Warning: This story will bring tears to your eyes. Steve Riach has been in the film industry creating stories for decades. His current project, One Heart, is much more than a heartwarming story. One Heart is a film and a project that is transforming lives – lives for generations. Based on a true story of a football game between two vastly different high school teams: one school is private; the other school is a prison. Steve began this journey to create and share a great story, only to discover a much greater purpose and opportunity to change lives, build collaboration and create real change.
I started my business and making movies because . . . I wanted to change the world through storytelling.
The thing I enjoy most about my business/making movies is . . . two things: 1) working in a collaborative environment with great people to accomplish something that is bigger than all of us; 2) the creative process of developing a story or project that can engage people, cause them to think, and potentially impact them.
The biggest surprise for me as a business owner/film maker is . . . how expensive everything is.
One question people should ask me is . . . what are all the mistakes you made (to date) and what have you learned from them?
One thing I wish I knew when I was younger is . . . to invest more time making good deposits into people – it is the most important thing we can do and brings the greatest return.
Catherine Miller: Thank you all for coming today. I am so glad that you’re here. I’m glad that we have our guests and our members as well. And, so I want to introduce to you today. This is Tom Miller. So, he’s with the LIFT office and he’s our interviewer for Lifting Leaders. And our guest today is Steve Riach with Eterne Films. And he’s going to talk about his One Heart film and the work that he’s doing with I guess at-risk youth and the juvenile system as well. And so, Tom, take it away.
Tom Miller: Great. Thanks, Catherine.
Tom Miller: Thanks to the LIFT Office folks and Lifting Leaders podcast people, Facebook world, but mostly, Steve, thanks for joining us today. So, you and I have known each other for a few years, kind of in passing, we see each other on town.
Steve Riach: Right.
Where the Story Began
Tom Miller: Steve Riach, CEO of Eterne Films. But let’s back up and put some context into how you got here. Because you’re one of those careers that everybody wondered, how did you get to do that? So, University of Pacific…
Steve Riach: Yeah.
Tom Miller: …in California, a decade or two ago with Creative Arts degree? What’s the degree?
Steve Riach: Broadcast Journalism.
Tom Miller: Broadcast, OK.
Steve Riach: Yeah.
Tom Miller: So you’re actually one of those people that is still doing what you studied in college.
Steve Riach: Kind of, yeah, kind of meandered through if you ask…
Tom Miller: OK. So walk us forward from California guy with a degree from a cool school, beach surfer dude, I imagined to – now, you’re at the Dallas Fort Worth area.
Steve Riach: Yeah, it’s a long story which I’ll make very short but – I went to school to play baseball actually at Pacific and was studying Broadcast Communication, felt like if baseball didn’t work out this will be a great way to go. Got hurt in my junior year, baseball wasn’t going to be a future. So, threw myself into Broadcast Communication. And actually had an agent at that time who was a great guy, a very powerful agent at that time, had kind of at the top on-air news and sports talent in the United States and kind of the laundry list of the Tom Brokaw’s of the world, who said, “I want you to be my next guy as a sports talent.” And really great, great experiences I mean at 19 years old, I’m going and doing interviews that, of course being from Southern California doing interviews with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the California Angels and doing a whole post game interview deal and…
Tom Miller: Wow.
Behind the Camera: Story Craftsman & Entrepreneur
Steve Riach: …thought this is pretty fun. But the more progressed in learning about the industry and what I really wanted to do, I determined I really didn’t want to be a face in front of a camera. I really wanted to not just speak the story but I wanted to create the story. And so, I shifted gears and decided to go in that direction to start my own company and went into the side of being behind the camera and actually creating story.
Tom Miller: Huh. So what was the first story that you made money on? First time you thought of “Yeah, I’ve got a business now.”
Steve Riach: Actually, what I did was while I was a student at Pacific, I – kind of an entrepreneurial type like you. And recognized – these were kind of in the early ESPN days. And so, there wasn’t this tremendous coverage of college sports on television. I thought you know we’re playing Division 1 basketball and football here, we’re planning its grade schools. Nobody is watching our games. They don’t exist. We can do that. So, gathered a bunch of students and we put together a business plan and went out to the community and sold the rights and got advertisers and train people and we broadcast Live the football and basketball games to the audience in that city and that community.
Tom Miller: Pretty cool.
Steve Riach: And we actually made money.
Tom Miller: Wow!
Tom Miller: So that was like you were ESPN before ESPN was there, huh?
Steve Riach: Well, we were kind of – ESPN had just started.
Tom Miller: You’re the E.
Steve Riach: We had the – well, we had the S maybe. [Laughter] But it was an incredible experience because we had to learn to do everything.
Tom Miller: Right.
Steve Riach: We had to learn how to sell it, to produce it, to write it. I mean from soup to nuts, we had to do the whole thing.
