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Exclusive Interview: Emmy Award-Winning Director Kyle Portbury On "The Hopeful"

As the anticipation builds for the nationwide release of the historical drama "The Hopeful,"  Emmy Award-winning Film Director and Co-Producer Kyle Portbury sits down with Ezzah Rafique, Editor-in-Chief of HAZZE MEDIA, during his time at SXSW. With a diverse cast and a captivating storyline, "The Hopeful" promises to be a cinematic experience like no other. As Portbury describes it, "It’s a love letter to my roots, telling a powerful human story that I am proud to share not only with those who share my beliefs, but also with the many friends, family, and colleagues in my life who hold other views."

Set against the backdrop of 19th-century New England, "The Hopeful" beckons viewers to traverse a landscape fraught with uncertainty and upheaval. At its core lies the enigmatic figure of William Miller, a man grappling with profound existential questions following his harrowing survival of the War of 1812. Portrayed with raw authenticity, Miller's quest for meaning takes a transformative turn upon encountering a prophetic revelation—the world's impending end.

One of the most unique aspects of "The Hopeful" is its collaboration with two-time Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Jonas Myrin, who contributed two original songs to the film's soundtrack. Portbury shares the process of collaborating with Myrin, stating, " I sent him a very early rough assembly of the story and just said, ‘Hey, if this inspires you, see what comes out.’ And four days later, he sent me two of the most beautiful demos I think I've ever heard in my entire life…they inspired our way in approaching storytelling in the edit.”

For Portbury, directing and co-producing "The Hopeful" has been a deeply personal endeavor, challenging him to explore new creative avenues and delve deeper into the human experience.  The inspiration behind the film came from a “personal connection,” according to Portbury. “It's a faith tradition that I grew up in. Is this faith tradition of my parents something that I'm actually going to take at face value, or am I going to really test and prod this?” He states, “So when this came along about ten years ago, it was a really good time to test and prod and really dig into some of these key figures from the movement's history. I think what's fabulous about it is when you can dig into the archives and you can read correspondence between.”

One of the most unique aspects of "The Hopeful" is its attention to historical detail, evident in the meticulously crafted set props that transport audiences back in time. Portbury emphasizes, "We wanted to ensure that every aspect of the film, from the costumes to the set design, accurately reflected the time period." This commitment to authenticity is evident in every frame of the film, as audiences are immersed in the sights and sounds of 19th century New England. Portrayed candidly discusses the delicate balance between historical accuracy and cinematic engagement, recounting instances where practical constraints necessitated creative solutions. From intricate medical issues to the nuances of historical artifacts like whale oil lamps, every detail was meticulously weighed against the film's overarching narrative vision. “There's a very particular lamp like at this period of time because it's all candles and oil lamps, and it's whale oil,” Portbury explains. “The historians that we had on this were very particular about a whale oil lamp that it had to be, to the point where at one stage in the conversation, you're almost wondering how far are we taking this? You know, historical accuracy is good in a true story, but at what point are you just doing it for the sake of doing it?” He questions.

As "The Hopeful" prepares to make its debut at SXSW, Portbury is filled with anticipation and excitement, eager to share his vision with audiences from around the world. He hopes that viewers will be moved by the story of William Miller and Ellen Harmon and inspired to embrace the power of hope in their own lives. As he aptly puts it, “ hope and healing are the two main themes surrounding the film.”

Yet, amidst these challenges, collaboration emerged as the guiding force behind The Hopeful. Portrayed emphasizes the importance of surrounding oneself with talented collaborators, each contributing their unique insights and expertise. From actors to musicians, the collaborative spirit infused every aspect of the filmmaking process, resulting in a cohesive and immersive cinematic experience. As he reflects on his collaborative journey, Portbury shares, “I love collaborating with people who are smarter than me because they help you get through those moments when you're stuck”

In a world filled with uncertainty and turmoil, "The Hopeful" offers a message of hope and redemption—a reminder that, even in our darkest moments, there is always reason to believe in a brighter tomorrow. As audiences prepare to embark on this extraordinary journey, they are invited to join Portbury and his team on a cinematic adventure unlike any other.

With its captivating narrative, breathtaking cinematography, and unforgettable performances, "The Hopeful" promises to be a cinematic experience that will resonate with audiences long after the credits roll. As Portbury prepares to share his creation with the world, he does so with a sense of pride and gratitude, knowing that he has created something truly special.

“The Hopeful” will be out in theaters on April 17 & 18! Purchase tickets here. Watch the trailer here.


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