — Family-Friendly Filmmaker
About Mitch Davis
Mitch Davis was hired by Disney when he was fresh out of film school at the University of Southern California. He worked on such noteworthy, and family-friendly movies, as Dead Poet’s Society (1989), The Rocketeer (1991) and Newsies (1992). He also wrote and co-directed the movie The Windrunner for the Disney Channel, which led to his 2001 Disney-distributed movie, The Other Side of Heaven, which marks Anne Hathaway’s first role as a film actress.
Both The Other Side of Heaven and The Stray focus on the themes of faith and family, which are paramount to Davis. He explains that there is a myriad of different kinds of families, but what we need to remember is to hold everyone close and not take anyone for granted.
“Families are by far the most important aspect of our lives,” he says, “because they are the people who are nearest and dearest to us and they keep society together. As the family goes, so goes society and culture.”
What all of Davis’ movies have in common is a great deal of emotion and heart. His next film, is an inspirational sports movie called Coach Tony. This is a true story of a boy born in Dalton, Georgia, with a deformed face, who became a basketball star and a national champion. I affectionately call it ‘The Blind Side’ with basketball.”
Like Father, Like Son
Fast forward to the present, and Mitch Davis’ son, Parker, decides to follow in his father’s footsteps and write his first screenplay about the stories of Pluto the Wonder Dog (from The Stray), and the lightning bolt, the same stories that he grew up hearing about. Parker was not born at the time of these events. His parents discouraged him from pursuing the project, but he persisted. “I realized this was a pretty amazing story with the potential to make a positive impact on the world,” Davis says. “This was my son’s first attempt at screenwriting, and it was a very solid script. I re-wrote it a couple times, so we share the writing credit.”
In fact, The Stray ended up being a family affair from every aspect. His son, Christian, a main character in The Stray who is depicted as a young boy, wrote the film’s score, and Davis’ brother, Marshal, edited the movie. Their mom, Michelle, was an associate producer, and Davis’ brother, Mike, acted in the movie.
The Making of The Stray
Parker Davis began his journey into screenwriting by interviewing everyone in his family, as well as the two other boys who went on the backpacking trip in 1990 with Christian and Mitch, and were in the tent the night the group was struck by lightning. His father said from these interviews his son got “a pretty good sense of the dynamics of the situation. I believe he captured the essence of the characters and the story very well. I just dressed it up a bit.”
While Davis is not thrilled about his sons being in show business, he is supportive of their work. “As parents we always want our children to have it easier than we did,” he says. “I am proud that they are pursuing their dreams. Our two daughters married practical guys and our three sons went into the movie business. So, we like to say that the women in the family are much more pragmatic than the men.”
More Life Lessons from Mitch Davis and The Stray
When asked what saved Mitch and the boys on the trip — an accident or divine intervention – Davis says “it didn’t feel like an accident. We see Pluto as an animal angel for the Davis family. He showed up when and where we needed him and did what we needed him to do for us. He looms large in the pantheon of Davis family pets.”
In a time of devastating hurricanes, and the recent massacre in Las Vegas that take a toll on us as they unfold on the evening news, The Stray is a chance to see a relatable family drama with a happy ending. “Our story is a happily ever after tale, which makes it appealing,” Davis says. “It also has a little bit of magic in it; animal magic and heavenly magic. When you think about it, our story could have turned out much differently.”
He is hopeful that that parents and children who see the movie “will be reminded of what Pluto the Wonder Dog taught us — that what matters most is not things, but relationships with the people, and the animals, we love the most. My family was not the paragon of virtue. We were a real family with real problems, and we worked through them.”
One added lesson from Davis, and his memorable movie, is for parents to take a deep breath during the chaotic days in their lives. “I want people to think about cutting themselves some slack. All of the biggest stresses in life seem to come at the same time – family, career, finances — so at the time we looked at one another and appointed blame. But it wasn’t anyone’s fault; it was just life happening to us. Now when I look back I am more than thankful that we powered through it. So, with love and gratitude, each of us can look back on the fact that we endured.”
When asked for some final thoughts, and advice, from his movie, Davis responds: “Don’t get struck by lightning, but if you do — literally or figuratively — make sure it changes your priorities, and your view of the world.”
Remember you can read more in Debra’s review of The Stray in this article, Family-Friendly Movie ‘The Stray’ Tells a Well-Needed Heart-Felt Tale.
For information, show times and tickets please go to: thestray.movie.
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