Tom Miller: Wow.
Steve Riach: Yeah, blood and nuts too.
Tom Miller: Yeah. So, I’m a sports guy too. And you know you were about against a lot of major names, what’s the person with the biggest names that you’ve had a chance to meet and get to know?
Steve Riach: Oh gosh. You know, hundreds and hundreds of athletes and coaches over the years.
Creating a Story with Impact: Interviewing Pistol Pete
Tom Miller: Who’s the most unique? Who’s the one that sticks out that thought, “Man, I’ll tell you a story about this guy or a girl”?
Steve Riach: Yeah, you know, the one I think that if – if a group said, “Hey, sit down and tell us a story about a particular athlete and what was so intriguing about that.” Probably, this is really old. It’s going to date me but probably it was Pete Maravich who was a great basketball player in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Tom Miller: Pistol Pete.
Steve Riach: Pistol Pete really revolutionized the game in the NBA. The way the game is played now is because of Pete Maravich. But just had this unbelievably fascinating life.
Tom Miller: What was so fascinating about him?
Steve Riach: You know, huge success I mean he was Elvis of college sports…
Tom Miller: I mean I’ve seen him play at LSU.
Steve Riach: …back in the ‘60s.
Tom Miller: Yeah, he’s crazy with those socks.
Steve Riach: Couldn’t go anywhere without being mobbed like Elvis Presley or the Beatles back in that time where we just kind of first as a culture celebrating our heroes and wanting to be a part of them. And so he was in – he was during that time-frame but he was completely miserable as a human being.
Tom Miller: Really?
Steve Riach: And so, his…
Tom Miller: Well, I didn’t know that but…
Steve Riach: …just empty. His whole life had been built around success on the basketball court. You’re going to be the first player to make a million dollars, you know was kind of the label that was put on him. And so his experiences of having all these incredible fame and then actually being the first million dollar athlete and having all the money, and it not bringing any satisfaction to him, so he went from this lifelong search to find meaning and peace and tried everything, everything you can imagine as a survival list, built a bomb shelter, was a UFO follower, was a… I mean every eastern religion that exists.
Tom Miller: Right.
Steve Riach: Until shortly before his death, he actually found his peace through Christianity. Fascinating story about life that on the outside we would look at and see as you have everything and he had nothing.
Lessons Learned & Shared
Putting People First
Tom Miller: Interesting. Cool. That’s interesting to hear. So, there’s a story that I want to spend most of the time on before we get to that though. You’ve had a very successful business run in a difficult industry. So, there will be entrepreneurs and people that are starting for businesses or that are earlier in their careers than you are. What’s the nugget or two or advice that you would give them looking back on your careers? So, if you could talk to the 25-year-old Steve and say, “Man, I wish you would have done it this way or this way or watch out for this.”
Steve Riach: Huh! Do you have an hour? [Laughter] You know, I think there are several things but one thing that comes to mind is you know even if you think that you’ve got vision for what you’re supposed to do and how it’s supposed to go, be a lifelong learner. Keep asking questions. Learn. Get your hands in it. Don’t be afraid of making a mistake. I think early on, I learned from so many mistakes that I made. I made more mistakes than I had successes, but I think I learned so much from those mistakes about how to do business, how to treat people. I mean I think that’s one thing.
And I think the other, you know, the other thing that comes to mind right away is it should always be about people first, always. If ever we feel like it’s really about market share first, we’re going to fail. It always has to be about people. We’re still a – we’re still humans that thrive on relationships. And if we ever forget that it’s not – if we ever put anything ahead of our relationships we’re going to fail no matter what we do. And you look at major heads of major corporations around the United States and where do they fail when they fail? It’s always because they don’t put people first whether it’s their people or their clients or customers. It’s where they start to fail.
And of course, this business, you know there are – this is all about people too. It’s about the relationships you make. And the people who succeed are the people who take care of people. And you know, what you hear about folks who were on sets working with you know very well-known directors or producers, for example, that really feel like they are more important than anybody else is that after – over time, people don’t want to work with them even if they have been nominated for an Oscar. People just don’t want to work with them because – because they know that that relationship is important.
Tom Miller: Right, it’s not working. Right. Interesting. Oh, thanks for sharing that.
Steve Riach: Yeah.
One Heart: One of the Greatest Stories Told
Tom Miller: Valuable. So, about let’s say, eight or nine years ago?
Steve Riach: Mm-hmm.
Tom Miller: The football game was about 10 years ago. Is my timing right?
Steve Riach: Yeah.
Tom Miller: OK. And I can remember that…
Steve Riach: 2008.
Tom Miller: I can remember that because I’m a big high school football fan. And Will Walton, you know Will was a neighbor then, he said, “Tom, you ought to come to this game.” He told me about that. And we had something, I was planning on it and then something popped up I just – I didn’t go for reason I can’t even remember. And I regretted that ever since.
