Dentist triumphs in making movies
April 03, 2017
Dr. Jim Kreutzer remembers the first movie he helped produce.
It was a low-budget, mid-1990s horror film called "Fever Lake" starring Corey Haim and Mario Lopez, shot in southeast Wisconsin, where Dr. Kreutzer practices as an endodontist.
"It was on-budget and on-time but not exactly the epitome of an award-winning film," Dr. Kreutzer said of the movie, laughing. "But I obviously found something I enjoyed in the filmmaking process, and I decided to stay in the business."
About 20 years later, Dr. Kreutzer would find his greatest success in the film industry by creating and developing "Tommy's Honour," set to debut nationwide on April 14. The movie, based on the true story of the father-son team who ushered in the modern game of golf, received the Best Feature Film award from the 2016 British Academy Scotland Awards.
"Here I am, this dentist from Wisconsin, alongside director Jason Connery, son of Sir Sean Connery, on stage accepting a Scottish Oscar," Dr. Kreutzer, 66, said. "It was truly one of the most amazing moments of my life."
And to think, he added, filmmaking sort of fell into his lap.
Dr. Kreutzer had received his dental degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, spent two years in the U.S. Navy as a dentist, and in 1979 received his postgraduate degree at the University of Maryland.
"I've been practicing since then," he said.
But in 1993, friends from California asked Dr. Kreutzer to invest in and help develop a film — "Fever Lake."
"I put together a group of friends of mine composed of some dentists, formed a production company and we had some success," he said. As the years went by, Dr. Kreutzer said he continued to learn how to go from merely developing and creating film projects to running the entire production to marketing and distributing six other independent projects.
"I learned how to create movies from nothing," he said.
More than golf: "Tommy's Honour" is based on the true story of the father-son team who ushered in the modern game of golf. Directed by Jason Connery, it stars Peter Mullan, Jack Lowden, Ophelia Lovibond and Sam Neill. It opens April 14 in the U.S.
When he stepped away from production for about 10 years to focus on his family and practice, he stayed active in show business by serving as a development consultant for other film projects.
In 2011, Dr. Kreutzer visited the historic town of St. Andrews, Scotland — known as the "home of golf" — with a friend who had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. As a prerequisite to the bucket list trip, the two friends read "Tommy's Honour: The Extraordinary Story of Golf's Founding Father and Son," by Kevin Cook as a way to immerse themselves in the Scottish game and culture.
Dr. Kreutzer said he loved the story of the relationship of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom, who at 17 remains the youngest player to win The Open Championship. He was surprised to find that no one had done a film on the Morris' life story.
After buying the rights to turn the book into a movie, Dr. Kreutzer said he cold-called director Jason Connery. The two men hit it off and had similar visions for the film.
For two to three years, it was just Mr. Connery and Dr. Kreutzer working on "Tommy's Honour."
"We hired the screenwriters, developed the script with them, and then with the help of [Mr. Connery's] production partner, Keith Bank of Highland Park, Illinois, raised the money and hired a casting agent, selected the actors," Dr. Kreutzer said. "And we were off to the races."
The film was shot in 33 days in 50 locations in Scotland.
Tommy's Honour was selected to be the red-carpet opening-night film in front of 1,500 people at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June 2016. Directed by Mr. Connery, it stars Peter Mullan, Jack Lowden, Ophelia Lovibond and Sam Neill. The film will open in 32 cities, including Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, on April 14.
"If we do well, we'll expand," Dr. Kreutzer said. "When you do this type of roll-out theatrical release, you hand-pick the first set of cities and hope people go see it. I think we're going to surprise a lot of people."
Reviews to date have been positive and most reviews have alluded to the fact that golf is just a backdrop for the film and that the real drama lies in the true story of this single family in 1870s Scotland.
"It's so much more than a golf movie," he said. "To watch the film in the theater with people seeing the film for the first time, we listen for fidgeting or rustling in their seats. Then when the audience laughs or cries at moments in the film that you hoped they would because you know that scene would affect people — especially in the scenes that I fought to keep in the final edit — well that's a very personal experience for me."
The Golf Channel and NBC Sports Group are actively promoting the film. They are playing the 30-minute behind-the-scenes look at the movie.
To be able to juggle a dental practice, spend time with family and take months off working on a film, Dr. Kreutzer says he knows he's been very fortunate.
"I have two very good partners who take on the extra work when I'm not there," he said. "I've been very lucky to be able to take months off at a time."
Dr. Kreutzer is currently developing an international TV series and another feature film entitled "The Road Dance," a story set on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland against the backdrop of World War I.
Yet there's a reason Dr. Kreutzer turned down the chance to move to Hollywood to stay in the Midwest.
"I didn't go into the business to get away from dentistry," he said. "Dentistry has been very good to me. I still love practicing, working with my staff and my patients. But I also love making quality films that have a good story to tell. I hope I'll be able to do both for a little while longer. I have been given a chance to live out a dream."
For more information on "Tommy's Honour," visit tommyshonour.com