Senior Jedidiah Grooters has played a key part in the 2011 independent film The Frontier Boys, which was released digitally and on DVD in March through Destiny Images. Though it was written and directed by Jedidiah’s father, John Grooters, Jedidiah and his father came up with the initial idea for the film together. There’s even a sequal in the works. We were able to get an interview with Jedidiah about his experience making the film.
How did you get involved with the film?
Between 2002-2003, my dad planned a trip for the two of us to go skiing at Whistler in British Columbia, where we had plenty of time for conversation. My dad had just opened his own media company, was aware of the media gap for adolescent males looking for quality life models, and was hoping to potentially fill that gap. These circumstances led to the perfect space in which our creative story telling juices could flow. There, we laid the foundation for what would become the first three stories in The Frontier Boys franchise.
Describe your involvement.
Over Christmas break of my senior year, we gathered a group of people and went to Northern Michigan to shoot four scenes of the full film script my dad had written. Some friends of mine and myself acted as a rag tag group of actors. The scenes turned into a pre-production trailer. Once the filming process began I was exclusively an actor, though I had plenty of opportunities to offer input in scene construction and story alteration. Multiple times a day, my dad and I would retreat together to pray and talk. Relationships developed throughout the film process, which were also significant to my involvement.
You mentioned you had never acted before. How was that inaugural experience for you?
The role that I played in the pre-production trailer was a character named and largely envisioned after me. My participation in it served as an audition to see if I could pull off acting as this character. Apparently I did well enough. In fact, my dad could hardly see anybody other than me play the part. In a certain way, the part was written for me, and he wanted me to have it. This was my first real acting experience. I played sports growing up, and this is a sports film in a way, so I didn’t have to do much other than be myself. It was very comfortable. The most helpful thing though was working with the other members of the cast, such as Jake Boyce, Tim Lofing, and Greg Myhre. I enjoy acting and would love to try other performances.
Who are the other stars in the film? How did you all come together to be a part of The Frontier Boys?
Of the four Frontier Boys, Timothy Lofing played the leading role of Brent Fencett; Jake Boyce played Jackson; Taylor DeRoo played TJ; and I played Jed Bracken. Rebecca St. James, the Grammy award winning Christian singer, played my mother in the film, and Big Kenny of the country band Big & Rich played my father. Earthquake Kelley and Greg Myhre were also a part of the main cast. Almost all of our auditions happened through Skype. It was simple, though there were interesting stories that came out of it.
What was it like taking time off from school to be a part of the film?
In the beginning of my sophomore year at PLNU, I felt a subtle pull away to take a grand adventure with Jesus. This was conveniently met with an email from my father asking me to take a month off of school to be in the film. However, we relied on investors, and no one had any money for us. The movie had to be put off, yet I still felt God wanted me to drop out of school. My parents agreed to support my decision. Over Christmas break though, a friend of the family inspired my dad, and by March we had last minute investments, volunteers, and gifts that made it happen. The city of Charlevoix even gave us a house that the fire department burned down for us [for a scene]. During the time away I also went to Kansas City at the International House of Prayer, I got engaged, and I went on a biblical study tour in Israel with my sister. I was also called back to PLNU.
Was the experience formative for you? How did it most impact you personally?
The development of my relationships with both my mom and dad is probably the most significant thing. This project increased my respect for my dad and brought us closer together. The timing for this mutual experience was also very good, as it was a time when I was entering adulthood. Being able to work alongside him, instead of playing under him as I often did in sports, created a unique transitional stage in our relationship. It was also through a mission project, which was the tone for this stage.
How did the idea for the sequel come about?
The sequel was written shortly after the first and has always been something we planned on doing. It could legitimately happen this summer. I know many are and have been working hard to see it come to life. The impact of the first film’s release probably has a lot to say on whether or not it comes together.
Have you had any strangers recognize you?
I have had a few people recognize me. I was in Holland over Christmas break and Jake Boyce, my dad, and I went to a restaurant called Fat Burrito, and as we were walking out, Jake heard two little girls say to their parents, “Aren’t those the Frontier Boys?” This is about as intense as it’s gotten. At one point a friend of mine wanted his youth group to watch the movie during a church lock-in and invited me to bring the pre-release edition. It was great seeing the kids’ reactions to the movie.
The first release of The Frontier Boys is exclusive to digital (Netflix, On Demand, etc.) and Christian stores.