Steve Riach: You missed out.
Tom Miller: I did.
Steve Riach: Yeah.
Tom Miller: I did. So, talk about the game – that’s a current project, and I think one of the all time greatest stories I’ve ever heard. I was telling some of my students about it the other day, I almost kind of teared up telling them about what was going on, it’s a guy that I’m going to get to interview. So, what happened?
Steve Riach: Yeah, it’s funny you say that because you know we showed this little seven-minute clip that kind of encompasses what happened that night. And over the last seven years, I’ve probably shown that clip a thousand times.
Tom Miller: Right.
Steve Riach: And I was showing it the other day to a group and I got tears in my eyes.
Tom Miller: Yeah. Yeah.
Steve Riach: Seeing it – even I’ve seen it a thousand times it just…
Tom Miller: Yeah. Maybe we can pop that clip in conjunction with this.
Steve Riach: It’s just such a moving, it’s such a moving story. But there was a game that was played here in Grapevine between a private school here, Grapevine Faith, and it’s a football game between Grapevine Faith and a team from a maximum security juvenile facility called the Gainesville State School which is just south of the Oklahoma Texas border. And then kids at Gainesville are half, basically, half of the most violent teen offenders in the State of Texas. They’re 13 to 19 years old. Most of them are serving two or three sentences for the crimes they’ve committed.
And behavior, their academic marks etcetera are – they’re hitting about 75%, 80% of on those marks. And then they get the privilege of playing football, for example. Well, the privilege of playing football for them means they never have a home game because they don’t have a stadium at the prison facility. They never have fans on the stands because most of these kids have parents that either live very far away or are disengaged in their lives. And you know, every night they, – every Friday night they go out, they get their butts kicked pretty badly because they’re not very good. And that has to do with the fact that the kid that played offensive guard last week might be the quarterback this week because there’s so much you know, such a fluid situation with the team.
So, the coach at Grapevine Faith, Kris Hogan, an amazing guy, sent an email out to the community and said, “This is a real opportunity for us to be who we’re supposed to be for these kids and demonstrate to them that they’re just as important as anybody else in the face of the earth and to love them unconditionally. So I want you to come out and support these kids and we’re going to form a spirit line for them to run through and we’re going to be their fans for one night.”
So, I’m on the sideline, watching the game, and I see this spirit line forming and I watched these kids who – I watched them come off the bus and I’m as close to them as – about as you and I are right now. And I’m looking in their faces as they step off the bus and there’s abject hopelessness and despair. And then they looked around the stadium as people are starting to pile in. And the best way I can describe it is the looks on their faces were like they were animals in a zoo. You know, they knew they’re on display, right?
Tom Miller: Right.
Steve Riach: And so, 20 minutes later, they come out of the locker room and here’s this spirit line and they – they’re befuddled and they looked at their coach and say, “We’re on the wrong side of the field.” He says, “No. They’re here for you. Go run through that line, crash that banner and have fun tonight.”
Steve Riach: Well, these kids don’t – I mean they have never experienced that so they don’t know how to respond to that. But they run through line, the spirit line that stretches from the end zone to about the 50-yard line. They crash through a banner and then they just keep running. They just – there was so much adrenaline. They just kept running and they ran to the other side of the field and then came back to their sideline.
Tom Miller: Didn’t know what to do.
Steve Riach: Right? So then, as they were on their sideline, they watched all these people in the spirit line come to their side of the field and go sit in their stands and they’re thinking, “What’s going on here?” I mean they still aren’t really understanding what’s happening. So, the referee calls them for kick off, they come out, return the kick to the 30-yard line or whatever. And now, all these fans are standing on their feet, cheering for these kids. So they’re on a huddle but they’re in the huddle like this.
Steve Riach: And the referee blows the whistle and throws the flag for delay of the game. And he says…
Tom Miller: The ref wasn’t in on it, right?
Steve Riach: He says, “Boys, we got a game to play. You got to get to the line, come on.” But what happened that night was so just – it was just magic. You know these kids who feel like there’s nobody there for me. Felt like they had a whole bunch of people there for them that night. And what was really beautiful is at the end of the game – the week before the game, the SWAT team comes out and they look at the field they looked for escape routes and here’s where other gang members can get in and the whole thing. And they make the school aware we have this 10-foot Rule which is nobody other than the players on the field can get within 10 feet of these kids at any time.
Tom Miller: Oh my.
Steve Riach: For everybody’s safety. Well, at the end of the game after this thing had happened. Everybody is hugging everybody.
Tom Miller: Right.
Steve Riach: Kids are hugging kids. Cheerleaders are getting hugged probably more often than the other kids.
