“I’ve been a moviegoer since I was three years old,” Shillingburg said. “I come from a very movie-crazed family, so to actually be able to go the movie theater and watch actors speak lines that I’ve written and scenes that I’ve created, it’s very exciting.”
The sequel to the 2007 faith-based hit The Ultimate Gift and based on the Jim Stovall novel, The Ultimate Life opens Thursday at Cinemark Tinseltown, 6001 Martin Luther King Blvd., and Friday at Harkins Bricktown 16, 150 E Reno Ave. The debut screenplay by Shillingburg is a culmination of many years in the business and her chance to show the public that there’s a market for character-driven independent films.
“We need to support movies that are not — and I say this about any independent film — just comic book movies and remakes. If we don’t, independent film is going to disappear.”
The Ultimate Gift is a story about a young man who, in order to claim his inheritance from his dead grandfather, undertakes a series of tasks in order to learn the value of a good life. The Ultimate Life, however, is more of a prequel, telling the story of the grandfather and how he came up with these tasks. While this movie, directed by Michael Landon Jr., is also being labeled as a faith-based film, Shillingburg believes that there is something that everybody can take away from it, believer or not.
“I look at these as morality tales. The word ‘Christian’ isn’t necessarily used,” she said. “It’s about living a good life. To me, that’s living a moral life, which means that anybody can appreciate it. I’m a Christian, and I’ve always had strong faith and a strong relationship with God. To me, how this whole movie came together was a direct response to prayer, and I believe in that. It resonated with me, but I also wanted people to see it from the book’s message too: the basic idea of how to live a good life, what’s important. It’s not a heavy-handed message by any means.”
Shillingburg will miss the premier due to other work constraints, but she’s eager to finally see her name on the big screen. She’s not resting on this accomplishment, though; along with retired Air Force Lt. Col. Shawn Copeland, she is hard at work on her next screenplay, which she describes as an “Air Force action-adventure.” It may be a different genre for her, but it’s still the same dream she had as a child.
“Movies are sitting in the dark and watching moving dreams, so we always find something in them that moves up or touches us,” she said. “After all these years of working on them, I still love them as much as I did when I was three. I always will.”