The Star reimagines nativity story for a new generation
COMING up with unique storylines in this day and age must be tough, let alone in niche genres, but the writers and directors behind Christmas film The Star have done just that.
"It's the Nativity story from the point of view of the animals, and in this film, we follow Bo, who is the donkey that carries Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem," director Timothy Reckart explains.
"It's about how something that seems small can be bigger than it looks on the outside. Bo has been looking to do something important, and he starts seeking that in a self-aggrandising way.
"Along the journey, by doing a small thing - helping these two people, which, for all he knows, are just some random couple - he winds up doing the most important thing he could ever achieve.
"Greatness comes in the most humble appearance, which is the message of the Christmas story itself."
It was the world's familiarity with the story that excited the director.
"Most people have some knowledge of it, and that presents a wonderful opportunity," Reckart says.
"Of course, the challenge is that people may feel that they know the story, they've seen it, but we can make the most of it by letting some of those elements take place off-screen, and look at what might have been going on in the background, or ask questions like 'What were the camels doing at that moment?'
"That awareness of the story allows us to veer off into the corners and shine a light on other things going on and tell new stories in the midst of the familiar."
The crew were also faced with the task of recreating a heavily religious tale while being inclusive of a huge range of demographics.
"We looked at it as the greatest story never told," executive producer DeVon Franklin says.
"Audiences aren't coming for the documentary or the historical exposition - they're coming for enjoyment and creativity.
"It says a lot about teamwork, stepping outside of their own somewhat narrow perspectives and working together. "It's also about hope - you've got to believe in the impossible for it to happen.
"I think we found ways to present Mary and Joseph as recognisable characters who laugh, who are afraid, who find themselves at the centre of this amazing story and display their humanity throughout it all."
The entire film is tied together by an uplifting soundtrack, spearheaded by the queen of Christmas music herself.
"Mariah Carey is nothing less than a living legend," Franklin says.
"That's why, from day one, when we talked about the music, the number one name was Mariah Carey.
"Now, we can all dream, but when Mariah said yes to the film, all of us were excited and we were shocked - as much as we thought it would be great, you don't always get your first choice.
"She came to the studio with Marc Shaiman and I showed them a few scenes from the movie. Well, as soon as I finish showing them the scenes, they go into a booth with a piano and start writing.
"Less than 48 hours later, Mariah calls and says, 'Can you come down to the studio? We've finished the song.' "When I heard it, it is truly one of the most inspirational songs I have ever heard."
With a cast comprising of The Walking Dead's Steven Yeun as Bo, Jane the Virgin's Gina Rodriguez as Mary, Tangled's Zachary Levi plus a smattering of huge names among the smaller roles, including Oprah Winfrey, Kelly Clarkson, Gabriel Iglesias, Tracy Morgan and Tyler Perry. Reckart says the experience was nothing short of inspiring.
"The thing that really surprised me was how each of these artists approached their particular roles," he says.
"Like it's 2am, you're hanging with your friends, and suddenly everything is hilarious in a way it isn't in the mid-afternoon.
"The actors all made these characters leap off the page."
The Star opens in cinemas tomorrow.