Steve Riach: Fans are hugging kids and the guards are hugging everybody. I mean it just – the 10-foot Rule was no longer a rule at that moment.
Tom Miller: Yeah. Right. Nobody cared.
Steve Riach: Some things really special had happened. And that launched the movie that we’re producing and this – all this other stuff that’s happened out of it.
A Gift to the Storyteller
Tom Miller: OK. So, in – again, in fact, maybe we got 20 more minutes on this. I may have to spend a couple more hours with you because I want to hear the whole story, the storytelling. So, you were a part of this. You were down there, watching, you experienced it. You’re a jock, you get sort of the athletic part of what’s happening and then the storyteller in you, the emotional side of you was thinking what – did it start to occur to you that it’s something to do with this, that there’s work that should be carried on or could be carried on?
Steve Riach: Yeah, it’s really funny, Tom, because you know I had been looking for a story to tell as a feature for months. You know, we’ve done a lot of television, a lot of documentaries, a lot of short films and so I’d felt like it’s time for us to do a feature. And I probably have 100 scripts come across my desk and you know, most of them were just weren’t very good. And so, I was a little concerned that I hadn’t found a story. So, I’m standing on the – I was actually in the back of the end zone, watching this take place and at this moment and I’m just caught up in what was taking place. I had not walked in there as a storyteller. I just walked in there to watch football game.
But somewhere at the beginning of this, when the first flag got thrown for delay of game and then actually a second flag was thrown because they were still marveling at what was taking place to the fans. It was almost like God kind of tapped me on the shoulder as if I had this kind of revelation of you know the story that you were looking for? And I’m watching it unfold. And for the next 90 minutes, I’m watching scenes from a movie just take place before my eyes. So, I really felt like I’ve been given a gift to tell that story.
A Greater Purpose: Influencing Culture Through Storytelling
Tom Miller: Cool. So, it’s been eight years now and I know that you’re involved in more than just the storytelling part of the movie. So talk about that – so tell us a story about where the movie is and where you want to go with that and the outgrowth of being involved with those kids specifically, and then those kind of kids.
Steve Riach: Yeah. You know, I think we have a couple of filmmakers you know in the audience today too. And you know, film making is– it’s something a lot of people wanted too. And so my advice would be “Don’t!” [Laughter] No, just kidding. It’s – it is not easy and it’s not for the faint of heart. And you know it’s – let me say this, it can be easier if you’ve got trashy stories to tell. But finding truly great stories are just so few, and of that, and great stories that are told exceptionally well. And so, I think you know it depends on what your purpose is.
You know, if we’re wanting to just solely make money off of a film making, we would go a different direction. But we – you know I feel like there’s a greater purpose too. I feel that there’s an opportunity to influence culture through storytelling. And so, these are the ones that are hard to do. And you know the average film in Hollywood, a film that’s released by Hollywood from the time it’s conceptualized to the time it actually gets released is over seven years for the average film. It takes a long time. It’s a lot of work – so we’re right on schedule.
Tom Miller: Right. Right.
Steve Riach: It has been seven years for us. We’re right on schedule. But it’s difficult. And particularly, this is, it’s $11.5 million budget film so it’s not a small budget. We’re kind of in-between space where it’s easier to make a $25 million or $40 million dollar budget film or $600,000 budget film.
Tom Miller: Right.
Steve Riach: But this is kind of an in-between space. So, it’s not easy. But – but we – we’re thrilled about what we have. We got you know had an incredible cast, incredible crew on this project. We’ve got large studio distributors that are talking about distribution, talking to us about distribution on the film. So,we have great, you know, great hope for this film. This kind of inspirational sports-related film like…
Tom Miller: The Blind Side.
Steve Riach: The Blind Side or Remember the Titans.
Tom Miller: Right. Yup.
Steve Riach: You know, they traditionally do very well at the domestic box office. There’s not a huge international market for them, but they do really well at the domestic box office. So we’ve got great hope for what this will do as a film. And we had amazing people, you know. So I’ll tell you a quick story. We had a lighting guy come down to tell us he wants to be part of the project. And when we had heard that he wants to be part of the project, we looked at his background and you know he’s done the Batman films and all these very large budget, $150 million, $200 million budget films.
We said, “You know, you could be anywhere. You could have your pick of stories to do. Why are you here? Why this? Why this little story here in Grapevine, Texas, you know?” And he said, “My wife and I read the script and we wept. And when we read it and wept, we knew we had to be part of it no matter what, no matter what we are giving up, we had to be part of it.” So those are the kind of people that you know have been a part of the project. It’s been amazing.
Transforming Lives: Ongoing Impact on the Players
Tom Miller: What have seen happen with the young men that play in that game, on both sides of the goal?
