Tennessee native Gary Granstaff Produces Faith-Based ‘The Masked Saint’
FRANKLIN – After decades of living in Seattle, Wash., and Los Angeles, Tennessee native and movie producer Gary Granstaff returned to his roots. Granstaff was reared in the small community of Defeated in Smith County near Carthage.
He attended and became a member of First Baptist Church, Carthage, where his mother (Hazel Granstaff) was an icon in the church and in the community. She taught school and was a librarian for more than three decades in Smith County. Now in his 60s, Granstaff even recalls seeing the Baptist and Reflector as a child. “The Baptist and Reflector was one of the first publications I remember coming to our home,” he said.
Years after leaving Tennessee to make his mark in the insurance and financial industry, Granstaff turned to movie production, joining with his son, Brett, to form Ridgerock Entertainment Group.
After opening the new business he decided to return to his home state about 12 years ago to become the sixth generation to live on the family farm in Smith County.
He recalled visiting his mother who suffered a stroke in her later years and spent the last 15 years of her life in a nursing home. His mother reminded him that he had been very successful in business. Then she told him, “Anybody can make money but not everyone can make a difference. You and Brett have an opportunity to make a difference.”
Granstaff said he left the nursing home that day determined that his new company would do just that. Though Ridgerock Entertainment produces primarily secular movies, he established a branch called Ridgerock Faith that would produce films with a positive Christian message.
The first film produced with that goal is “The Masked Saint.” The movie which features Brett Granstaff in the starring role will open in about 600 theaters across the United States on Jan. 8. It is scheduled to be in at least 29 cities and towns across Tennessee ranging from Memphis to the Tri-Cities. “She would be proud that the movie has the right message,” Granstaff said.
According to the film’s promotional site, the movie follows the journey of former professional wrestler Chris Samuels who retires from the ring to become a pastor in a small town. “When the pastor witnesses rampant problems in the community, he decides to moonlight as a masked vigilante fighting injustice.” At the same time he re-enters the ring to raise some needed funds.
The movie is based on the book of the same name written by Chris Whaley, a Baptist pastor in Florida who was a professional wrestler.
The screenplay for the movie was written by Brett Granstaff, who spent some of his early years in Tennessee, before earning a degree in film and television from New York University. He adapted the screenplay from the book and a previous screenplay that had been written on Whaley’s story.
In choosing the first faith-based movie to produce, Gary Granstaff said they were looking for something different. After reading Whaley’s he felt that the combination of wrestling and preaching fit that criteria.
“We felt that it could be a compelling story,” he said.
Granstaff is confident that the faith-based community will want to see the movie. His desire is that it will also draw wrestling fans who might not typically go see a faith-based movie. He said the movie has the support of several leaders in the wrestling profession. The movie even included former professional wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in its cast. Piper died of a heart attack this past summer after filming for the movie was completed.
“We tried to maintain the integrity of the sport in the movie,” Granstaff said.
The overriding message of the movie, Granstaff observed, is faith. “Faith is critical to a person’s life,” he said.
The second overarching message is that men of God have to act to deter evil. “We can’t stand by and let evil take over,” Granstaff added.
He noted they tried to make the movie as realistic as possible in both elements – the pastorate and wrestling. The movie character recently graduated from seminary. He struggles with his sermons and the choir “has some people who probably should be in the pew,” Granstaff joked.
In addition, the pastor deals with an overbearing church member, failing attendance, and bills for church repairs.
The movie takes viewers on a journey that will make them both laugh and cry, while delivering a positive Christian message, Granstaff said.
The film has been viewed at several screenings across the state. Steve Farris, missions and outreach pastor at First Baptist Church, Cookeville, viewed the movie during a recent screening held in Sparta.
“As a fellow pastor being in the ministry for 25 years I understand the struggles that we go through. I saw a screening of The Masked Saint and I want to personally promise you that it is extremely encouraging,” Farris said.
“I laughed, I cried, I hurt, and I was overjoyed. I came home so excited I couldn’t sleep,” Farris recalled.
Granstaff is hopeful that pastors and youth ministers will embrace the movie and its message.
The movie will appeal to youth because of its entertainment value and action while at the same time giving them a strong faith-based message, Granstaff said.
If the movie helps to reach one person and change how he or she thinks or acts, “it will be worthwhile,” he concluded.
For more information about the movie, visit www.themaskedsaint.com.