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Christian Living

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'The Farmer and the Belle: Saving Santaland' Movie Delivers a Holiday Filled with Hope

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

As we count down the days on a year that most would rather forget, people need to feel the miracle of Christmas more than ever.  Let’s face it, we could all use a little more Christmas cheer.

A new must-see faith and family Christmas film, The Farmer and the Belle: Saving Santaland strives to do just that.  Starring Jenn Gotzon (Frost/Nixon), Jim E. Chandler (My Daddy’s in Heaven), Corbin Bernsen (Major League, Psych), and John Schneider (Dukes of Hazzard), the movie is the story of the glitz and glamour of high fashion colliding with good old family values. This takes place in of all places … a pig farm.  Along the way, the critically important message of finding your true identity is on full display.

The Farmer and the Belle: Saving Santaland is available now on all major VOD, cable, DVD platforms, and retail stores nationwide.

Watch Other Great Christmas Movies on the CBN Family App!

I recently spoke with Gotzon and Chandler, who just happen to be married in real life, about their decision to pour their heart and soul into this project, how elements of their real life story found its way into the movie, and the vitally important meaning of true beauty and self-worth.

How would you describe The Farmer and the Belle: Saving Santaland to someone who has never seen it before?

Jenn Gotzon: It is a fun, festive Christmas movie for the entire family. Kiddos to grandparents can watch together to really usher in the Christmas spirit for the season. We created it to that it would be a fun, yearly tradition that parents might want to pull out around that Thanksgiving season to be able to celebrate the birth of Christ.

This movie has an interesting backstory to it. What inspired you to make The Farmer and the Belle in the first place?

Jenn Gotzon: It's a two part answer. The deep message is that I struggled with my identity when I was young. I thought that I needed to be beautiful to be loved. That lie stuck with me until I was an adult. I started to work with pastors and psychologists, and I started to learn that you replace those negative lies with scriptural truth. You can overcome by being transformed by the renewing of your mind, which the Bible tells us in Romans. I wanted that to be the main premise underneath the film, to really help girls starting at around age six, up to women, who feel like they are aging out, that their value is not based on their looks. Ninety-percent of women believe this lie. That means basically almost every person struggles with their appearance, feeling fat, feeling ugly, or just not worthy.

So, we dressed it up in a fun Christmas movie. We don't want to be preachy. We want to have fun. But we want to drop in those pearls of wisdom, every 25 minutes or so throughout the film, so people can walk away understanding real true purpose. The other part of the equation is that I truly was a model in China. I was dating Jim who truly lived with his parents on a farm that had been in the family for 100 years. I was a fish out of water and the name, The Farmer and the Belle kept coming into my heart. The title word play was interesting because “belle” means beauty. We thought it would be a really fun story.

Jim E. Chandler: And we were also pen pals in a sense. I wrote Jen some letters while we were dating because we lived in separate states. We wanted to have that be one of the themes as part of the relationship between the two characters.

For me, a key thread that runs through this entire movie is learning and finding the true meaning of beauty and self-worth.  Would I be accurate in saying that?

Jenn Gotzon: Young girls are living in the world of social media, where they are putting filters on to be able to be as attractive as they can. Where are they getting these images that they need to look up to? They really look to Hollywood. They look to magazines. They look to media of major stars. That's what I did. I really understand that. It's a false reality of your identity.

Jim E. Chandler: We were already in the middle of making this movie when the “Me Too” movement struck, when things were exposed about these terrible men and predators that were out there. One of the things that I always thought about was that a lot of these women were taken advantage of and obviously the men are terrible for being the predators that they are. Sometimes I can only imagine what the struggle might be for a young lady who is wanting to have a career in some way, shape or form, or believes that she's going to be able to get something of value by having some type of a relationship with a man and things go terrible. Values need to be instilled at a young age to say that I am valuable. I don't need this person in front of me that's dangling this career, opportunity, or anything like that in order to know that I'm valuable because I'm made in the image of God. I am inherently valuable and worth something. And perhaps that could be a way for them to get out of it if they find themselves in that situation, that they can say no to this, I am valuable and get out of there. Do this instead of believing your value comes from a man, instead of being supported by a man of honor, a man of integrity, who will uplift their value, not because you can give it to them, but because it's already there. It should be uplifted because she's inherited the throne and that she's a daughter of the King.