Steve Riach: Yeah, so for the, you know the kids at Faith, certainly it opened their eyes to a whole different world. But I think the interaction with these kids and learning about what their – what their lives are like, what their backgrounds are like, I think it broke some stereotypes too. I think you know, we asked most people on the street or even in this room, or people that are watching, tell me what your impression is about juvenile offender.
Tom Miller: Right.
Steve Riach: Most people are probably going to say, “Well, you know they’re bad kids. They’re getting what they deserve. And glad they don’t live in my neighborhood or date my daughter.” And the reality is so far from that. These are kids who come from horrific upbringings. 90% are from single parent homes. The vast majority of them have been abused in their homes. Almost all of them have experienced childhood trauma. So, you know their behavior, well, wrong and criminal is largely an outgrowth of the environment they have been brought up. Now, that doesn’t excuse what they have done, but it means that there has to be other ways that we look at them and other ways that we work with them. So, I think that’s been a similar learning experience for the Faith community, the Grapevine Faith community in learning about those kids.
On the other side, you know what has happened with these kids from Gainesville is pretty dramatic. I mean they – a number of those kids with the initiatives that we start to pull together as a part of the film to impact their lives. And one of the young men as I was interviewing him on camera, the camera operator said, “Hey, our battery is down. I need to change the battery. It will take me 60 seconds.” And he dropped – this young man dropped his head, I said, “It’s going to be just a couple of seconds, we’ll be back up and running.” He picked his head up and he said, “By the way, I’m being released to go home tomorrow.” It was just kind of a throw away comment from him to me.
Tom Miller: Right.
Steve Riach: No camera running. And I said, “Wow, congratulations! You must be very excited.” He said, “No sir, I’m terrified.” I said, “Really? Tell me why.” He began to tell me a story, he said, well, I raised myself from the time I was about nine years old and my younger sister. My mom was a crack addict. My dad was a player. At that time I– at 12, I witnessed my first murder.
We were – my best friend, 13 years old, he and I are playing two and two basketball out on a playground, playing against two 18 year olds, we beat them. We’re all excited. We’re 12 years old. We’re jumping up and down. You see, we didn’t realize they were gang members. One of them reached into his duffel bag, pulled out a gun, shot my friend in the head, killed him back there. He bled out in my arms on the playground. He said, “I got taken out of my parent’s house when they found out I was living there without parents, put into my grandmother’s home.”
Steve Riach: Put into my grandmother’s home but she was mentally unstable. One night, she got mad at me and tried to drown me in her sink. CPS found out, Child Protective Services, they took me out of that home, put me into foster care. I was in and out of seven different homes. I was abused in four of them. So, I left. At 15, I was out on the street by myself. I robbed these two people. I know what I did was wrong. I robbed them because I needed to eat.
Just let that settle in for a moment. How many of us think about that everyday? He said, you know, I’m 19 now. I’ve got two felony accounts, convictions. I won’t be able to go back to school because I’m 19. Nobody will hire me because I’ve got these two felony convictions. I used to be a Blood. You know, they always say, once a Blood, always a Blood. There’s no telling what they do when they found out I’m out. So, if you ask me if I’m excited to go home tomorrow. Sir, no sir, I’m not.
And then the camera operator says, “OK, we’re back up and running.” And I feel like somebody just hit me in the face with a baseball bat. So, I mean that was my moment of truth like, OK, are we just going to tell a story here? And just use these kids? Or, we’re going to do something about that kid’s circumstance. I couldn’t walk away from them and say, “Have a nice life.”
Tom Miller: Right.
Steve Riach: But here’s the great part of that story. Eight months later, I’m in New York City. It’s Christmas time. I’m walking back to my hotel from a business meeting. And it’s snowing and it’s freezing and I’m in Time Square. And I stopped at a stop light in Time Square there the big jumbotron is, you know that you see on New Year’s Eve? And I just happened to look up at the jumbotron. And as I looked up at that moment, there’s that kid walking across the screen holding a Samsung tablet in a commercial. And I’m like, “What the heck?!”
So I pulled my cell phone out, right there on the snow and I called him. I said, “Mac, I’m looking at you up. Tell me what’s going on.” He says, “Yeah. Well, the family I…” a family took him in. It was part of this whole thing, right? Took him in and he says, “They asked me what I wanted to do and I told them I really think I like to try acting and modeling. So they took me down to an agency in Dallas. They signed me on the spot. I got this national Samsung commercial.”
Tom Miller: Wow!
Steve Riach: Now, he’s out in LA or Southern California and he’s had a lead role in a film and he’s got a lead role in a TV series now.
Tom Miller: Wow.
Steve Riach: So, you see the transformation in these individual lives. They’re not all going to be actors. But what’s happened with a number of these kids that have been worked with through this process, their life has been totally transformed. It’s amazing to watch.
Tom Miller: So, I mean we – I could talk for all afternoon…
Steve Riach: And as you can tell, I could too, right?
