Long-time Hope 103.2 listeners will know Dan Widdowson as a former Breakfast host – but he’s also an actor, artistic director, writer and now award-winning film maker, with his production company on the NSW Central Coast, Salt House Creative.
So far his company has produced six major stage productions, including Pride & Prejudice and The Importance of Being of Earnest, and now Dan’s turned his attention back to the screen with his first feature film project, Equivocal Redemption.
Speaking to Laura Bennett on the Power Lunch podcast, Dan explained that ‘equivocal redemption’ is about the idea of redemption arriving in an unexpected, ambiguous way.
”The story follows four people who’ve had four different life traumas, and they just can’t get past it,” he said. “They either need to be redeemed themselves, or in some way, [offer it to others].
“These four people end up on a retreat where they expect a counsellor to be there, or a psychologist of some sort, and they expect to finally have resolve for these traumas in their life. But what happens is there’s no counsellor, there’s no psychologist, [just the four] turn up… and they slowly learn that each of them are connected to each other’s trauma in some way.”
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Having written, directed and starred in the movie, it’s one that Dan’s clearly passionate about, and it brings to life themes that are, “a collaboration of all my years being a pastor, some of my theological studies, and doing life with people, and having that realisation that… everyone has trauma in their life to some degree”.
The film’s message is that people can move beyond their trauma.
“Maybe it’s really minor for some, and really explosive for others, but everyone has trauma of varying degrees,” Dan said, “and I think if we wanted to we could all blame someone else for that trauma, and maybe rightly so, but either way we have to somehow move forward.
“[The film asks] how do we move forward and continue in life well, when those who are responsible for our trauma are around us, and surround us, and do life with us?”
It’s a concept that’s resonated with viewers so far, with pre-release screenings and global film festival appearances seeing Dan awarded Best Director at the Florence Film Festival, Best Fiction at the American Golden Picture International Film Awards, and Best Original Screenplay at the New York Movie Awards (among others).
Bringing his Faith to the Film World
The accolades perhaps reflect the singular focus Dan’s been able to bring to his craft recently, which previously he’d divided with his role as a youth pastor.
“From 2006 to the last few years, I was always balancing the two,” said Dan, “but I lived on Norfolk Island for a little while, and when I was there I ran a youth group and a drama group.
“I found that the youth group kids were very good at giving the right answers, and doing what they should be doing and saying what they should be saying, but the drama group was real and raw. There’s a vulnerability when you have to perform in front of other people… and I loved the genuine relationships and the realness [of that].
“But I’m not forceful with my faith because I’ve found just being myself opens up fantastic conversations…”
“I thought, ‘Oh I don’t have to do this church [work] anymore, ‘cause all I want to do is build real relationships with people and tell stories, and I can do that all through Salt House.”
Asked whether he wants to intentionally bring who he is as a Christian into the Hollywood environment or keep them separate, Dan said, “Yes my faith is faith, and my art is my art… but I’m fairly liberal with the roles that I play and the movie’s that I’m in, because they open up great conversations.
“I’m very real, and I’m myself, and when I chat to anyone on set or away I don’t pretend to be anything I’m not. But I’m not forceful with my faith because I’ve found just being myself opens up fantastic conversations… and on [sets where I’m playing a difficult character] it’s surprising how being your genuine caring self can make a really big difference, and friendships will last from that as well.”
For updates on Equivocal Redemption and where it will screen next visit salthousetheatrecompany.com