Scheduled to film in late June, "One Life at a Time" chronicles the journey of a modern, privileged young man who gets into trouble and as part of his sentence must work at Mel Trotter Ministries (MTM). Flashbacks reveal the story of the real Mel Trotter, an alcoholic petty criminal who decided to, in the winter of 1898, take a train to Chicago, get drunk, and throw himself off a pier.
He walked by the Pacific Garden Mission during a blizzard, but a worker spoke to him and guided him into the mission. He came to faith after hearing the testimony of another man, and soon got sober. He came on staff at the mission and, in late 1899, a request from Grand Rapids had him move to the city to start Grand Rapids City Mission. He ran the mission from 1900-1940, as well as helped start 68 other rescue missions around the country. The name was changed to Mel Trotter Ministries after he died. "One Life at a Time" comes from the vision statement of Mel Trotter Ministries to end homelessness one life at a time.
"His story is retold here every single day," said Dennis Van Kampen, president and CEO of Mel Trotter Ministries. "The world would have given up on Mel Trotter, would have judged him by his behavior. But God didn't give up and the Pacific Mission didn't give up, and we don't give up. We see the person behind the behavior, because that person is a Mel Trotter."
The movie, according to Van Kampen, is set in modern times with flashbacks to Mel Trotter's early story. Cain is slated to play the father of the young man sentenced to work at Mel Trotter Ministries. Luke Schroder, son of actor Ricky Schroder, will play the son of Dean Cain. Casting for other roles is going on now.
"He thinks he's being forced to help these people, but he's changed by serving them," said Van Kampen of the young man. "We hope the film dispels stereotypes around who is homeless."
Interest in creating the film came via a connection between Jason Campbell, president of JC Films, and MTM's Beth Fisher, VP of communication and advancement. Campbell said he'd never made a film about homelessness and, after researching the topic and Mel Trotter, decided to do so. Joint funding for the film comes from JC Films and Mel Trotter Ministries.
"One Life at a Time" will be filmed in Grand Rapids, in part at Mel Trotter Ministries, and include community members involved as extras. Visit
And October 8 debut is planned to coincide with World Homelessness Day on Oct. 10, with several options being considered in light of the Covid-19 crisis. Local theater releases and local church releases are under discussion, but "so much is Covid dependent," said Van Kampen.
"We hope the movie shows the needs around homelessness, as well as shows that people can have everything and yet have nothing," said Van Kampen. "In the last four years, more people have come to Christ, found housing, and found jobs through MTM that the previous ten years. We credit the many churches and other community partners, donors, and agencies who are engaging more deeply with us. But despite the successes, homelessness is increasing and the need is great."
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