One Heart Project: How You Can Get Involved
Tom Miller: Yeah. So, how – people that are listening here live or that will listen to this at some point, how would they, we get involved? If we wanted to help some or know more, if we wanted to know more of this story, where would we go and what would we do?
Steve Riach: Yeah, I’m glad you asked. Thank you. So, the movie is called One Heart. And there’s a website for the movie. It’s easy to just look up at One Heart. And then the project is called the One Heart Project and it’s just at OneHeart.com. And you can get to any of it at OneHeart.com but the cool thing about this project is that we’re taking a feature film, a theatrical feature film and using it as a way of engaging the public and activating people to get involved to change the lives of these kids.
And now, what has happened is there’s all these entities around the country who work with juvenile offenders or who work in the space of at-risk youth and they’re all now coming together in this big collaborative to create a real solution, right? Because everybody is crying out for justice reform but nobody knows what that looks like. What does it mean to have justice reform? We all believe in it. Well, so we’re, as a collective, you know putting together this solution that we really feel, all these organizations that are involved, really feel can be a solution for juvenile offenders.
And so that project is already launched. It’s in communities here in Texas and in a couple of other States and it’s growing fast. So, we need people to volunteer and jump in and say, “I want to be part of it, I want to help these kids” who you know we really believe, Tom, are the most invisible population in our culture. We do. So, thank you for asking. But that’s how people get involved. We need a ton of people to jump in, say, “I want to be part of…”
Tom Miller: So, volunteers, there’s ways to give.
Steve Riach: Volunteers, people can give, they can be a mentor. They can use the skills that they have. There are so many needs…
Tom Miller: Right.
Steve Riach: …for these kids. So, financial literacy, medical and dental care, I mean it’s just a huge scope of needs that they have and it just – all it takes is somebody raising their hands and say, “I want to help.”
Tom Miller: Yeah. Cool. Steve, this has been so much fun and it would be really, really cool to watch what happens. Hope – you know, watch for the movie. But then, man, it’s just an hour and a half or two hours of the story, right, but all of the real change is happening out there right now. So, thank you for working the way that you do, for investing in the way that you do, for using your skill set in a way that impacts just hundreds of lives, thousands.
Steve Riach: Thank you.
Tom Miller: Thank you. I appreciate you coming today.
Steve Riach: We’re privileged, yeah, thank you, Tom.
Q& A from the Audience
Tom Miller: Any… Before we close out, any questions for Steve?
Steve Riach: Yes, ma’am.
Release Date of One Heart
Participant: Hi, full inspiration. Where do you hope to have distribution in place and when do you hope it will be released?
Steve Riach: That’s a great question. I mean I think where we’re at right now is probably it has to be released during the football season. So that gives us an August to December window essentially. So, we’re probably at this point looking at 2018, fall, sometimes during fall as the release for that. And it’ll be great. We’re fired up about it. Yeah, but that’s probably what we’re looking at right now.
Steve Riach: Mm-hmm.
Tom Miller: Any other questions?
Steve Riach: Don’t be shy.
Participant: Is there one – we mentioned the Samsung boy, right? But you saw that that. But is there one boy out there – I guess, they’re all young then, right?
Steve Riach: Yes.
A New Trajectory: A 10-Year-Old with a 15-Year Sentence
Participant: That you just like this was – if only it helped that one boy this is the kid it’s worth it.
Steve Riach: Yes, kind of like asking me, which of your children do you love more? You know?
Steve Riach: There’s another kid that’s just pretty remarkable and this – we got a call from the State of Texas saying, we have a young boy that’s coming to our system and he needs help right away. His parents have abandoned him. He has got nobody in his life. He’s 10 years old. Right? So this was two years ago and my daughter at that time was 10 and I’m thinking about her when I heard those working and I just thought, a 10-year-old in prison. It just doesn’t compute you know and he’s serving a 15-year sentence. And that doesn’t compute either, my daughter when she was 10 couldn’t even think about what life would be like at 25.
So, we were able to get a mentor connected to him immediately within just I don’t know, three or four days, the mentor was screened and trained into the system. And he called me on the way back from that first meeting and he said, “This kid is really in trouble. His behavior marks the 21s and 22s which were the worse you can have in a system. He’s failing all of his classes. He’s suicidal.” He said, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” You know my encouragement to him was just kind of like what you have done in business all your life, right a lot, just show up, which is another great lesson that we’ve learned, right? Just keep showing up.
And so, fast forward five months later, he calls me after a time of visiting with me said, “This is unbelievable. This kid now is getting straight A’s, behaviors are 1’s across the board. He’s talking about what he wants to be in the future.” And he said, “I haven’t done anything.” I said, “Oh yeah, he got up.” So this kid was – this young man was released to go home two years into a 15 years sentence which transforms his life – not to go home but to go to a foster home. The mentoring relationship continuous, his life totally transformed this young boy. The mentor’s life totally transformed because he has now done something that is beyond anything has ever done in his life. And didn’t even know how it happened. And, it saved the State of Texas about $2 million in the cost to incarcerate that youth for the next 13 years. But now, his life is on a completely different trajectory.
