Houston filmmaker Michelle Mower is bringing the Bayou City into homes across the nation with her locally filmed Lifetime movies. Her first film, The Preacher's Daughter, tells the story of Hannah White, the estranged daughter of a small town minister who is forced to return home after four years away when she is arrested for drug possession.
The film, which debuted on the cable channel to high ratings last year and will be shown again several times on the weekend of Dec. 13, is loosely based on Mower's experiences as the daughter of a League City Baptist preacher.
"What really prompted me to want to tell that story was the TV series, 7th Heaven, which is about a preacher and his family," Mower says. "I started watching it and felt like it was a very syrupy, candy-coated version of what it’s really like to be a preacher’s kid. It certainly dealt with problems like drug addiction and pregnancy, but all the problems were resolved in one episode — not very realistic."
"It certainly dealt with problems like drug addiction and pregnancy, but all the problems were resolved in one episode — not very realistic."
Mower said that people's preconceived notions about preacher's children also led to her write the script for The Preacher's Daughter. "The story just came about because I wanted to tell a story about a preacher’s daughter because preacher’s kids kind of come with their own mythos — they’re either the goodie-two-shoes or they’re the wild child — and I wanted to explore that dichotomy," Mower says.
Although the film aired only last year, Mower wrote the first draft in 2001. After years of tinkering with the script, she finally took the draft to her mentor, fellow screenwriter Casey Kelly. After receiving positive feedback, Mower decided to finalize the script and make the film on her own.
The initial airing of The Preacher's Daughter was so well received — it was the highest rated movie on the Lifetime Movie Network for 2012 — that it led Lifetime to ask Mower for another film. She obliged, and along with her co-writer Kevin Dean, created The Preacher's Mistress, which Mower also directed and produced. It premiered last month to high ratings and airs again on the network on Dec. 28 (at 9 p.m. CST and Dec. 29 at 1 a.m.).
Not only did The Preacher's Daughter do very well on Lifetime, but it also received international recognition at several film festivals, including the Tyrolean, St. Tropez, Madrid and Barcelona International Film Festivals, where it received the Best Narrative and Grand Jury awards.
Both of the Preacher's films were heavily reliant on Houston for locations, cast, crew and general support. The Preacher's Daughter was mostly shot in Alvin and at Mower's childhood home in League City, and The Preacher's Mistress was shot largely inside the Loop and includes locations like Hotel Icon and the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall. Mower worked closely with the Houston Film Commission which was instrumental in getting her the locations she wanted for filming.
"I had a really great crew, mostly from Houston. I owe Houston a lot and wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for organizations like SWAMP (Southwest Alternate Media Project) and the Houston film community who came together and said 'Let's help her make this movie because it's a good project,' and they knew me from my work with SWAMP," says Mower, who was the project manager for SWAMP for eight years.
"So, Houston has been very good to me."