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|They say life experiences provide the best inspiration for storytellers, and Patrick Doughtie, the writer and director of "Letters to God," serves as a living example of this idea. The filmmaker, who lost his 9-year-old son, Tyler, to cancer, used his grief to create one of the most moving films of the decade.
His inspirational drama tells a story of Tyler Dougherty (Tanner Maguire), a young boy battling cancer. Although his situation is serious, the determined child begins to pray through handwritten letters, which he mails every day.
For Doughtie, the character in the movie was based on the life of a wonderful human being.
"Tyler was the sweetest spirited boy. I knew he was special from early on," Doughtie told Family Video. "[He] was one that always thought of others before himself, a very selfless child. His smile and laughter were contagious."
With such inspiring shoes to fill, one would think that the role of Tyler would be a difficult one to cast. Still, Doughtie maintains that finding Maguire was surprisingly simple.
In fact, he says that the young actor's "mannerisms in his audition tape were identical to my son Tyler's after his surgery and treatments."
He adds, "Tanner was the perfect choice and I believe he was meant to play Tyler."
In the film, Tyler's innate generosity is noticed by Brady McDaniels (Jeffrey Johnson), a mailman who is recovering from a divorce and suffering from alcoholism. Although at first he's confused about what to do with the letters, he eventually makes a decision that stands as a testament to the young boy's faith.
Gripping and unforgettable, "Letters to God" is a film that will stay with moviegoers long after the credits roll. Of course, this does not surprise Doughtie.
"The films Christians want to see are entertaining, uplifting and inspiring and offer hope. I believe that's what anyone, Christian or not, wants to see in this day and age," he said.
Doughtie, a former salesman, will continue on with his filmmaking career. In fact, he is currently working on a project called Paper Wings, which was adapted from a play by Gillette Elvgren.
Still, he prays his movie and Tyler's story will help people and cancer patients for years to come.
"I hope people come away with a renewed awareness of childhood cancer so that they will give more to research and help us get more funding through government for research for better treatments and cures," he said. "With awareness, comes funding, then research, treatment and more cures!"
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