So, you know, that’s a story that just kind of embodies what this is all about and these kids, you know, they just need to know that somebody loves them, somebody cares. So, if you don’t mind, quick other kind of addendum to that or epilogue to that since we’re talking film, is when I met with this mentor, just in December, so I get an update from them. He said, “There are some things I haven’t told you about my relationship with this kid.” And he said, when I first went down there, that first day when I called you on the way back, he said, we played board game – played a board game because this kid liked to play board games. I asked him what he liked to do and he said, while we’re playing the board game, I noticed cheating. And he said, I just went, “Ahh, that’s disappointing.” And he said, but the more I watched him he noticed – he said, I noticed that he was cheating so that I could win. He said I couldn’t figure that out.
So he said, you know after the game was over, and he said I did win. Put the game away and we’re chatting about some other stuff and he said I kind of took a moment where I had an opportunity, I said, “Hey, I noticed that you were – it looked like you were cheating back there. Is that true?” And the kid dropped his head and he said, “Yes sir, I’m sorry.” And he said, “But the thing I can’t figure out is you were cheating not to help yourself but to help me. What’s the deal with that?” And the kid said, “Well, I wanted you to come back.”
So, you know they just want love and relationship too. They want to know that somebody cared about them. And when we have surrounded them with people who care, they blossom and become beautiful.
Impacting One: Impacting Generations
Participant: How many – how many boys did you help?
Steve Riach: Well, right now, there’s – initially, in Texas is this year we reached a couple of hundred kids here in Texas. And then this one Kansas that we’re working reached about 150 kids. So, it’s just small – but it’s worth it for one like you said for sure.
Steve Riach: I mean these lives that are turned around have been pretty amazing.
Tom Miller: Well, you think about the – we love having people like you on the show because so hundreds a year but then the downstream effect of that.
Steve Riach: Yeah.
Tom Miller: I mean 20 years from now, those people are you know, infinitely more likely to have healthy lives, healthy families and to break that cycle that we’re in right now, where you know so many desperate people are in places that maybe they just don’t deserve, you know it’s like it’s just a bad spot.
Steve Riach: Yeah.
Tom Miller: And you helped them out of it so, thank you.
Steve Riach: Yeah. Their crime is they’re born in the wrong family, right?
Tom Miller: Right. Right. Exactly.
Steve Riach: Yeah. Well, that young man that I talked about who I saw on the Samsung commercial you know, he’s raising a daughter now and he said to me, “I’ll die before I allow my daughter to in the same direction I did.” So you’re right, it does break the cycle. These kids are getting jobs now. So now, it gives them the opportunity to take ownership of their lives. To lift themselves out of poverty, not just to get a handout but to lift themselves out of poverty. And to really be on a path for a successful life. So, you know, the beauty of that is what can film be used for?
Tom Miller: Yeah.
Steve Riach: Right? It can be used for entertainment obviously which is part of it and it should be. And this is not for everybody what we’re doing. It can be used to make money, sometimes. Most films don’t make money. It can be used to make money. But is there a greater purpose to storytelling? Can we use it for something that creates – allows for the opportunity to create transformation in the culture? And we just kind of feel like that’s part of what we’re here to do, not just to entertain to make money but there’s others ways that we can use these to create real change.
Tom Miller: Correct. One more time, where do we go to help?
Steve Riach: OneHeart.com.
Tom Miller: OneHeart.com. Thanks, Steve. Thanks, man. Great.
Steve Riach: Thanks, Tom.
Tom Miller: Another question?
Helping Female Inmates
Participant: I have a question. I haven’t heard you speak to the girls side, I know there’s girls prison with similar stories, is this plan for both?
Steve Riach: It is. And you know, the girl’s population is smaller. It’s – depending on the State, depending on which State you’re in, it’s somewhere around 18% to 20% typically. But they are part of this initiative as well, we are reaching – there is a couple of girl’s facilities in Texas that are being reached by this initiative. One of the areas of focus with girls who are in the juvenile system is a heavy emphasis on sex trafficking because sadly, the vast majority of them have been trafficked to some, in some way.
Now, we’re still doing some sex trafficking work on the boy’s side as well because a number of them are maybe not victims of trafficking but they might involved somewhere in the process. Maybe they’re a mule or a recruiter or something as well. But that’s a heavy emphasis on the girl’s side.
Participant: An awkward question, what’s next?
Steve Riach: From a project standpoint?
