Stories That Change Lives: Behind the Scenes of THE INVESTIGATOR

 By Ben Kayser, Associate Editor

THE INVESTIGATOR is inspired by true events. James Buanacore was a police investigator for 20 years. He’s a family man who tries to spend time with his pregnant wife Stephanie and his young son, but he’s forced into early retirement after an accident happens under his watch at work. With his life falling apart, a new job at a Christian high school as a baseball coach and a criminal justice teacher might just change his life.

Movieguide® had the opportunity to speak with the producer, director, and two stars of this new faith based movie.

Q:  So Nicole, tell us about the beginning process of developing THE INVESTIGATOR and what was it about this particular script that made you say, “I have to make this movie?”

Nicole Abisinio (Producer/Actress in THE INVESTIGATOR):  I had actually started that journey of wanting to do family movies and faith-based films that had uplifting messages. God had put on my heart to use that medium that I had been [using] for a good purpose and for God’s will. So I had been searching for scripts, but a lot of the Christian films, the stories that you see, a lot of them are the same, or heavy handed. For me at the time, which no one knew, I was very sick, and I didn’t know if I was going to survive. So I was in bed for six months during this period, and this script came to me right around Christmas time, and it really was this Christmas gift from the Lord; because when I read it, it uplifted my spirit so much.

Q:  Even though THE INVESTIGATOR isn’t out yet, what kind of impact have you seen come from this movie? 

Nicole Abisinio:  The test screenings have been amazing. There’s only been a couple of our team that can go to each screening. It’s been changing peoples lives. Even before the movie came out, we saw people changing just from being on set and experiencing the script and living out the script. . . where people that have fallen away from their faith have come back to the Lord. They’re stronger. They have more answers, less doubts, and [are more] on fire for the Lord. People go crazy for the film, and I think that they’re very surprised. Because they’ll say things like, “We didn’t realize it was going to be so real, or emotionally effect us so much.” You see people that are crying. They don’t want to leave the theater. It’s literally bring people back to the Lord. People want to start going to church. They want to learn more about Christ. It’s having the effect that we had prayed for. We actually just got this email from a guy that was at our Atlanta screening. He said that at the time, we didn’t know it, but he was homeless, and that the movie gave him so much strength that it changed his life. He said it made him sure that God was not forsaking him and that, even though he felt like he was in the wilderness, He knew that the Lord was with him, and that he just had to keep fighting for the next day. 

Q:  How can people help faith-based movies like THE INVESTIGATOR?

Nicole:  I think the point is that opening weekend is everything. We need everybody to come out to the theater and make sure to be there to represent. We’re kind of running it like a political campaign. So, we’re saying, cast your vote for Jesus. Because that’s what you’re doing when you show up to say that you want to see films with family values, you want to see positive entertainment, and you want to see stuff that uplifts people’s spirits.

Q:  How do you hope THE INVESTIGATOR will impact people’s lives?

Curtis Graham (Director of THE INVESTIGATOR):  To me, the message would be that, [bad] circumstances will happen in our lives, if we can just get through them and trust God, He’ll work them out in some way to his glory. That’s the underlying theme of the movie, that God has a plan for your life. We look at these circumstances rather than what the real truth is. Also, that if you have a doubt about Jesus [or] who He was, seek it out. 

Q:  What theme in THE INVESTIGATOR resonates with you the most personally?

Wade Williams (Main Actor in THE INVESTIGATOR):  God’s plan is better than yours. When I was younger, living in Los Angeles, my whole plan was to be a young, dumb, single rock star. Thank God that didn’t happen. Thank God, there were more trials and more learning and more training to get to the point where I’m at now. My plan was definitely not to be living in Florida, married with five kids. I’m so grateful that God didn’t listen to what I wanted.

David Sanborn (Supporting Actor in THE INVESTIGATOR):  I think everyone struggles with the different trials that they face, and what does that mean with my place in this world. When you’re stripped of what you feel is your whole purpose in life, the kind of things that go back to Job. I think we’ve all face that kind of crisis of our faith, the crisis of wanting to know, what is my place in this world? Is there really purpose, design? Does God have a grand strategy?

The one thing of course, I think every believer has to agree on is that God is all powerful, He is all knowing, He is all wise…and all loving. At the end of the day, when you come down to the truth of what you know is true, and you take that truth, and you use it as a weapon against how you honestly feel. You just tear down those barriers, those walls that your personal emotions are putting up, and say, “This may be how I honestly feel, but there is truth that goes beyond my temporal feelings, and I’ve got to let that truth be my anchor, I’ve got to let that truth be my rock.” That’s what’s so compelling about this story. It’s that, Rich Romano (Real life James Buanacore) went on a journey with his students, not just to say, “Well, faith is blind, so we’ll just take it at face value.” But no, [to say] what is true? Once they’ve sought it out, they have an anchor of knowing, no matter what my emotions may tell me in the future, no matter what my circumstances. There is such a thing as absolute truth and I can rest in that. That’s of course one of the foundational things Christ told us.

Q:  Wade, in the movie, James has some heavy moments. In what ways, do you or don’t you relate to James’s character?

Wade Williams:  I’ve had some very, very dark moments in my life. Especially, being in Los Angeles [in the past], I had a lot of demons that I had to get rid of. I’ve been homeless, I lived under a bridge for a year and half in Burbank. I’ve been in dark, dark places. I didn’t see how it was going to get any better. I didn’t know that there was going to be a tomorrow. So, I could really just draw on my own experiences to know what James’s was going through. Because, James’s life had collapsed on himself, and I had had that happen to me, several times over.

I look at TV now – I don’t even let my kids watch TV – I look at TV, and I remember that there was THE WALTONS, there was LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, even not too long ago there was TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL. There’s nothing like that on TV [now]. It’s vampire this and darkness that. I think the human spirit longs for good, longs for light, but if they keep getting fed TV dinners and cheeseburgers, that’s what they’ll believe all there is I would definitely like to see [more] production companies, and I’d like to be a part of that, where we’re bringing decency back to TV, decency back to movies. Something inspiring, that you can go home and go, “I love my family, I love my country, and let’s hear more about this God thing.” That’s what I want to happen. I just don’t see a lot of it these days.

THE INVESTIGATOR opens in theaters September 13. 

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