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A Story Within a Story: Staines

Andrew Matthews wrote The Least of These: The Graham Staines Story. He's a husband, father, teacher, writer, actor, filmmaker, coffee drinker and Christ follower, and he's passionate about stories that really matter. But who is he really?

If there is something we love here at Movies Change People, it is a story within a story. And so often with the films we distribute there is a rich behind-the-scenes story.

But then, isn’t there always when God is involved with a project? And it’s no different for The Least of These: The Graham Staines Story, a film we are bringing to cinemas in May.

The writer (and one of the producers) of this project is Andrew Matthews, Perth school-teacher. Just how did a Perth school teacher come to write and produce a major feature film, you might ask?

Well, it’s a great story.

Andrew grew up on a cattle farm in South Africa, and his life-experience includes boarding school, military service, backpacking across Europe and North America, moving to Australia, and raising boys. It also includes many years working in multiple areas of the entertainment industry. From theatre to screen, from actor to crew, Andrew's work covered an extensive range of roles over 16 years. Movies and TV shows such as Water Rats, Mission Impossible II, TwentyFourSeven and South Pacific, together with producing commercials and corporate videos, all provided an invaluable understanding of the industry and an ideal platform for intelligent script writing.

In the early 2000s, however, Andrew decided to take up teaching and focus on writing as his 'hobby.' At that time he had the opportunity to write some one-off television shows for Aneesh Daniel (the film’s director) in India. This led to discussion about the Graham Staines story.

He travelled to India during the longer school holiday one year and spent nearly six weeks researching the story. He visited the Mission, the Leprosy Home, surrounding area and Kolkata. He travelled on the trains and buses in rural India. He stayed in a small rented apartment in Hyderabad with only the basic necessities as he wrote and researched. He met regularly with Aneesh to get his input on ideas, and they developed a number of drafts together.

A couple of years later, with chosen draft in hand, Andrew visited Gladys in Townsville and received her blessing to continue with the development of the script and possible movie. But it was still to be a number of years in which they continued to refine the story.

God continued to provide opportunities as they persisted with the belief that the fruition of this project was possible. And God brought Victor Abraham on board, a man with a vision to see 'stories that matter' being told.

Andrew had hoped that writing was all he would need to do, but God had other plans. It just so happened that his teaching load was reduced in Term 4 of 2014, and this enabled him to take on a producing role - originally as an associate producer, but as the project progressed he took on more and more responsibilities. That was not an easy road, especially since Andrew kept up his day job as a teacher at Swan Christian College.

Nevertheless, he is delighted that God enabled them to produce a moving story that honours the lives and service of the Staines family.

And so are we! Thank you Andrew, for pursuing this passion project with all your heart, and bringing this powerful story to the screen.

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