Steve Riach: Yeah. So, I just referenced trafficking so we’re in development on a trafficking project right now. Again, thinking about how can you use storytelling to create culture change and we’ve got two other feature stories that are in development right now. One is a really strong female lead role. It’s maybe kind of like the impossible. And then we’ve got another story that we’re developing right now too.
So, you know you – but you know, as a screenwriter, this is a – it’s a volatile business and it isn’t easy. And you know, what may have worked somewhere like the impossible may not work on this one, you know? So, that’s the crazy thing about movies is that there is no formula for success. Nobody knows it otherwise, you know it would – there would be a lot more profitable films. But we have some stories that we really liked that we think are great human dramas with great characters, with multiple dimensions, you know. And so, those are – we have our hands full with those but that’s what’s next.
Participant: That’s good.
Steve Riach: Yeah. Yeah.
Participant: I have a question.
Steve Riach: Yes.
Participant: You mentioned that One Heart and how you guys are working on justice reform.
Steve Riach: Mm-hmm.
Creating Collaboration for Restorative Justice
Participant: And you’re right, well a lot of us don’t know what that really looked like. And I just want to know is what kind of changes or solutions One Heart can define. And is it in every State or in circumstance?
Steve Riach: Yes. So, you know, what we did early on was we researched the juvenile justice landscape on both sides. But from a jurisdiction standpoint, what’s taking place and then what’s taking place from a standpoint of organizations that are out there to do something to help. And what we learned is it’s, you know, it’s pretty bleak on the jurisdiction side. I mean the vast majority of and we talked to every juvenile justice leadership in every state in the country. Most of them recognize that what their role is, is punitive only. They recognize that there really is no rehabilitative effort that takes place when a young person is in a facility.
And even some of the – you know there was kind of an innovative approach that one specific – I don’t want to name them but one specific jurisdiction in another state to and really platformed it as this is so innovative, it’s going to create change, it will be the model for the rest of the country. Well, and they just got their data back after like three years and there has been no change. So, I think their recognition that what they do is punitive only, opens the door for other organizations to be part of the restorative justice side.
So, that’s the first part is bringing this collaborative together so that there is a restorative justice opportunity for these kids to really see their lives transformed and rehabilitated. So, we’re not in every State yet but there are organizations that are – we are pulling together in this collective, that are scattered around the United States and some of them have a presence in many States. And so, that’s part of the plan, obviously and the strategy is to stand up a couple of models here and in Kansas and then replicate them in other communities. And we’re on the frontend of that but we already have other communities that are wanting to replicate right now. So, the need is great.
The organizations that are out there to help and what we learned about those is some of them are doing really great work and some of that work is being measured and you can determine the efficacy of that work. But they’re not collaborating. It’s more fragmented in the approach. They are not scaling what they’re doing, they’re not building it to be replicated. So, a part of what we’re doing is helping them as a collective to get themselves to scale so what they’re doing that’s really good and successful, can be replicated elsewhere as a kind of package that this whole thing can be replicated elsewhere. So, we’re not everywhere yet.
From an advocacy standpoint, the organizations that do advocacy do it really well but they need help because they’re just not enough – there are not enough voices out there to advocate. So, a petition is much different. For example, for policy change, when there are 20 signatures as opposed to 20,000 signatures. One of the things that collective we’ll allow is for there to be 20,000 signatures or 200,000 signatures on those petitions. Having said that, from an advocacy standpoint, I think that you know where everything is headed with those that really have studies this and know it well is away from mass incarceration of youth to community-based alternatives. And there are some community-based alternatives like this initially that we’re working on that have shown dramatic, dramatic measurables.
Advocacy Groups Take Lead: Still Room for Change
It’s starting to change. So, a kid who creates – who – quick story, kid in Dallas, 15 years old, in Dallas, Texas was awaiting his hearing with the judge on the crime that he committed. Living by himself at home, no parent in the home, had to make a 9:00 hearing, 9:00 AM Monday morning hearing. Well, when my son was 15, there were a number of mornings I had to go wake him up to get to school because he would sleep through his alarm, right? I mean that’s just – ever had that?
Tom Miller: Sure, I did. Yeah.
Steve Riach: 15-year-old boys. So this kid didn’t have an alarm in his house, I think he set his phone to wake him up, he overslept, came to court late, 9:30. The judge right there on the spot, 40 years. I understand the judge’s frustration but the reality is much more – it’s much more multifaceted than this kid didn’t have enough respect for me to come to court. It’s just different. So, from an advocacy standpoint, we think we can see policy like – policies like that change too, where non-violent offenders aren’t going to prison, where kids who missed a court date aren’t being slapped with a 40 years for sentence. And the groups that are strong in advocacy are taking the lead on that.
Participant: Thank you so much. We really appreciate.
Steve Riach: You’re welcome.
Tom Miller: Thanks, Steve.