Local filmmakers' 'Forever Strong' opens nationwide

2008-09-24T23:00:00Z Local filmmakers' 'Forever Strong' opens nationwideEmily Cox - North County Staff Daily Herald
September 24, 2008 11:00 pm  • 

It's not every day local residents make it big on the Hollywood scene. But four residents from North Utah County are doing just that with the release of their feature film, "Forever Strong."

The creators of "Saints and Soldiers" have teamed up with Picture Rock Entertainment and tomorrow, movie goers nationwide will be inspired by "Forever Strong." Cast almost entirely out of Los Angeles and filmed in Salt Lake City, the film tells the true story of Rick Penning, a rugby player whose life was changed by Larry Gelwix, coach of Salt Lake City's Highland Rugby team.

Adam Abel and Ryan Little, founders of Go Films, teamed up with David Pliler and Brad Pelo, partners in Picture Rock Entertainment, to write, produce and direct the film that they feel deeply passionate about and hope inspires audiences.

Previously, the four worked together to create the feature film, "Outlaw Trail," a kid-themed western. Shortly after filming, writer David Pliler delivered the "Forever Strong" script to Abel and Little and the four men teamed up again to create the movie that will be released tomorrow, almost two years after its inception.

Though work on the film began two years ago, its story actually began when Brad Pelo, executive producer, was serving an LDS mission. He met fellow missionary David Pliler and the two promised that one day they'd make movies together.

"Even back then, we talked about doing film together some day," says Pliler.

During the 20 years following his return home, Pelo wrote and produced two shorts, before producing his first feature film, "The Legend of Johnny Lingo." While shooting Lingo in New Zealand, he became intrigued with the game of rugby. Upon returning home, he started searching for a rugby story and found an article about Coach Larry Gelwix in the Deseret News.

He said, "I would have never guessed the story I would tell would come from my own backyard."

Together, Pliler and Pelo contacted Gelwix, and met with him and two of his assistant coaches. That led to group interviews with past and current Highland players. By the end of their interviews, they had over 12 hours of video, and the promise of a great film.

"We had previously worked with Ryan Little and Adam Abel on 'Outlaw Trail,' enjoyed our relationship with them, and asked if they would like to read a screenplay about rugby. They fell in love with the story... and then the real work began," says Pliler.

The product is a nationally recognized film that inspires and uplifts the human spirit -- the premise of both Go Films and Picture Rock Entertainment.

"[The reward is] seeing the impact inspirational stories can have on the lives of people. We all want to be inspired to live better lives and to have a positive influence in the world," says Pelo.

Pelo served as founder and CEO of several companies. Currently, he is CEO of i.TV, a company delivering television and media services to the iPhone. He has also produced the Stadium of Fire for the past five years. Pelo lived in Alpine for seven years before moving to the Heber Valley where he currently resides.

"Forever Strong" Director Ryan Little, got started in the film industry when he worked as a camera assistant on television shows and films in his hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia. He later became a cinematographer, which led him to directing and producing. Little loves that "Forever Strong" is a true story.

"I find true stories very easy to get passionate about," he said.

Little is married and has two kids. He lives in Highland.

His partner at Go Films and "Forever Strong" producer Adam Abel started as an intern in the Creative Affairs Department at Paramount Pictures in 1994. After serving an LDS mission, he worked on a variety of productions. He and Ryan founded Go Films in April 2002 when they decided to make "Saints and Soldiers." The success of that film enabled their continued endeavors.

Adam and his wife, Amber, have five children and live in American Fork. Abel states, "My wife makes it possible for me to do all that I do."

Pliler graduated from BYU and moved to Hollywood to pursue acting. "After waking up one day in the Gong Show green room and realizing that I was spending more time auditioning than working, I figured I'd rather be the creator of the world, so over three years I pounded out a Masters Degree in Screenwriting."

David and his wife, Kathy, have six children and live in Alpine.

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