When Dan Wallrath heard a movie was being made chronicling his father Dick Wallrath’s alcoholism and later rise to success, he didn’t quite believe it would happen.
“I thought they were crazy — I thought it was unbelievable, because I didn’t think there was enough there to make a movie,” Wallrath said.
Fortunately, it did happen. “Deep in the Heart,” directed by Christopher Cain, premiered Wednesday night at the Paramount Theatre and will expand to other Texas theaters on Friday. The movie captures the life of native Texan Dick Wallrath, who overcame an alcohol addiction to become an extremely successful businessman and went to sponsor hundreds of college scholarships through 4-H and Future Farmers of America.
Executive producer Jay Hoffman said he met Dick Wallrath and was inspired by his story. He promptly contacted his son Brian, a Los Angeles-based screenwriter, and the two began to compile the narrative of Dick’s life through numerous interviews with Dick and his family.
“The story that this man represents is one that’s repeated millions of times around the country — of somebody taking the wrong path in life, and most often, they don’t find their way back to a positive place,” Hoffman said. “In this case, Mr. Wallrath was able to find a path through his faith in God and his priority of family to figure out what he had to do to make his life better.”
The movie was shot in and around Austin with mostly Texas-based actors, Hoffman said, which helped to establish Texas as a talent pool and site for future films in his mind.
“The one thing I can tell you for certain is that we’re going to be back here making more movies,” he said. “This is a wonderful place to make films. Austin area is full of great talent, and we hope to do several more in the state of Texas.”
Hoffman said Wallrath’s educational foundation gives 144 $10,000 scholarships every year to high school seniors.
“He’s spent his entire life helping Texas children, it’s amazing,” he said. “The thing we’ll take with us is what great quality the kids are — they’re the future leaders of this country.”
Dan Wallrath said helping the community was always a top priority for his father, particularly once he recovered from his addiction.
“Dad believed in giving back, always,” Dan Wallrath said. “He always had faith and always felt like God saved him from alcoholism. We want this educational foundation to go on.”
Britina Robinson, FFA sponsor at A&M Consolidated High School in College Station, said some of her students were able to go to college because of scholarships provided by FFA and Mr. Wallrath’s work.
Nicki Sablatura, communications sciences and disorders sophomore, said she was involved in both 4-H and FFA growing up and received a scholarship from FFA that helped her pay for textbooks.
“I grew up knowing it was something I was going to be involved in, and I learned a lot of responsibility,” she said. “I really feel like doing things like that taught me how to be a leader and helped me find my voice in an organization. It was all positive.”
Sablatura said the organization further encouraged her decision to go to college.
“There’s many of my students who go to four-year universities instead of going to community college first,” Sablatura said. “I think it does encourage students to say, yeah, I can go to college.”
Dan Wallrath said revisiting long-forgotten memories was a painful process in the making of the movie, but he hopes it will inspire others and raise awareness about his father’s educational foundation.
“It was a really good healing process,” he said. “When you look back on the whole project, if it helps kids or wives or alcoholics or helps kids go to college, it was all for good.”
Proceeds from the film will go to Dick Wallrath’s educational foundation to continue sponsoring college scholarships.
Printed on Thursday, February 16, 2012 as: ' Deep in the Heart' tribute to alcoholic turned humanitarian