Reviving “Old Fashioned” Romance

The writer/director of a faith-based romantic drama discusses portraying true love to a culture in which romance is “on life support.”

Old Fashioned is a new independent film slated to be released Valentine’s Day weekend—the same weekend as the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s a romantic drama about two broken people coming out of the dark and finding authentic love.

The film’s writer, Rik Swartzwelder, tells a story he felt was not yet being told—one of Christian singles searching for real love, men treating women with respect, and a couple honoring God in their courtship.

Old Fashioned stars Elizabeth Ann Roberts (Criminal Minds, Southland, CSI) and Swartzwelder (The Least of These, War Prayer) in the lead roles. Swartzwelder, who is also Old Fashioned’s writer/director/producer, recently spoke to Catholic World Report about the film.

Catholic World Report: Can you explain how Old Fashioned came about? Why did you write this particular film?

Rik Swartzwelder: At the time in my life when I was first inspired by the idea, I was hanging around a bunch of singles of a variety of Christian faiths (singles who also happened to love movies). We would often talk about how we had never seen a romantic drama or a romantic comedy come out of Hollywood that genuinely reflected our dating lives or upheld our romantic aspirations. That was the beginning, the genesis.

I simply wanted to tell a romantic story—not set in the 1800s or Amish Country—that reflected the lives of the singles I knew, just regular guys and girls who were trying to find someone to share life with (possibly) and also wanted to honor God in the process. Since their story wasn’t being told by anyone else, I thought I’d give it a shot.

CWR: As the writer/director/producer and the lead actor, you must have had your hands quite full! How did you juggle all of these roles?

Swartzwelder: It was a challenge. Even though I began as an actor, it’s a tricky thing to direct your own performance. One of the things that helped make it possible was the extensive amount of pre-production we did. A small, core team of us spent about eight months on the ground in Ohio mapping out every detail long before we went into production, so by the time cameras started rolling and I stepped out under the lights, most of the pieces were in place. I had great confidence in our extremely talented and committed team or else I never even would have attempted it.

The other thing I did was bring in a fellow director friend of mine from Los Angeles so I could have an extra set of trusted eyes on the monitor whenever I was in a scene so I could focus on the acting when I needed to.

At the end of the day, Old Fashioned is a remarkably personal film for me, and the character that I play, Clay Walsh, is one that is very close to my own experience and (parts of) my own personality. The film, while not strictly autobiographical, definitely originates from a deep place within me both experientially and spiritually—and it ultimately just felt inescapable. It was a unique set of circumstances and a singular experience that I don’t plan on repeating any time soon.

CWR: Do you think chivalry is scorned in our day? Is it dead?

Swartzwelder: I wouldn’t say it’s dead, but I might say it is on life support. Essentially, I think that by and large our culture has bought into the idea that it really just doesn’t matter that much what we do or don’t do when it comes to love and romance. It’s all treated as a game…and that notion is reinforced non-stop in the majority of entertainment platforms.

CWR: How can couples learn to respect one another in this sex-saturated world in which we live?

Swartzwelder: It starts by recognizing that love is a sacred thing; a gift from God, even. And that it’s not a game. Whether we’re talking about physical boundaries or emotional boundaries, the idea is that we should live intentionally and fully own the impact we can have on others—for better or worse.

CWR: What can Christian singles do to highlight our society’s need for chivalry, virtue, and respect?

Swartzwelder: First and foremost, we have to be willing to be counter-cultural. Easier said than done. But if we aren’t living it out, nothing we say or do can really have any impact. But if others see Christian singles living these principles out in ways that reveal a love and respect and joy that no hook-up could in a million years, then there might be change.

So it really starts in our own hearts. Are we genuinely committed to Christ? Do we actually believe what the Church teaches about faith and morals? Or do we believe MTV? Is pop culture our moral compass or the Holy Spirit? It begins with knowing God in a real way—I don’t think you have a chance without that relationship. Stay connected to the Creator who made you for a beautiful and eternal purpose.

CWR: What are your hopes for this film?

Swartzwelder: I hope that audiences are entertained by it! I hope that they laugh and cry and are lifted out of themselves for a couple of hours—that’s why we go to the movies. But, more than that, with this story, in particular—I hope it might bring a measure of healing to those who may walk in with some brokenness or guilt from previous romantic relationships. For others, I hope it might offer insight into a more noble way to consider romance and possibly even conviction to raise the bar in their own lives.

I’ll just quote Clay from the film itself: “We don’t have to go around using each other, hurting each other; it doesn’t have to be that way.”

About Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle 12 Articles

Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle is EWTN television host, speaker, and author of numerous books including Mother Teresa and Me: Ten Years of Friendship, Catholic Mom’s Cafe: 5-Minute Retreats for Every Day of the Year, and The Miraculous Medal: Stories, Prayers, and Devotions. Visit her online at www.donnacooperoboyle.com.