Film shows alumnus’ struggles

Brooks Douglass participates in a Q and A following a screening of “Heaven’s Rain” on Monday. Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor
Brooks Douglass participates in a Q and A following a screening of “Heaven’s Rain” on Monday.
Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor

By Grace Gaddy

One Baylor alumnus will never forget the night of Oct. 15, 1979, when a tragic crime turned his world upside down. Now Brooks Douglass has moved on, enough to co-write and produce a movie, “Heaven’s Rain,” in which he chronicles the story in a series of flashbacks so that audiences can travel his personal journey toward healing and forgiveness.

Douglass spoke at Chapel Monday to tell students about his new film and to offer a unique glimpse into the story behind the script.

The movie depicts real occurrences in Douglass’ own life: his parents’ brutal murder and the assault of his 12-year-old sister at the hands of two merciless drifters.

The men entered the Douglasses’s Oklahoma home, claiming they needed to use the phone. Instead, they tied up the entire family, shot each member and left them for dead. Only Douglass and his sister survived.

Douglass overcame his troubles and even went on to receive Baylor’s Herbert H. Reynolds Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 1993. He joined the military, earned a law degree and became the youngest senator in the state of Oklahoma at age 27. Douglass also passed several pieces of victims’ rights legislation, results of his own experience.

Douglass’ victims’ rights legislation included court proceedings, compensation funds and returning personal items to victims after their use as evidence.

Beyond lawmaking, Douglass strove to touch people through film.

“It’s my passion,” Douglass said. “I wanted to make movies, and I’d done a little bit of acting. I’d done some writing.”

Douglass moved to Hollywood, where he took a screenwriting class. His teacher noticed a recurring theme in his work, politics and senators, and asked him about it. What he got was Douglass’ entire story. The teacher, Paul Brown, told him to write it.

After much prayer and consideration, Douglass decided to do it.

Douglass portrayed his own father in the film, and Mike Vogel, star of “Miami Medical,” played Douglass. Brown, the film’s director, also helped with writing and production.

Hibbs commented on the “rough authenticity” of the film in terms of dealing with raw emotions.

“At the end, we’re called on by the Scripture and by Jesus’ example to forgive,” Douglass said. “I realized that by choosing to hate, I was actually killing off my chances to live the life I got up off the floor to live in the first place.”

Forgiveness, he said, gave him the chance for a new life, and that’s what “Heaven’s Rain” is all about.

The Honors College and the department of spiritual life presented a special screening of the film Monday night in Castellaw Communications Center. Dallas freshman Millie Black, a film and digital media major, said she thought the film was good because it accurately portrayed the real-life struggle of Douglass.

“His film was a good Christian movie because it didn’t just say ‘you should believe in the Bible.’ I mean, he showed the character, how he didn’t want to forgive the guy, but instead it was a shocker when he did,” Black said.