Jenn Gotzon: When we receive our love from Jesus, as a woman it takes off the focus of receiving love from a male. That's why we created this bracelet that's intricate to the storyline. There's a heart that dangles into the palm of your hand. It's a prayer that says, ‘Dear Jesus, help me grasp how wide, high, long, and deep is your love for me.’ This is from scripture. And then the woman, the teen, or the child could hold onto that heart reminding themselves that Jesus loves them. That's the only thing that matters.

I understand that perhaps this movie is art imitating life.  Are there elements that came from your real life story that are in the film?

Jenn Gotzon: The photos that you see, when Belle has her modeling career, those are actually real photos from a modeling campaign I did in China. They've been on billboards. People said they'd actually seen them in Asia and in Russia.

And the bracelet, I would actually wear jewelry, when God would give me a revelation. When I would look at that piece of jewelry, it would remind me of that truth. God inspired this idea of a bracelet with five charms, with 10 scripture inscriptions on them. We did this, so that we as women, teens, and children can look to that bracelet to remind us who we are. When I was in China modeling, this is where I realized when we meditate on God's truths, we truly are transformed. I would meditate on I am a magnificent masterpiece. My body and soul are marvelously made. And over my face came this radiant joy, confidence, peace, and serenity. Those were captured in photographs. And I looked at those photographs and people would say, ‘These are so beautiful.’ But what they were seeing was the radiant love of God shining through me. I want to help other girls and women, that they can meditate on those truths and replace that negative lie. And they can truly experience that beauty that God has created them to be.

In addition to John Schneider and Corbin Bernsen, a significant actor in The Farmer and the Belle is Adele Chandler, who just happens to be your niece, and actually lives on the farm where the movie was filmed.  This seems very convenient.  Did you have intentions to have someone else to play this part but didn’t work out?

Jim E. Chandler: When this idea was being formulated, she was only five years old. She was absolutely adorable with her little red head and the way that she talks. She's so cute. And Jen just fell in love with her. The idea was, well, why don't we try to see if Adele can do it? And so we did a screen test with her just on our (smart) phone at age six. She was talking about the slop, the pigs, talking about going to feed the pigs and all that stuff. Some of the lines she said in real life. (Phrases like), ‘Oh, it's pig slop,’ or ‘It's super squishy.’ Those are things that she says in real life. So, the fact that we both have the red hair and freckles, we thought it would work.

When we mentioned it to the director he said, ‘Okay, let me go audition her.’ He came in and they sat down. He did some of the scenes with her. Then, he said, ‘You know what? I think that she's going to be just fine and she's going to do great.’ And she steals the show. She's so good and we're so proud to have her in it. Also, my brother helped. He was the animal wrangler. My dad has a small part in the film and my mom was one of the caterers. So, it was a big family affair along with my other nephews, who were in the nativity scene. It was great for New Dawn Farm, which is the camp that my family helps operate. And it was great for our family's property in general as we have been here for a hundred years.

After audiences have seen The Farmer and the Belle, what would you like audiences to take away from the viewing experience? What is your greatest hope for the film?

Jenn Gotzon: That this would be a fun, festive Christmas movie that they would like to usher in that Christmas spirit every year as a family tradition. Eating popcorn, being in their Christmas pajamas, drinking hot cocoa, having fun, and laughing through the movie. Then, I would like people to walk away with those pearls of wisdom about God's love for their value.

Watch Other Great Christmas Movies on the CBN Family App!

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